In 1986 I was working as a customer service representative for Ensoniq Corporation, a disruptive music technology company at the time. Up against leviathans such as Yamaha, Korg and Roland, three former Commodore Computer heavyweights had managed to one-up the competition with the arrival of the Mirage, an affordable sampler that had taken the market by storm. Next up was to pursue the synthesizer world, and the development of the new ESQ-1 was nearly complete.
Always contribute more than you ask for
One thing I’ve always tried to do in my career was to give an extra measure of effort to whatever company I worked for. Retail sales taught me that a “9 to 5” mentality was not going to get me where I wanted to be, so I would volunteer to do more than the minimum, much more in fact. In the case of Ensoniq, I desperately wanted to become a district sales manager, a coveted position that was my goal and reason for making the move to the vendor side of the industry. In the meantime, I was striving to be the best CSR possible, and I had been beta-testing the ESQ-1 at home in my spare time.
When opportunity knocks, open the door
My understanding was that some of the sounds I was developing had a chance to be included in the ESQ-1’s internal memory, which for me would be a great honor and achievement. At the time, I was a self-styled sound programmer, and while testing the functionality of the synthesizer had come up with some pretty cool patches to submit for consideration. But there was a sequencer on board as well, and late one afternoon an engineer approached me and asked if I knew how to use it, as the company was looking for a catchy demo song to include in the production model. Naturally I said I’d be glad to take a shot at composing something and was then informed in true detective Columbo fashion that they needed it by the next day. I went home after work and got busy, splicing together snippets of my own original songs.
Making the cut and reveling in the outcome
Keep in mind, the ESQ-1 was 8-note polyphonic, so care needed to be taken in terms of voice allocation. I put in several hours, sequencing late into the night until I was satisfied with the resulting demo song. The next day, we transferred the data via cassette tape to the unit in the marketing department and pressed “play”. I was blown away by the response – it was unanimous that this little ditty would be shipped in every ESQ-1, and thus I had made my mark as a young sound programmer and composer of sorts. Over the next few years this synth went on to be quite successful for Ensoniq in terms of unit sales, and I have the distinction of knowing that 35,000 people erased my music to free up the sequencer memory!