The Trumpet Player
In 1964 Nyle Steiner, a classically trained trumpeter, was working as an engineer for an electronics firm when he first started thinking about electronic music devices. A trupeter at heart, his first ideas were to design an electronic string instrument which used trumpet fingering. His idea was to use the valves (in this case not valves at all, but levers) to lengthen or shorten a string. This, along with natural over tones of the resulting length of string, would produced the desired pitches. However this design never left the conception stage. Nyle Steiner and Dick Parker, who were both working at the same electronics firm, started working on synthesizer designs in their basement in the early 70's.
In 1975 Steiner-Parker, Inc. was formed by Nyle steiner, Dick Parker and a third business partner. This new company was based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"We started building in our basements in the very early 70's. We were both working in an engineering department of an electronics firm. Dick was also an engineer but preferred working with wood and making the cabinets. I specialized in experimenting with synth circuits and thus did almost all of the electronic circuit design for the synthesizers." - Nyle Steiner
The EVI And other Products...
Nyle Steiner, still looking to build an alternative trumpet instrument, soon developed the EVI (electronic valve instrument). This instrument was based on the 3-valve fingering of a trumpet and used electronic circuitry to translate fingering and air pressure into control voltage which was sent to an analog synthesizer. Steiner-Parker also sold made-to-order modular synths called Synthasystem Modular, keyboards such as the Synthacon, Two Voice Synthacon (duophonic), and Minicon, as well as various controllers and modules such as the Microcon, S/R-8, Multiphonic Keyboard and the Mastertouch.
In 1979 Steiner-Parker dissolved and Nyle Steiner continued to work electronic music designs. Occasionally a piece of gear will show up with just the Steiner name on it. He is responsible for the synthesizer part of the Hagsrom Patch 2000 guitar synth. Nyle also continued to develop his EVI controller. After Steiner-Parker dissolved, he hooked up with Crumar who sold his EVI and his newly developed EWI (electronic wind instrument). Then in 1986 the latest prototypes of the EVI and EWI (now MIDI controllers) were sold to Akai Electronics Co. of Japan.
"I presently produce on a small scale, an updated version of the EVI. It is just a very light controller that puts out midi and can run on a 9v battery. I used to think that the idea of playing the EVI through midi alone into a sound module was absurd because of the limited resolution of midi. Now, however, there are numerous sound modules available that respond very smooth and fast to midi controllers. Playing through midi alone is now a great thing. With these sound modules available, I don't bother any more with sound module designing or building." - Nyle Steiner
photos courtesy of Brian Kehew and Nyle steiner
[information from: Ron Cole's doctoral dissertation, "The Electronic Valve Instrument: Nyle Steiner's Unique Musical Innovation," (submitted to the University of Washington in June of 1998) and Black, Matt of The Nyle Steiner Homepage]