Charles Cohen  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Charles Cohen (December 31, 1949 - September 29, 2017) was a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area-based free jazz musician and composer. Creating music since 1971, his music is entirely improvisational and produced solely on a vintage Buchla Music Easel synthesizer, an extremely rare integrated analog performance instrument made by synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla. He has been increasingly recognized for his artistry performing internationally and is one of a handful of musicians who has mastered the Buchla Music Easel, an extremely rare instrument. He is also considered a pioneer in synthesizers and performance music. In 2011, Cohen was named a Pew Fellow by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for his contributions to improvised and electronic music.

He says he was inspired by free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor. Cohen worked for many years with musician Jeff Cain in their group The Ghostwriters. He works with other media artists in improvisational settings such as the Red Room, Knitting Factory and Tonic. Cohen concentrates on creating electronic music in the setting of the live performance space. He is openly gay and has performed in LGBT-specific performances, events and venues.

In September 2015, Cohen was arrested and charged with crimes including criminal attempt of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16. Cohen was released on $100,000 bail, and in August 2016, Cohen pleaded no contest to the charges.


Synthesizer usage

Buchla's instruments, such as the Music Easel (pictured), use a different method of timbre generation than Moog synthesizers. Moog units use oscillators with basic function generator type waveshapes and rely heavily on filtering with 24 dB resonant low-pass filters, while Buchlas are geared toward complex oscillators using frequency modulation, amplitude modulation, and dynamic waveshaping to produce other forms of timbre modulation. Many of Don Buchla's designs, including the Low-Pass Gates (later called Dynamic Managers) contain vactrols (photoresistive opto-isolators used as voltage-controlled potentiometers) that contributed to a very "natural" perception of Buchla sound.Template:Citation needed

I've been playing the Buchla Music Easel since 1976. With its color-coded slide pots, its musically logical panel layout, and its almost sculptural patching system, I can comprehend the state of the instrument with a fleeting glance.



  • Brother I Prove You Wrong (Morphine, 2015, Doser026LP, LP)
  • The Middle Distance (EU: Morphine, 2013, DOSER 019, LP)
  • Group Motion (EU: Morphine, 2013, DOSER 020, LP)
  • Music For Dance And Theater (EU: Morphine, 2013, DOSER 021, Do LP)
  • Running in the Family (EU: Polydor, 1987, LASER 121, Do LP)


  • Morphosis Reworks (EU: Morphine, 2013, REDOSE 002, 12")

The Ghostwriters

  • Objects in Mirrors Are Closer Than They Appear (US: Red Music, 1981, 001)
  • Remote Dreaming (US: Mu Psych, 1986, MP-6002C)


  • Redose-3 with Senyawa (EU: Morphine, 2015, REDOSE 003 12")
  • Straylight (US: Deep Listening, 2001, DL-CD-15)



  • Charles Cohen at the Buchla Music Easel (Vimeo:
  • Excerpt of Charles Cohen at the 2015 Paris Festival Présences Électronique (YouTube: [1])

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Charles Cohen" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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