The Casio Family

Seeds of an Obsession

When I was growing up, we had only one musical instrument in our house, at least until I started taking drum lessons around 1995. It was a truly tiny Casio keyboard, the PT-87. This keyboard, which my parents still have, is monophonic and really one of the least interesting keyboards Casio ever made.

In 2016 or 2017 at the thrift store I saw a vintage Casio for sale, and this was the first of many Casios I would buy over the next couple years. I found them all either on Kijiji or in Value Village, the local thriftshop.

As you see them in these photos, the boards look pretty clean and in excellent condition, which was sometimes true when I acquired them. Some were very grimy and have been duly cleaned.

The Collection

PT-10

Casio PT-10
Casio PT-10

We begin with the Casio-PT-10, a tiny and relatively primitive keyboard that fits in my back pocket. If memory serves, it cost me just $4 at the thrift store..

PT-100

Casio PT-100
Casio PT-100

PT-100. No line output. Good sound. The keys stick.

MT-35

Casio MT-35
Casio MT-35

The Realistic Concertmate-400 (a.k.a. Casio MT-35) has six dull sine wave tones, and not very many options otherwise. I purchased this one for $10 from a guy who said his mother, a church organist, had used it as her preferred instrument after her mobility became limited in her later years. (Her name and phone number are scratched into the bottom of the casing.) Though the sound is nothing to write home about, the form factor of this board is wonderful — very light, beautiful color contrasts, and very narrow. The mini-keys are also somewhat wider and more solid feeling than the mini-keys of other boards in the MT series.

MT-70

Casio MT-70 (1982?)
Casio MT-70 (1982?)

The Casio MT-70 is an exceptional keyboard. It has analog sound, an excellent drum machine, and a wide variety of tones. It’s strikingly beautiful, too, if quite heavy. I bought it from a woman who said that her husband had bought it in 1980 or 1981 while in Japan and serving in the Royal Canadian Airforce, and that her children had learned to play on it before graduating to other types of instruments.

MT-100

Casio MT-100
Casio MT-100

Grating drone. Casio MT-100. In many respects, very similar to the MT-70 above. But the MT-100 has an EQ. I’m not sure if this is digital or analog sound generation.

MT-140 (Circuit-bent)

Casio MT-140 (Circuit-Bent)
Casio MT-140 (Circuit-Bent)

The Realistic Concertmate-750 (a.k.a. the Casio MT-140) was something I found when I was looking for a first substantial circuit-bending victim. I bent it using Reed Ghazala’s schematic in his book Circuit-Bending.

MT-240

It must have been almost four years ago that I came upon this Casio MT-240 in my local thrift store. I still didn’t know jack about playing keyboards but I was drawn to this lovely looking object and the price seemed reasonable, or I at least had the $20 to spare. Around this time I was trying to teach myself to play on a different keyboard with one of the James Bastien Adult Beginner piano books that I had studied out of almost two decades before. I really like a lot of sounds on this, especially “strings,” “synth reed,” “chorus,” “jazz organ,” “funky clav.” There are also ten timbres that can be accessed only via MIDI program change, including “Strings 2,” “Fantasy” and “Miracle.” (I am almost certain “Fantasy” (or is it “Miracle”?) is heard on Beach House’s “Lemon Glow.”) Yes, that’s right, the MT-240 has MIDI, and three-part multitimbrality. I really like the sound and resonance of the built-in speakers and the form factor of this keyboard. It’s substantial but not heavy or bulky. Bonus: The demo song is fire.

Casio MT-240
Casio MT-240

SK-1 (Circuit-bent)

Casio SK-1 (1986; circuit-bent)
Casio SK-1 (1986; circuit-bent)

Reed Ghazala provides a schematic for these modifications, which I followed to a T. I spray-painted the keys, obviously.

SA-5

Casio SA-5
Casio SA-5

Casio SA-5 (a.k.a. Concertmate-380). Ghazala also provides a schematic for this, though I haven’t done anything to mine.

Rapmaster

Casio Rapman
Casio Rapman

The Casio Rapmaster, a pretty happening board that includes a voice effector and some beats that aren’t all bad.

Further Reading

If you find this topic interesting, I recommend the two-part “History of Casio Keyboards: 1980-1988” that gen.error posted almost a decade ago:

Recent listening

One reason this blog hasn’t gotten off to much of a start (updated) is that I haven’t found my way around the WordPress editing modules. At my other blog I used to struggle with the limitations of the post “format” especially when I wanted to embed videos, problems with dimensions & layout. So this is a bit of a test.

Kari Malone – The Sacrificial Code

Beautiful & moving organ drone music, wonderful chords. The church organ was mic’ed close, I read, & as a result it sounds as organs do not usually sound. You hear the pipe valves open, little gasps. Bass tones that envelop you heart & soul.

Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

I am in awe of the talent & feeling Van Etten displays on tracks like “Jupiter 4” & “Seventeen.” What an intense revisitation of adolescence, so poignant — for me at least, leaning into middle age.

Antlers – Familiars

I don’t know anything about this band but this album has been a part of my life & it is graven on my heart. An epitome of beautiful music from grief.

And some other recent and not-so-recent discoveries:

Vortex – Special Request

J-E-T-S   – Zoopsa

Koeosaeme – Obanikeshi

Charles Bradley – Changes

Tiny Tim – Live! at the Royal Albert Hall

Julius Eastman – Unjust Malaise

Chemical Brothers – No Geography

My Body Dissolves as I Watch and Dissolve – Burial Grid

Piano Nights – Bohren & Der Club of Gore

Beach House – 7

Aromanticism – Moses Sumney

Raison d’être

Why this site, hyperaudiosensitive? For a long time I thought that was the proper name for my condition — only after many years of not knowing I had any condition at all. Even today I’m not sure just quite how atypical I am. A day will come, I will go and see an audiologist, and they may describe my condition to me. They will surely not use the word “hyperaudiosensitive,” they will say “hyperacusia” (actually I will say this) who knows what else. I know this but I won’t consider it even half the story. Until that day I am undiagnosed, or self-diagnosed.

Self-knowledge can take a long time. One thinks back to childhood, things that happened, that happened incontrovertibly, that were surely atypical. It helps to have the memories of others to confirm what self-doubt scrambles. Here’s what I know, a snatching: I would complain to my mother about the sound of my clothing. Specifically, the sound of friction of certain fabrics rubbing against themselves — blue jeans, many types of pants actually, but most especially winter coats or fall jackets of a certain type — the “ski” kind. An intolerable dryness and synthetic rustling in my ears. Is that odd? To me it was as natural an aversion as could be.

But there was one incident that confirms my early and ongoing susceptibility to sound — my hyperaudiosensitivity — more than any other. It was a yearly tradition at my elementary school for there to be held in the gymnasium a wheelchair basketball game between the faculty and the eighth graders. I must have been around seven, eight, or nine that year. I did not know what was happening. The sound of the students screaming and pounding on the wooden bleachers all around me, 360°, was excruciating. I was beside myself. The pain in my head was excruciating, I felt helpless rage at those in the crowd around me. I couldn’t understand what was happening. After some time, who can say how long that lasted, a teacher noticed the state I was in and removed me from the situation. The rest of the memory is lost.

At some point after that, perhaps owing to the gymnasium incident (perhaps it was something else?) my parents took me to see an audiologist. Why was the room dimly lit? It was determined that I have sensitive hearing.

Don’t think that this means I couldn’t tolerate loudness — in fact I sought it out in many forms. I can remember being home from school and having the house to myself and turning up The Downward Spiral to level 8 or 9 on the basement hi-fi, pressing play and running as fast as I could away from the CD deck as I waited for the blast of noise. From thirteen on I took drum lessons and later played in rock bands, marched with the marching band to Holst and Tchaikovsky. I can remember my ears ringing for hours after an MXPX concert around 1999. My ears still ring.

This website is simply a place for me to explore my experience of sound, music, audio. I have another website/blog I have had since 2012, Bibliomanic, where I have written about books, literature, and literary translation. Over the past few years, as I have gotten into circuit bending and also learning piano, I’ve been tempted to post thoughts on music and sound to Bibliomanic, but I have refrained from doing so. My reasoning is that most people who read at Bibliomanic do so because they are interested in books and literature, not music, sound, or audition considered as subjects in themselves.

It would be hard to overstate how important sound and music have been to my life. My experience of music in my adoloscence, mainly through the mediums of FM radio, MTV and CDs, has been every bit as formative, if not more so, than my experience of books. It’s absurd to try to compare the two, so different and yet so linked. Sound clearly comes first (infantile conditioning). Frequently my book reading led me to seek out different recordings, somewhat less frequently my listening compelled me to a certain book. My love of Satie’s music led me to read his own writings, and to read several biographies of him. I only discovered the music of Charles Ives after reading an interview where Joseph McElroy mentioned the “haunted montage” that is his 4th symphony. Due to this constant overlap it seems almost ill-advised to begin a second blog when I barely update the only one I’ve had since 2012.

All I really know is, my sense of hearing is (and has seemingly always been) atypical when considered in relation to others. Oftentimes I believe it operates normatively or almost normatively. It’s my hope that by creating this space I’ll be giving myself an opportunity (and a reason) to think through the matter more fully.

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ll come along.