We first learned about the pioneering synthesizer work of Doris Norton when we did a post last month about the Italian esoteric prog-rock band Jacula, for whom she played keyboards in the early ’70s. Turns out she went on to create even weirder and more cutting-edge music as a solo artist, always testing the limits of the available technology to create never-before-heard sounds. She even got sponsored by Apple in the early ’80s to create some of the first music produced using personal computers.
Over the course of the ’80s, her music evolved into what we recognize today as synth-pop and early techno. But her first three solo albums, Underground (1980), Parapsycho (1981) and Raptus (1981), featured some of the craziest synth experiments of her time (or any time, for that matter). Among other things, she tinkered with translating biorhythms, brainwaves and “psychic energy” into synthesizer music—hence the title of the track below, “Psychic Research,” from Parapsycho. (It’s not the full track, but since Parapsycho was reissued last year, all unauthorized tracks from that album seem to have been pulled from YouTube.)
Reason #1,386 why we should have gone to Moogfest: A bunch of students from Cal State presented a contraption called the Sand Noise Device that’s basically a sandbox for Brian Eno fans. Using a Microsoft Kinect, an overhead projector and a box of sand filled with movable lights, it sends out circles and traces of light that some custom software converts into various tones and drones, all of which alter their pitch based on the topography of the sand and the positioning of the little circular light objects. Translation: It’s a really fucking cool, tactile synthesizer.
You can read an interview with the Sand Noise Device’s inventors via Vice’s The Creators Project, and learn more about how it works via the official website. Or you can just watch the video below and go, “Wow! I wonder how they did that?”