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Friday, February 25, 2011

‘The Social Network’ Soundtrack Gets Oscar Nod… Could It Be The ‘Swarmatron?’

A swarmatron, a synthesizer that plays a chord of 8 notes, arranged around a single note, close together. (Dewanatron.com)

A swarmatron, a synthesizer that plays a chord of eight notes, arranged around a single note, close together. (Dewanatron.com)

“The Social Network,” about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is up for a handful of Oscars this weekend.  The movie’s Nine Inch Nails soundtrack also got an Oscar nod for the soundtrack, in part thanks to an unusual handmade synthesizer called the Swarmatron.

The instrument produces eight tones tuned approximately to one note, each tone slightly different.

We speak with the two cousins who invented the Swarmatron, Leon and Brian Dewan.


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  • Innhoc

    You should look at the Continuum which is also hand made – not mass produced. U2, Dream Theatre, A.R. Rahman, and John Williams are some who have purchased them. Check it out at Hakenaudio.com

  • Artocratic

    Please read this extensive interview of Swarmatron inventors Leon and Brian Dewan, here: http://www.artocratic.com/interviews/dewan1.html

  • airgag

    it sounds like johnny greenwood on substances that make you an idiot. good idea but it needs some chonkyfire

    http://jhat.bandcamp.com

  • Bob

    The Haken Continuum was also used in the music for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Slumdog Millionaire. Awesome machine! Not only a controller but a great instrument that can play all sorts of sounds. Check it out!

  • JennieM

    Everything old is new again! The Swarmatron sounds like a simple subset of the analog synthesizers that emerged in the ’70s. One of the earliest was built in Massachusetts by ARP Instruments (a competitor of Moog Music). You can see the actual instrument performed in “Close Encounters of The Third Kind” by an ARP engineer.

    It is lovely to see the hand-crafted interface of the Swarmatron. It’s reminiscent of even older instruments like the Theremin, the sounds of which can now be emulated by several iPhone apps. But the instruments themselves only represent potential – the music that’s made with them is what stays with us, I suppose.

  • Edevans11

    A nod to the history of synthesizers in film might have been in order, like Vangelis and others in the 70s and Bebe Baron in the 1956 Forbidden Planet. This current rediscovery of Quasi-organic sounds is great, but lets not forget Moog (the instrument ans the person), Arp and Buchla and Theremin (who deserves a HUGE nod from these guys) and the sounds that have come in and out of fashion for the better part of a century.

    • PrimeInsight

      Yeah, that would have been nice–a brief rundown at least–especially for those who don’t already know about the early pioneers of electronic music. Alongside Vangelis for film soundtracks was Tangerine Dream…a personal favorite. :)

  • PrimeInsight

    The ribbons on the Swarmatron may resemble other types of ribbon controllers we’ve seen over the years, but this is where the similarities end. This beast is another species all together. Some have compared it to the Haken Continuum, which is far different…particularly in that the Continuum was primarily designed to be a controller for other synthesizers. By contrast, the Swarmatron is an 8-oscillator synthesizer that’s 100% analog. If it could be compared to anything fundamentally, I’d say the E340 Cloud Generator module by Synthesis Technology/MOTM is the closest match I’ve seen. But again, the Cloud Generator is not a full synth by itself; and there are still too many differences which can put them worlds apart in terms of how they’re used musically. The only way to really know what a Swarmatron is like, is to get your hands on one.

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