Alan Robert Pearlman and his legacy in electronic music

Although Alan was primarily an engineer, he greatly promoted electronic music, thanks to his knowledge and creativity in analog-modular synthesis. One of his main contributions in this area was the ARP 2600, a polyphonic synthesizer keyboard that was used to record the voice of R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies.


Biography of Alan R. Pearlman

He was born in New York on June 7, 1925, his father was a creator of film projectors and his grandfather made parts for phonographs. Perhaps both were the most important inspiration for Alan to be an enterprising engineer and made different radios from his youth.

Pearlman was briefly in the army after World War II and upon completion of his military service he studied at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Subsequently, he worked for five years designing amplifiers for NASA’s Apollo and Gemini programs.

In 1969 he founded ARP Instruments Inc, a company that created different analog synthesizers until 1981. This company was initially called Tonus Inc, however, later it bore the initials of Alan R. Pearlman, ARP. His creations were performed by famous musicians such as Chick Corea, Tony Banks, David Bowie, Elton John, Jimmy Page, Jean Michel Jarre, etc. After closing ARP Instruments Inc, Alan lost nearly $ 500,000 in cash and $ 1 million in assets, but this did not stop him from later creating the company Selva Systems Inc, where he was CEO.

Pearlman died in Massachusetts on January 5, 2019, at the age of 93, but his creations are still produced by prominent brands such as Korg and Behringer, who acquired the rights to the ARP name.


ARP synthesizers in the world of cinema

The ARP 2500 synthesizer was used in the soundtrack of the 1977 film Encounters in the Third Phase directed by Steven Spielberg. Philips Dodds, who was the VP of Engineering for ARP installed this great synthesizer for the film. Dodds also hired Jean Claude, the musician who plays the 5 notes responsible for communication between humans and extraterrestrials. This is one of the most important and striking scenes in the series.

Furthermore, the ARP 2600 was used to create the voice of R2-D2 in the first Star Wars movie. By this we mean the little astromech droid friend of C-3PO, Anakin, Luke and other characters from the series.


Pearlman’s most important creations

Although the ARP 2500 was a very large and high priced synthesizer it is important to mention it on this occasion, as its sonic capabilities were quite striking for the time. This model of analog synthesizer was used mainly for experimental music in music institutes and recording studios.

For that reason, Alan together with his team later designed the ARP 2600, which was much smaller and lighter than the previous model. It had modules and the communication between them was done through audio cables. Also, being more compact, some prominent musicians used it for their concert tours internationally.

Likewise, we mention the ARP Odyssey, an even more compact synthesizer than the previous one and a little cheaper . It was developed in 1972 and had a 3-octave keyboard, through which the player could create duo-phonic melodies, that is, two notes at the same time. Odyssey was ARP Instruments Inc.’s best-selling analog synthesizer.

In 2015, the prestigious brand Korg redesigned this model, keeping its main functions, but adding new possibilities such as MIDI connectivity and XLR output. Later, in August 2019, the Behringer company released an Odyssey synthesizer with 37 keys. It is a model inspired by the original ARP Odyssey.


TimewARP 2600, the only emulator approved by Alan

One of Pearlman’s last contributions to music was the TimewARP 2600 application. He advised Jim Heintz of Way Out Ware to recreate all the functions of the classic ARP 2600.

This application very well imitates the sounds of the ARP 2600 analog synthesizer, it even has virtual connection cables to create the retro sounds that are necessary. Additionally, TimewARP 2600 can be used with almost any MIDI keyboard or controller, which is very useful in music production, especially experimental electronic music.

In the same way, the application can also be used live, especially by keyboardists, since it is available for various plug-in platforms such as RTAS, AU and VST. As if that were not enough, it is possible to use it independently, without DAW programs.

Another aspect that we can highlight about TimewARP 2600 is that it supports the execution of up to 8 notes at the same time, so you can perform various chords from the MIDI keyboards connected to the computer.

We also mentioned that it is compatible with Windows and Mac, so that almost anyone can use this application.


Alan R. Pearlman Foundation

Alan’s legacy for music in general is quite wide, as he inspired many famous artists, students, filmmakers, etc. Currently, his daughter Dina Pearlman is in charge of the Alan R. Pearlman Foundation, which aims to provide scholarships to people who want to study music and do not have the necessary budget to do so.

The first fundraiser will take place at NAMM in 2020. It is expected that by 2021 the foundation will have the possibility to pay for the studies of many musicians. The Korg company has offered its help to this non-profit foundation, in addition, several of the people that make it up were employees of ARP Instruments Inc.

Many friends or followers of Alan have helped collect old materials, archives and photographs, so the foundation is becoming more and more established. However, one of the main goals that the foundation has set itself is to collect and preserve the synthesizers created by the company, so that they can be exhibited in the future.


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