Roland MC-8 Micro-Composer

Vintage Roland MC-8 Sequencer Archive

RIP Ralph Dyck, Sept 28, 1941 – May 20, 2013

Ralph4

I was very shocked and saddened to receive an email from Jeff Van Dyck yesterday announcing the passing of his father, Ralph Dyck, on May 20th, due to a sudden stroke (coincidentally on the same date that Ray Manzarek passed). Readers of this blog will, of course, be very familiar with Ralph as the “godfather” of the Roland MC8 Micro-Composer, but to most of the music world he remained an unsung hero. Ralph’s primary background was in jazz and commercial music, and I got the sense that he never quite understood the full extent of the influence of his innovations in the realm of electronic pop music production. Suffice it to say that the Roland MC8 provided the definitive blueprint for the way that we work with modern sequencers. Initially Ralph was a bit tentative about sharing too much with a complete stranger (albeit an enthusiastic one), but I think I won him over by laboriously keying-in a piece of his called “Odd Rhythms,” which appears as a demo sequence in the MC8 owner’s manual.

Over the few brief years that I was in touch with Ralph, we corresponded on a great variety of topics, both music-related and not. He was always very interested to hear of the goings-on in my world, and always very proud to share his story as well as proud-papa stories of his son Jeff’s work. In more recent emails, I had noticed a definite tone of anguish as he struggled with various health issues. He was working on restoring his old synthesizers, but was finding the work increasingly difficult and frustrating. Nevertheless, I’m happy that he was able to have one last go at what was clearly one of his passions in life, and I hope that others will be able to step in to finish the restoration work that he started.

My only regrets are that I never got a chance to meet Ralph in person, and that I was not able to document his story more completely while he was still with us. Being a mere amateur/fanboy myself, I had attempted to find a qualified music tech journalist to take on the task and write a proper article, but nothing came of those efforts. Ralph had even entertained the idea of writing his own memoir, but again, it was not to be. Hopefully what I’ve cobbled together here will suffice for now.

Jeff is organizing a wake for Ralph, which will be open to the public. I personally am unable to attend, but I encourage attendance by any music technology enthusiasts who are able to. Ralph was clearly concerned about documenting his legacy in some way, and certainly got a kick out of knowing that there were people out there who knew of him and appreciated his contributions to the development and culture of electronic music.

Where:
Billy Bishop Legion
1407 Laburnum St Vancouver BC Canada
(604) 738-4142
 
When:
Saturday June 15th, 2013
1pm-4pm
 
There will be some snacks and a couple of drink tickets per person. Jeff be presenting a slide show at 2pm and opening the mic for speeches afterwards.

Ralph had a great view from his apartment in Vancouver, and he often sent me photos taken out of his window. As an avid hiker, I always enjoyed receiving these. Here’s just one:

DSC02252-a

Rest in peace, Ralph, and thank you again for shining a light into the future for us.

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May 28, 2013 - Posted by | Interviews & Articles, Uncategorized

4 Comments »

  1. Ralf was truly a great visionary and innovator. A pioneer who paved the way for modern sequencers as we know them today. I own an MC4b which I have cherished since 1983. Thank you Ralf for 30 years enjoyment.

    Comment by Anonymous | May 28, 2013 | Reply

  2. Thank-you Ralph for your work! One of my favorite synthesists (Tomita) did his most amazing work using an MC-8, and that was one of the biggest influences on my love for synths. As a DIY tinkerer, I know the joy of making music on gear I’ve built. Thanks for helping lead the way :-)

    Comment by Drew | May 29, 2013 | Reply

  3. A wonderful and influential man with a quiet and cheerful demeanour. I so enjoyed getting to know Ralph as he rebuilt the UBC synth, showed me his work with the Carson Graham units and the MC-8, and shared some of his music. Thank you Ralph for your friendship and your contributions to the field.

    Comment by Bob Pritchard | May 30, 2013 | Reply

  4. Sad news! My condolences to his family and friends and a big thanks to Ralph himself for sharing some of his anecdotes here with us. Thanks to you, too, Pea.

    Comment by marshottentot | May 31, 2013 | Reply


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