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Buchla Touché High-tech Performance Instrument

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The Buchla Touché was a hybrid instrument that integrated analog circuits with digital control. One of the only Buchla systems be designed with a piano style keyboard.

The Buchla Touché has an internal computer to design and manage the sound. The system featured digital control of 8 voices with 3 DCOS per voice totaling 24 digital oscillators. The systems uses analog lowpass gates under digital control.

Working with the FOIL software system. The user could create a single 8 voice polyphonic instrument or a stacked 4 voice configuration.

The work on the Touché and the parallel developed 400 series, would go on to be the basis for the 700 series that was created to be more powerful with four computer systems, smaller to be portable enough to carry on a plane, and to take advantage of the newly introduced MIDI standard.

Official Product Description


Touché combines both analog and digital circuitry in a unique hybrid architecture that develops the advantages of both approaches. User communications and data processing are handled by a self-contained 16 bit computer operating under the direction of FOIL, an advanced interactive music language especially designed for Touché. Easy to learn and use, FOIL applies techniques of man-machine communication that facilitate rapid access to Touché's vocabulary and enable real-time editing and performance.

Sound production in Touché is accomplished with a pipelined, multiplexed digital signal generator that assures absolute pitch accuracy (crystal derived) and provides timbral possibilities formerly available only to those with access to major computer installations. Touché's 24 digital oscillators are combined into eight voices that are playable in a variety of polyphonic, split keyboard, and multi-instrument modes.

Additionally, Touché contains a specialized hybrid processor that accepts multiple user inputs and simultaneously directs the progress of 64 acoustic parameters, each with a time resolution of 1/1000 of a second. This facility enables precise specification of complex sonic detail and offers expanded possibilities for expressive articulation.

Touché's programmability extends far beyond the storage of knob settings - instrument definitions include precise specification of multiple temporal variables as well as minute details of the timbral palette. Up to 48 labeled instrument definitions are instantly accessible; additional definitions may be stored on tape for subsequent retrieval.

Touché is flexible - with practically unlimited signal generation capabilities, Touché relies on software to realize its operational characteristics. And that makes updating easy and economical - new versions of FOIL will keep Touché a growing and vital instrument with ever-expanding resources.


This facility provides immediate access to the 48 instrument definitions that reside in Touché's memory. Each of these instruments relates, in arbitrarily complex or subtle ways, performance gestures to the various acoustic responses that comprise Touché's vocabulary. Any two instruments may be played simultaneously; selection is accomplished by touching the select button followed by two digits from the data entry array.

Touché is equipped with a sophisticated interactive music language (FOIL) that permits the user to readily create or alter instrument definitions. This data entry section is the primary input to FOIL; the output is via a standard video monitor. Note that information can be entered either digitally or via knob settings; and that the effect of changing data is immediately perceivable - this a real time, interactive editing facility.

Touché, with its crystal controlled digital oscillators, has perfect pitch. There's no drift, no adjustments, no autotune. This fine tuning knob is provided to facilitate playing in ensemble with other instruments.

Hand crafted of select Koa wood, the beauty of Touché's housing reflects the pride and care that go into its construction. The hinged top is your invitation to peer inside - few instruments are built like Touché.

Transposition controls and indicators for each of two instruments extend Touché's range to eight octaves.

Touché's unusual sonic range is realized with a specialized digital oscillator in which a number of parameters can be specified and stored as part of instrument definitions. Occasionally, in performance situations it is desirable to have immediate access to these variables - hence the inclusion of this section. Rear panel inputs allow external voltage control or foot pedal control of the oscillator parameters and front panel knobs allow static offsetting of these parameters. The net results are displayed by light emitting diodes, and can be applied to either or both of the two current instrument definitions.

Touché is designed to drive four channels of power amplification, with speakers clustered, spread across the stage, or surrounding a room. Special phasing circuits provide unusual depth and imaging in the resultant acoustic field. This master volume controls the four channel output as well as stereo and monophonic submixes. A headset output, with separate balance and level controls, is on the rear panel.

In the edit mode, the 3 axis tablet becomes the means for efficient access to stored instrument definitions, which are displayed on a TV or video monitor. In the play mode, the tablet resumes its role as a performance input, and editing functions are inhibited. The reset button provides fast access to an initial state, with all modes and offsets normalized and instruments 1 and 2 selected for playing

In Touché, complex time varying functions can be specified for each of six different variables. This knob enables the compression or expansion of these temporal functions without disturbing ratios or pitches.

With Touché, two instrument definitions can be selected and performed simultaneously. The normal mode of playing two instruments is with each key activating both voices. The fixed partitioning mode assigns instrument A to the lower half and instrument B to the upper half of the keyboard. The adaptive mode assigns instrument A to the left hand; B to the right. Reverse interchanges instruments A and B.

The music language (FOIL) used to define Touché's instrumental repertoire includes provision for selectively activating or modifying certain processes. These touch switches, with self-contained status indicators, provide the musician with the requisite controls. Additional such programmed stimuli, originating from foot pedals or external voltages may be applied to back panel inputs.

With Touché's facility for tape storage and retrieval your library of instrumental resources knows to bounds. 48 instruments are just a touch away - hundreds more can be stored on a single cassette.

The relative loudness of the two selected instruments is determined here; automatic panning enables the gradual transformation of one instrument into another.

Touch the tablet and Touché responds with note bending, vibrato, timbre shadings, in any combination and to any degree. With no moving parts and a variety of software controlled modes, this solid state joystick for exceeds the capabilities of wheels and ribbons.

A specialized digital keyboard processor provides fast, accurate and musically logical polyphonic response; silver contacts and double buss switching assure long-term reliability. This keyboard features pressure sensitivity - any combination of Touché's variables can be programmed to respond to the dynamics of playing.

Technical Specifications
Type: Analog, Digital
Synthesis: Wave Shaping
Oscillators: 3
Waveforms: Sine, User Drawn
Osc Modulation: Envelope, Keyboard, Mod Wheel, Oscillator, Sequencer
Envelopes: 9
Evelope Paramerters: Looping, Triggered
Envelope Notes::
+ 6-stages
Filters: 1
Types: 6dB Slope, Low Pass
Filter Notes:
+ Lowpass gates
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 8
Timbrality: 4
Tuning: Standard
Modes: Polyphonic, Split, Unison
Patches RAM: 48
Storage: Floppy 8 inch, Internal, Tape
Editing: SERIAL
+ Optional sequencer
Chips and Operating System
Far Out Instrument Language (FOIL) was a instrument definition and performance language used to configure the system.
Case: Keyboard, Software
Keyboard: 61 keys, Non-weighted, Plastic
Controls: Aftertouch, Buttons, Pads, Knobs, AXYZ, Sequencer
Display Type: LED
Dimensions (WxDxH): 98 cm x 45 cm x 20 cm
Weight: 25 Kg / 55 pounds
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out, Stereo Main, Stereo 2, Stereo 3, Stereo Headphone
Audio Output Count: 8
Control Features: 6 CV outputs, 12 CV Inputs @ 10V Octave
DAC Bits: 16
Power: 110 or 220 VAC 190 watts maximum
Year Released: 1978
Units Made: 7 approximated
Used By
David Rosenboom, Shasta Cults
Design Notes:

Hardware designed by Don Buchla
Software FOIL system designed by David Rosenboom

As many as seven units are believed to have been made.
MSRP List Price: $12,500 full system - convert
References & Sources

  Report Synthesizer
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