East L.A. 1969: I lived in a house with roommates, one of which was a jazz musician named LaMont Johnson.
One night I had a peculiar dream: I was a musician in a space-age society, and gave a concert for a small auditorium of people, playing music by moving my hands inside a square ‘grid’. The music must have been really good, because both myself and the audience just got caught up and we were all getting higher and higher and higher.
And somehow, we never came back. We just dropped those bodies. I woke up thinking I’d either been a stupendous musician or maybe an unusual mass murderer.
Over breakfast, I told my roommates about my peculiar dream. And LaMont said, “Such a thing exists. It’s called a syn-the-sizer, and I know a guy who has one.” We stared in amaze. He continued, “Would you like to go see it?”
Two nights later we drove to an industrial area. In East Los Angeles we found a warehouse filled with strange machines all covered over with cloth.
In a small side room I met Paul Beaver, who, along with a teen-age keyboardist, was making one of the earliest US electronic records, later to be called ‘The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music.’
Mr. Beaver and his keyboardist had Moog Synthesizer #2, looking for all the world like a row of suitcases filled with knobs and colored patch cords going from one to another. In the middle of the room, like a miniature refrigerator, was an Ampex tape deck. Beaver would write the arrangement and program the synth. The keyboardist would play the line, and they’d record the track. Line by line, instrument by instrument. It just knocked my socks off.
And that was that, until 1981.
Married and operating Network Answering Service in San Francisco, one day I went to the West Coast Computer Faire, and there I heard the strangest and most beautiful sound. It was faint through the hubbub, but I tracked it to a booth where a guy was demonstrating software which was played a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. I decided to learn to make that beautiful sound.
I told my wife that I was going to get a DX7, and she said, “That’s odd.”
Because one of our answering service clients had a message up about a DX7 for sale. We had served this musician for years; he wrote commercials in an office at Ghirardelli Square. I called him. Although I’d taken his calls for years, we’d never met. He lived in a gorgeous house beside one of the parks.
As I was sitting at his dining room table, writing his name onto a check, I suddenly got the impression I’d heard his name once long ago. His name was Bernie Krause. Flash! I asked him, “Years ago, were you a teen-age keyboardist with Paul Beaver in a warehouse in Los Angeles?”