The world’s largest synth gets a new home

The Original New Timbral Orchestra (or TONTO for short) was created by Malcom Cecil and Robert Margouleff in 1968 and remains the world’s largest multi-timbral polyphonic analogue synthesiser.

After devoting the last 45 years of his life to the giant instrument, Cecil decided it was time for TONTO to find a new home.

"I needed to find a home for TONTO that would survive me and where it could be used and where it could carry on," commented Cecil.

The National Music Centre (NMC) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada stepped up and acquired the instrument with plans to make it available to artists in the future NMC building that is opening in 2016.

The giant synth’s creation marked the first attempt at creating a universal language for different synthesisers to communicate with each other. The synth began as a Moog Series III and later a second Moog III was added, then four Oberheim SEMs, two ARP 2600s, modules from EMS, Roland, and Yamaha (among others), as well as several custom modules designed by Serge Tcherepnin and Cecil himself.

The synth first attracted attention after Cecil and Margouleff’s Tonto’s Expanding Head Band released their highly influential 1971 release Zero Time.

It was also used on multiple Stevie Wonder and The Isley Brothers albums in the 1970s and was featured in the cult classic film Phantom of the Paradise.