Cover Art by Barbara Falconer
Digital Symphony No. 1

Composed and performed by
Don Robertson

1. The Beginning of Time (9:02)
2. Movement of the Spirit (4:30)
3. Toward the Infinite (6:36)
4. Firm Commitment (3:15)
5. Experiencing the Ecstasy (2:55)
6. Gaining the Gold (5:25)
7. Heaven on Earth (9:23)

Total Time: 41:06 minutes

This is the story of Anthem....

As I was creating my first synthesizer album, Resurrection, I began making plans for music that I had wanted to create more than anything else, and that was a symphonic work. In 1981, I bought one of the first Synclavier II Digital Musical Instruments, which I would use to create my symphonic masterpiece!

One of the original pages of music

The music, as it always does for me, just poured itself forth. I "hear it" in my head, writing what I am hearing on paper as quickly as I can. I wrote it out quickly at the piano as I heard it. All except the first and third movements were composed in early 1982. I had only two "rough spots." One was at the climax near the end, where I could hear clearly in my head the same theme playing upright in the higher register and upside-down in the bass at the same time. It would pop into my head every few days and I would rush to the piano and try to write it down. But too quickly the image would fade from my mind, and I just could not get the correct notes. This happened four or five times until finally I got it right.

The other time was when I was writing a section of the music and I had decided that I needed some kind of ultra inspiration to help me receive it. I had a battery-powered Casio mini-keyboard that my friend Don Slepian modified for me, and I took it up to Mount Shasta, where I hiked to the far side of the mountain and set up a tent in Alpine Meadows. Here, in this magic place, I planned write out this music that I would hear! However, after a few hours of hearing nothing at all but the beautiful silence around me, I headed home... frustrated. When I got home, I sat down at the piano, and immediately it all came to me. I wrote out about fifteen pages in as many minutes.

This is how Anthem was composed. In the original liner notes, I explained how I simply heard the music and wrote it down, or I heard it, and then played it. I never "thought up" my music. When music "came through," I was surrounded by angelic beings. I couldn't see them, but I could always feel their presence. They were there, and they were strong. Sometimes those who were closest to me experienced the angelic presence with me, but other than that, my hearing celestial music was considered to be pretty crazy.

Recording this orchestral-style music on my Teac 8-track tape recorder was a huge challenge I would never, never do again. It occupied me, and haunted me, for four years! In 1984, I had moved from California to Fort Collins, Colorado, and I had created a studio in my home. It overlooked the beautiful panorama of the front range of the Rocky Mountains, and that was so inspiring. I played all of the parts for Anthem into the Synclavier computer, and then stored them on dozens of floppy disks. The problem for me was getting the sounds that I wanted from this primitive (by today's standards, but advanced then) system, and somehow then squeezing all of the resultant music onto 8-tracks of analogue tape!

First I had to create the sound of strings. Oh, this was frustrating. I finally came up with a "string patch," which I had diagramed on an 8x10 piece of paper and laminated. In this patch, everything in my studio was plugged into each other and set very carefully with particular settings. The sound originated in the synclavier and my Roland Vokoder Plus (which I sold to Jeff Tweedy and his group "Wilko" in 2002) at the same time. These two sound sources were then fed through digital delays, chorus units, a Roland Dimension-D and maybe even a couple of pedal units. I oven thought about forgetting this album and just writing the music into a big orchestral score, but I longed to hear it. I wanted to complete this project!

I finally gave up on trying to record the music directly onto 8-track tape and I bought two twin digital recording units that used Betamax tapes as a storage medium to use so that I could record the music digitally, bouncing tracks back and forth from one machine to another. You see, the problem with the 8-track was that I had to do so much bouncing of tracks, and each time that I bounced, tape hiss was added to the result and that lowered the quality of the recording.

I told my friends that even though recording the work was occupying so much of my time, I had been convinced from day one that when it was finally released, very few people in America would ever accept it, and I wanted to release it in Europe only. I could have been using my music studio to produce commercial recordings, as the other "new age" musicians were doing in their studios, but instead, I worked on Anthem, composed in 1982, during all of 1984 and 1985, knowing that we would probably sell no more than 100 cassette tapes altogether.

After an agonizing four years of starting from scratch over and over again, I finally declared that Anthem was finished in 1986. I had decided to end the torture, even though I was not happy with the sound of the final recording.

Anthem was considered by only a few of my friends to be a synthesizer masterpiece, inspired as it was by classical sacred music from Victoria to Franck and Wagner's Parsifal that most people had never heard before. The frustration that I experienced recording this orchestral-like work led me to eventually return to writing music for a real orchestra instead of trying to create my music with the limited electronic resources then available, even though I realized I may never ever hear my written music preformed. Thus, I began work on Kovapi in 1991.

Anthem is melodically constructed with motives that I re-employ in my other of my albums. My use of reoccurring thematic material throughout my musical oeuvre gives all of my works a special unity, and this is a trait that might is unique to my music as well.

                                Photos by Mary Ellen Bickford, 1984
My cousin Ashe and I digitally recording sound effects for the Anthem album in a Colorado forest.


Anthem was my dream of breathing into life the music that I had been listening to internally throughout my entire life. Before I had discovered synthesizers as a means to the end of realizing my classical music, there seemed to be no hope for me to get my positive, consonant music played in the midst of the the turbulence of discords that conductors expected in a musical composition. The Narada music label was going to release Anthem for me in Europe, where I expected that people would like it.

The last thing that had to be done to complete my recording was the recording of the sound effects that I always knew were at the beginning of the album. After this was finished, I then I sent the completed Anthem album to the record label. I was told to take the sound effects out, or the label would not release my album. I refused. Instead of Anthem being in released on Narada's label in Holland, I duplicated a few hundred cassettes myself, and then moved on to other projects.

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