Here’s Thomas Dolby explaining how a synthesizer works to some Jim Henson puppets: “think of it like a fly in a matchbox”

Thomas Dolby is already in the YouTube hall of fame thanks to his participation in the legendary synthesizer medley at the 1985 Grammy Awards, but you’ve also got to admire his work in another recently unearthed clip that sees him explaining to a gaggle of Jim Henson puppets (and a TV audience of children) how a synthesizer works.

In Dolby’s example, which featured in a long-forgotten 1989 Henson TV show called The Ghost of Faffner Hall, he compares the operation of a synth to a fly in matchbox. Here, the fly represents the oscillator, the box is the filter, and Dolby - shaking the box around - is electricity.

With him so far? Good.

Dolby goes on to say that if he/electricity starts to shake the box/filter, the fly/oscillator begins to buzz. He shakes the poor fly/oscillator more vigorously to raise its pitch, then proceeds to open the box/filter slightly as he shakes, leading to a harsher tone, then closing it to make the sound mellower.

Ultimately, Dolby’s advice (which is pretty sound, to be honest) is not to get “confused by oscillators and wires and all that scientific stuff,” and just listen to the sound. He ends by duetting with the fly on a version of 1982 single She Blinded Me With Science, which seems like a suitably surreal way to wrap things up.

Hats off to all involved, we say.

(Via Boing Boing)

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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