✯ Mike's Site

RIP Dave Smith

Less than 3 weeks after making an appearance at Superbooth and looking healthy and enthusiastic, Dave Smith is dead at 72.

If you don't know who he is, Smith is a synth pioneer who founded Sequential Circuits in the 70s. They made a lot of iconic synths but were most famous for the Prophet 5, pretty much the first programmable polyphonic synth. It really has yet to be topped, which is probably why the re-built company is still making a Prophet 5.

Then, in the early 80s he conceived of and developed a universal interface for synthesizers from different manufacturers to talk to each other. Whether the fact that it's still in use today is evidence of its effectiveness or of how out-of-date it is now, you can't argue that MIDI is one of the most important things to happen in the world of music since the development of the synthesizer itself. He and Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi (also sadly no longer with us) even received a Grammy for the development of MIDI.

For those of us who might never afford a Prophet, MIDI is the great unifier. Since its inception, it has allowed the fanciest Oberheim, the lowliest Volca, your SP-404 loaded with samples of farts, whatever it is, to talk to each other. The standard even continues into the computer, where I can download MIDI files of Clyde Stubblefield playing drums and replace all the hits with sounds of dogs barking or car crashes. I'm sure that's exactly what Smith had in mind.

And speaking of that, one of Smith's other ventures was the first real software synth, Reality. Though he didn't ultimately care for making music inside a computer, it's another project he spearheaded that pretty much changed music forever.

So the only thing left to say is thanks. You'll be missed.