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Clifton  has always been fascinated by clever inventions, and admires and appreciates good functional design of everyday tools and fixtures. 


Visual Conductor, Computer controlled musical conducting device. US patent 5275082 with co-inventor Phillip Vogel. Manufactured by TimeStream Technologies

In the early nineties, John invented and patented, with partner Phillip Vogel, the “Visual Conductor” an electronic device that conducts live performers in time with pre-recorded music, with a light moving in natural baton gestures. This device was used by such diverse entities as synthesist Wendy Carlos, Mariah Carey, and the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus band in live performances.

Keith Emerson, famed keyboardist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, used the device in live concerts.  He had contracted carpal tunnel syndrome, and his hands could barely play the keyboard.  His part was therefore computer sequenced and he "mimed" his performance while the sequencer did the actual playing.  The band used several Visual Conductors to keep them synchronized with the recorded tracks without wearing  headphones (which of course would have been a dead giveaway).   Lake, the main vocalist and guitarist, had two visual aids the audience was not aware of.  A computer screen prompted the words of his lyrics, and, beside it, the Visual Conductor kept him in time.  All this was controlled by a backstage technician. The audience never knew, the effect was so complete.







Easy Key Keyboard macro system for "Personal Composer" music notation software by Jim Miller

Many musicians in the pioneering days of musical notation software used a system invented by Clifton called "Easy Key," which greatly accelerated the entering of notation by using the qwerty keyboard.


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