James Walker
Vokes Walker Duo
Mahoney Walker Duo
East Shore
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Mark and James use modern MIDI technology to create their music, controlling their synthesizers with electronic percussion devices. This equipment allows them to use their traditional percussion techniques to access the same sounds keyboard players have been using for years. In some cases, these sounds emulate traditional percussion instruments (vibraphone, marimba, bells, Indonesian gamelan, etc.); other times, the Duo uses their synths to create sounds which could never be created with traditional "acoustic" instruments.

The Duo continue to explore their options in terms of synthesizers, controllers, and all other devices associated with their music. At the moment, their gear consists of:

Mark's current setup

  • malletKAT
  • Roland SPD-20
  • Roland JV1080 with the "World" JV-series Expansion Board
  • Roland SPD-20
James' current setup

  • Xylosynth
  • Mac Powerbook
  • Roland JV1010
  • Yamaha MU80
  • Kurzweil MicroPiano

The centerpieces of Mark and Jim's respective (and seemingly ever-changing) setups are two of the most popular MIDI percussion controllers. Mark uses the MalletKat, produced by Alternate Mode, and James uses the Mark V Xylosynth, from Wernick Musical Instruments. Recently, Mark added an additional percussion controller to his setup, the Roland SPD-20, used not only as a "stand-alone" sound source, but also to control Mark's outboard synth.

(For James' review of the Xylosynth, please click here.)

James has recently incorporated a computer into his setup, a Macintosh iBook running MasterTracks Pro sequencing software, to facilitate the selection of patches on the various synths. This system allows great flexibility when creating new combinations of patches "on the fly" in rehearsal or performance, and also allows easier labelling of the preset combinations - instead of remembering that the composition "Passport" calls for "setup #111" (as with the presets on the MalletKat), Jim can simply open the sequencer file named with a composition's title, such as "Passport," on his computer. The possibilities for cross-referencing stored setups, or creating series of setups for use in a given composition, are significantly greater than what is available on the MalletKat. While the current generation of Xylosynth does not have a MIDI IN port to accept messages from an external device, future versions of the instrument will, and that will allow James to control his entire setup from his computer.

Mark and James endorse Mike Balter Mallets
James endorses the Xylosynth by Wernick Instruments.

last updated 03/14/03