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Topic: Walter Sear, 1930-2010

  1. #1

    Walter Sear, 1930-2010

    I am sad to report the passing of Walter Sear, a true pioneer in electronic music, though perhaps not as well known as some other names.

    Walter owned and ran Sear Sound in New York, one of the best-known studios in the city, most famous for its use of tube gear.

    What most people don't know, however, is Walter Sear's role in the development of modern electronic music. Perhaps I can fill in some of that gap here.

    Walter was a cantankerous old guy with a sense of humor tinged with the finest New York City irony. He was passionately devoted to recording, and the client list for Sear Sound is evidence of that devotion.

    On a personal level, Walter Sear sparked my general interest in music, and planted a seed that didn't bear any fruit until much later.

    In 1968, I was a high school tuba player. Walter Sear was a Curtis Institute-trained tubist who had a recording studio in New York's Great Northern Hotel. He had, I believe, just bought out his partner Robert Fine, whose name may be known to recording aficionados. He also helped to design tubas and imported instruments from Belgium (Mahillon and de Prins) and Czechoslovakia (Cerveny)

    I was long on enthusiasm, but short on money. In talking to Walter, I mentioned that I had an amateur radio license and loved electronics. He had been a ham in his youth and understood the fascination. He showed me his studio, which included some electronic instruments, and offered to let me work off my tuba lessons by pulling patch cords and doing other grunt work after school. I was also adept at soldering and had a working knowledge of vacuum tube technology, which also helped. I also uncrated tubas and got them ready for sale at his warehouse in downtown Manhattan (784 6th Av.)

    This relationship continued for two years as I played in dixieland bands by night and worked occasionally in the studio to work off my lessons. The best thing he did for me was to convince me that there was more to music than just gigging in dixieland bands and playing tuba in orchestras. He also encouraged me to continue with electronics and other areas of interest and keep performing as a secondary source of income and enjoyment. How right this advice was!

    As I was in the studio, I would occasionally chat with people on the phone or in the office as they waited for Walter. Two of those people were Bob Moog and Walter Carlos. Walter Sear was working with Bob Moog on some kind of development issue or other for a while at that time, most likely involving theremins IIRC, and again IIRC, Walter (before becoming Wendy) Carlos was vitally interested in Walter Sear's electronic instruments.

    Another highlight for me was sitting and watching some sessions for an album called THE COPPER-PLATED INTEGRATED CIRCUIT, arguably one of the first-ever electronic albums, and a collaboration between Bob Moog and Walter Sear. If you want to see where all this electronic music stuff got started, you need to find a copy of THE COPPER PLATED INTEGRATED CIRCUIT on eBay or on a collector site.

    Walter Sear was not as much in the foreground or public eye as either Bob Moog or Wendy Carlos, but everyone should know what a big role he played in the development and advancement of electronic music. Anyone around NYC who is involved in recording certainly knows Sear Sound.

    I still have some of the tubes that Walter traded with me in the late 60s (actually, we traded tubes quite a bit back then as our needs dictated)--I recently plopped a couple of them in one of my Hammarlund shortwave receivers and they lit right up!

    Anyway, I post this because not many people knew Walter Sear's role in the history and development of electronic music. All of us who regularly load up Garritan (or any other) libraries, or who ever fired up a DX-7, owe a debt of gratitude to Walter Sear for his pivotal role in advancing electronic music.

    There's a thread on gearslutz here . Be sure to check out the pic of Walter with Bob Moog, and click on what's now the last post. The link says REQUIRED READING.

    Sear Sound's websiite is here . Just check out the client list!

    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  2. #2
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    California Redwoods

    Re: Walter Sear, 1930-2010


    Well, I found your comments about Sear quite interesting. I was also interested in learning about your background in vacuum tube technology. When the big power problem hit New York in about 1965, I was on Staten Island, frequently tinkering with a Hammarlund, and any other electronic gadget I could get my hands on. When the power went out, my kids said, "Oh, that's just Daddy tinkering out in the shed again." One of the big frights of my life during this period was dropping a CRT on a concrete stairway in a confined area.

    For a while, I taught (among other things) vacuum tube fundamentals. That was a fun time for me. One of my early efforts in electronics was translating (with my friend), an Ampex technical document to German, for the Hessischer Rundfunk.


  3. #3

    Re: Walter Sear, 1930-2010

    Quote Originally Posted by snorlax View Post
    I am sad to report the passing of Walter Sear, a true pioneer in electronic music, though perhaps not as well known as some other names.

    I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and mentor, Jim. I imagine he was a thrill to be around. Thanks for that insight into Walter's life!

    Best regards,


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