Synthisis Sonoris is bursting out as a companion to the seventh installment in our I.T.A.T.I.O.M. series dealing with Inventors Talking About Their Instruments Or Modules. Gathering composers playing synthesizers designed by the legendary EMS which changed the face Electronic music back in the 70s… Mythical and typically associated with the British avant-garde highlights in the 70s, from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop/White Noise/Delia Derbyshire to Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Roxy Music/Brian Eno… But also to European composers like Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani, Heldon, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Kraftwerk, André Stordeur… In a few years the VCS3 + Synthi AKS made their marks within the experimental, electroacoustic groups all over the place and the Synthi proved to be one of the best resource for any live, easy to carry and so immediate.
Legendary, unparalleled in sound, it gives a feeling of being alive and untamed.
Trying it causes severe addiction !!!
In order to make your listening easier to digest I have chosen to divide « Synthisis Sonoris » into 3 sessions.
Here’s the final one:
01. Jack Dangers : Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Cloud (07:39)
Jack has been making electronic music now for 40 years, 22 years with the Synthi100.
At the end of the 80s, he originated Meat Beat Manifesto and started to create a universe and a new sound, made up of breaks, psychedelia strewn with samples, in an industrial, dub and hip hop fusion…
Inhabiting San Francisco, Jack has played a central role in the explosion of genres such as big beat, trip hop, breakbeat and dubstep and has collaborated with David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, The Orb, Public Enemy, David Byrne, DJ Shadow, Aphex Twin while releasing solo works and playing his vintage synths…
EMS made the most portable vintage synthesizer, the suitcase AKS, and the least portable, the behemoth S-100!
With 20 oscillators (including the self-oscillating filters) and 7,200 physical patch points, the S-100 allows you to enter uncharted territory and endless audio possibilities. It has to be the most idiosyncratic synthesizer ever made, the nearest comparison would be Buchla in terms of ‘free synthesis’.
It was ground breaking In 1969 to include the first digital sequencer, with 3 layers and a control key, it was designed to work with the Compu-Synthi running its own music software ‘MUSYS’.
The S-100 is perfect for experimentation and discovery of new unique sounds. However, I have found that all things are not created equal. I have a treatment patch that I frequently use on the AKS, I discovered the same patch on the S-100 sounds completely different and different once again on the VCS-3!
Much experimentation and trial and error is needed to conquer this very IDIOSYNCRATIC synth.
Is it worth it, absolutely – just try stair casing the three ring modulators and see where it takes you…completely endless.
02. James Gardner : SynthiMesc (16:56)
This pieces use only sounds that I patched on a single 1976 EMS Synthi A, on loan from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. I decided that I would use only those kinds of audio processing that were available in 1975 (a rather arbitrary limit) although this processing was done with plug-in emulations, rather than the real thing. So I allowed myself “tape” delay, phasing, plate reverb, natural chamber reverb and spring reverb.
For SynthiMesc I limited myself to no more than sixteen tracks of material at any time, and bounced tracks down if I needed more, just as one would have to do on an eight-track tape machine.
When I was getting into synthesisers, from the age of about 12 – in 1974 – I would send off for information and brochures about the equipment. There was really no other way of finding much out about synths in those days. EMS sent back loads of material, and treated me as if I were an adult (and prospective customer) rather than as a schoolboy with no money. So I think that endeared them to me way back then. A bit later, in 1976, I visited the showroom at 277 Putney Bridge Road, not really expecting to see much, but at least I might see an EMS synth “in the flesh”. I was very fortunate in that on the day I visited (August 17) Basil Brooks was “minding the shop”. Basil wasn’t an EMS employee but he did hang out at EMS a lot. He was in the synth band Zorch at the times and would soon be a member of Steve Hillage’s live band. Anyway I explained that I was interested in synths and he fired up the Synthi A and asked me some questions about synthesisers. Then he asked me what would happen if you were to send two signals of the same frequency into a ring modulator and I answered that you’d get an output an octave higher. He said something like “well, you seem to know what you’re talking about – I’ll leave you to it!” so he went out of the showroom and left me from about an hour messing about on the Synthi A. So I didn’t forget that.
Of course the reason I knew about the behaviour of a ring modulator was because I had avidly read the Synthi Users Manual, which I’d been sent by EMS…
I kept up my correspondence with EMS (usually Robin Wood would answer) and because of my interest Robin suggested I visit EMS, which I did on June 1 1979. By this time EMS had moved to Great Milton, near Oxford. I was treated to one of the legendary EMS lunches with lots of bread, cheese and wine and met Peter Zinovieff and Robin Wood. I again played a Synthi A, and was shown the largely non-functional computer studio. Little did I know that the company was in dire financial straits and would go bust very soon afterwards!
So those are my early connections with EMS. Plus of course EMS synths would appear from time to time on TV – famously with Eno with Roxy Music on Top Of The Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test, but also, for instance, the video of Tangerine Dream at Coventry Cathedral, and on album covers.
03. Philippe Petit – Flyin’ Over A Cuckoo’s Nest (13:45)
This work came to mind after watching Miloš Forman’s « One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest » with my daughter, and I thought I’d try to convey the fatalism, sadness, tantrums and craziness encountered in a mental institution.
