Behold: the Birotron


After playing a New Haven gig in October 1974, Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman was approached by an inventor. Would he be interested in a machine that was cheaper, lighter, and easier to play than the Mellotron?

Behold: the Birotron.

It was an amazing sight. Dave Biro, upon hearing that he’d get to meet Rick after the concert, had run up ten flights of stairs in the parking garage to his car, and dragged down a pile of automotive 8-track players rigged to the middle three octaves of an old piano. Biro had even recorded his own tapes by cracking open a bunch of 8-track cassettes and relooping them with his own samples. Why 8-tracks? Well, 8-track cartridges never needed rewinding. You could set them on an endless loop for notes with infinite sustain. Biro had painstakingly cross-faded and spliced, doubled it up in stereo and patiently sorted technical bugbears like phase cancellation, and then—all this in his father’s garage—he had something the world had never heard before.

An endless cello note.

more from The Believer here.