Triadex Muse

Triadex Muse Image

The Triadex Muse is a sequencer-based synthesizer from the early 1970's. It was designed by Marvin Minsky and Edward Fredkin, both MIT professors with an interest in artificial intelligence. Intended as a compositional aid, the Muse is unlike most synthesizers out there, which may have contributed to its poor sales. Even so, it managed to make its mark upon the world of music, especially among the avant garde.

In lieu of a keyboard, the Muse uses eight 40-position slider switches which control a series of digital logic circuits using complicated algorithms (the Muse is considered one of the first digital sequencers). The binary output from the logic circuits is fed into a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), and the output from the DAC is fed into a simple VCO. The result is a sequence of notes which, depending on the slider settings, can take years to loop back around to the beginning!

Triadex Muse Image

Operation of the Muse is not particularly intuitive, yet it is not too difficult to get started. Four of the sliders control the interval of notes, and the other four control the overall theme. A bar-graph lamp display near the sliders shows the status of the logic gates. Another set of sliders control the volume from the internal speaker, the tempo of the sequence, and the pitch. Additional switches allow you to start the sequence from the beginning, step through it note-by-note, or substitute a rest point in place of the lowest note. The owner's manual provided slider settings for example tunes, as well as templates where the user could log settings which had resulted in interesting sequences.

Triadex Muse Image

The Muse retailed for only a brief period of time in the early 1970's, and is considered extremely rare. The exact number of units sold is unknown, but is thought to be under 300. Even more rare are the accessories Triadex produced to go along with the Muse, including an Amplifier module (with an external speaker), a Multi-Muse Cable (used to daisy-chain multiple Muses together), and a Light Show module, a color organ whose 4 colored lamps blink in time to the signals coming from the Muse. All these accessories shared the Muse's unique design styling, too.

While it's very difficult to master, and nearly impossible to get it to play a specific song, the Muse offers nearly endless potential for random music generation. Set the sliders, switch it to automatic mode, and it will produce all sorts of bleeps and bloops. Add the Light Show module to the mix, and it becomes a visual spectacle as well. It's too bad the Muse used a proprietary I/O for communicating with other Triadex products, as it means the Muse can not be used to control any other synthesizers.

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Are you looking to buy or sell a Triadex Muse? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

11 Visitor comments
brunorc
June 1, 2014 @ 12:05 pm
Seems like Future Retro decided to recreate it in MIDI: https://www.future-retro.com/zillionoverview.html
Morgan
March 24, 2014 @ 5:25 pm
Around 2006 I was working at a record store in Boston and one of our regular customers found one of these in the garbage and tried to sell it to the store for $80 (on my day off, of course). They wouldn't go above $40 so we didn't get it. Just kills me.
joolzz
January 23, 2013 @ 4:11 pm
I'm so glad I found this webpage. I saw a picture of this unique and groundbreaking device in a book in the early 70's, and have, on and off ever since, tried to discover what it was. Now I know it was a Triadex Muse and I have to say it looks just as I remembered. I've now had chance to watch and listen to a few of the youtube videos and I see someone has even created a Windows-based emulator. Wouldn't it be good for someone to pick up the challenge and develop an iOS Muse app!!?? Sure, it wouldn't be like owning the beautiful original, but I'd treasure such an app!
kosmoflot
December 11, 2012 @ 7:43 am
ahhh the mystical Triadex Muse! it is an electronic beauty in it's pure form!
it even appeared in the movie called "Brainstorm" starring Christopher Walken! There is that scene where he comes home and goes to his room, and there's a small fridge in his room and at a first glance i thought i saw a laptop PC sitting on top on the fridge... but wait! it's 1983!
Something else waaaay cooler was sitting on top the fridge... this something was a Triadex Muse!
pure science this thing is!
gridsleep
September 9, 2012 @ 12:31 am
Grease. Elbow grease.
The thing about signal interfaces is, once you know what the signals mean, it is possible to build a quaint device called a "breakout box" to translate the signals into the different signals that mean the same thing to another device. Thus, with a little bit more elbow "wax" one could control modern synthesizers with the simplistic cellular genius of the Muse. I am sure Minsky would approve. Now, to get one so I can start working on that box.
 
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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Multitimbral - None
  • Oscillators - 1 VCO
  • Waveforms - Square
  • LFO - 1 LFO with tempo control
  • Filter - None
  • Envelope - None
  • Effects - Tempo, Pitch, Fine Pitch, Rest
  • Sequencer - More than 14 trillion possible sequences
  • Tracks - One
  • Patterns - None
  • Songs - None
  • Arpeggiator - None
  • Keyboard - None
  • Memory - None
  • Control - Proprietary In/Out for daisy-chaining multiple Muses
  • Date Produced - 1972

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