The Electric Music Box, aka the Buchla 200 Analog Modular Synthesizer, and the quadrophonic hi-fi systems that were sold to play the music created on it, are about as hard to find these days as the mythic continent Plato describes in his Critias. "I sometimes think that much of this music of Californian counterculture in the 70s simply vanished when Quad was abandoned," writes Gary Chang, who has painstakingly remixed and remastered the four track originals of these two monumental works by Barry Schrader. Both "Trinity" (1976) and "Lost Atlantis" (1977) were recorded in Studio B303 in CalArts, where Schrader has been teaching since 1971, using the venerable Buchla machine and four additional "Fortune modules" specially designed by Yamaha engineer Fukushi 'Fortune' Kawakami . Analog synth buffs and youngsters whose idea of electronic music is loading up a soundfile and clicking nonchalantly on some nifty program called Munch or Scrunch will enjoy the flowcharts and circuit diagrams, but what about the music? Schrader gives the game away a little when he writes that "Trinity" was "composed in rondo – variations form".. one would like to think that with patience and plenty of imagination both of these pieces could be successfully scored for symphony orchestra without compromising their structural or harmonic integrity (though of course they couldn't – the Buchla machine's timbral sophistication is far too complex to be imitated with any accuracy by conventional instrumental forces) – they feel orchestral, or at least symphonic (as opposed to the more consciously experimental "pure electronics" of Albert Mayr.. see above). There's a great sweep to Schrader's work that puts it more in line with ambitious large-scale electronic works by the likes of Stockhausen ("Hymnen"), Eloy ("Shanti") and Henry (take your pick), a line that can be traced backwards to Mahler, Bruckner and Beethoven. I'll bet Ludwig Van would have loved the Electric Music Box
Dan Warburton - Paris Transatlantic Magazine
This CD salvages two electro-acoustic works composed by Barry Schrader in the mid-'70s on the Buchla 200, a keyboardless analog modular synthesizer. Not only were these pieces realized on a little-known instrument, but also they were originally quadraphonic. Few are the composers who truly mastered Buchla's innovative instruments and the quadraphonic electro-acoustic repertoire has been all but lost, so this CD is a very welcome release, both in terms of music history and listening enjoyment, for these two works remain fascinating, regardless of how they were conceived. "Trinity" (1976, 15 minutes) is a rather formalist exercise in theme and variations, where the theme consists of sound shapes instead of notes. It is dry, but it exploits and showcases the possibilities of the Buchla 200 to a nice extent, while featuring a high level of aesthetic elegance. In comparison, the 40-minute "Lost Atlantis" (1977) is gorgeously evocative, its sound poetry often reminiscent of Francis Dhomont's "Cycle de l"Errance." A suite in ten parts (grouped into six tracks), the work depicts the lost continent as described by Plato in his "Critias." The music is imbued with mystery, its reliance on non-melodic material empowering it with an ageless appeal that could as well be ancient. Schrader makes use of a wide palette of tones and textures, and his sense of space and drama create a mysterious place in which the listener is eager to lose himself or herself. "The Gardens of Cleito," especially, achieves a touching form of grace that is light-years away from the rigors of "Trinity." Recommended.
François Couture, AllMusic Guide