I attach a lot of importance to gesture in my compositional moves, sculpting sounds, textures, developing stories while instant-composing, HANDS ON… At times for most people that is intolerable in an age of programming, synthesizer automation – and everything self-generative/random where they patch and watch… Patch being indeed of the utmost importance and demanding a lot of thinking/preparation so as to be able to play my instrument viscerally, immediate, free-improvising and reorganizing. I’ve had moments where I thought I might actually be getting electrocuted while flying’ over my cuckoo’s nest.
04. Bruno Spoerri – Spy steps / 1976 (02:06)
Swiss composer and performer Bruno Spoerri started as saxophone player and arranger in various jazz groups. 1965 he began to work with electronic devices, composed film music for feature films, many short films, documentaries and over 500 commercials.
«Spy steps« is an excerpt of a film music made in 1976 for a documentary about espionage in Switzerland.
In 1982 he was co-founder of the “Swiss Society for Computer Music”, 1985 co-director of the “Swiss Center for Computer Music”. In the following years he toured in Europe, USA, Canada, India and Africa with Reto Weber, Joel Chadabe, Joel Vandroogenbroeck, Albert Mangelsdorff and many others.
Recently he performed solo and with Andy Votel.
His early jazz works are reissued by Sonorama (Germany), his electronic works by Finders Keepers Records (GB). Everest (CH) and WRWTFWW.
In 1965 I had acquired the French Ondes Martenot – the only electronic instrument I found at this time, and I used it wih a lot of success for my work as composer of film music (even with TVspots). We also integrated it into our jazz group. And then came the first ads for the Moog synthesizer, but I realized soon, that a really usable Moog was beyond my financial frame (about 10’000 $ was almost 50’000 Sfr then). But the offer of EMS, a VCS-3 for about 6000 Sfr., seemed reasonable, so I dared to buy one. It came in November 1970 and was much better than I expected. Immediately I got a lot work for Swiss TV and films.
Two friends and I had a small production company then, and we decided some months later to buy a Synthi-100. We placed the order, but a few days later my friends got cold feet and tried to cancel the order. I was stubborn: with a loan I acquired the big machine, and it arrived in November 1971. And it brought me luck: within some months I was working like mad for TV signature tunes, films, advertising. Then, one year later, I bought the Random Generator and the Pitch-to-Voltage Converter and used them with the VCS-3 in live performances with the saxophone. I visited Peter Zinovieff and Dave Cockerell and got a lot of help from them.
Followed some crazy years: I opened a 24-track studio, produced film music, many LPs and EPs, tried to distribute EMS, later ARP and Sequential Circuits in Switzerland, until the load got too big. I had to learn, that I was not a talented businessman, and I went back to being a composer and performer in 1980. And then came the digital revolution: friends and I started the Swiss Center for Computer Music – well, this is another story.
In 1987 Felix Visser in Utrecht NL wanted to open a synthesizer museum, and I gave him the Synthi-100 in exchange for a Fairlight CMI. I learned, that he had to sell it later in an auction, but I have no idea, where the machine is now.
05. Stelios Giannoulakis (Schema Musicalis) – Synthi100Mix_PianoImpro1 (04:42)
06. Stelios Giannoulakis (Schema Musicalis) – Synthi100Mix_PianoImpro2 (07:48)
Recorded during June – July 2020, at CMRC / ΚΣΜΕ, Athens Conservatory, Greece
Synthi100: Stelios Giannoulakis, Piano: Vassilis Roupas
Composer, sound designer and engineer, born in Athens, Greece, 1971. First degree in Electronic and Biomedical Engineering (National Technical University of Athens), Master of Arts in Digital Music Technology (University of Keele) with Mike Vaughan and Rajmil Fishman, Ph.D. in Electroacoustic Composition (University of Wales Bangor) with Andrew Lewis. Works with recorded and synthesized sound, live electronics, free improvisation, sound diffusion with real-time control, experimental instrument construction. Music and sound design for concert, theater, video, dance, installations and video games, many collaborations, cross-genre music group projects, audio-video post-production. Electroacoustic music and creative music technology education, currently teaching at CMRC – Athens Conservatory. International performances, residences and awards. Founding member of HELMCA (Hellenic Electroacoustic Music Composers Association).
I got familiar with the EMS synth workflow working a lot with a VCS3, during my PhD at Bangor University, and from various digital emulations (vst, iPad, etc). At some point I even started making a VCS3 emulation in MAX, witch never really completed. Finaly, got around to playing with the Synthi100 at the Contemporary Music Research Center in Athens in 2020, a couple of months before the first lockdown. I remember having seen this same machine back in 1991, during a seminar on creative studio techniques and UPIC. Back then it was not functional. It got restored to functioning order in 2017, with the opportunity of Documenta14. Anyway, during June – July 2020, in room 10 at the Athens Conservatory, I had the opportunity to work with it a lot, so after some experiments, I patched the synth for live drone-glitch-noise improvisation, and started recording many hours of material. In the same room there was an old grand piano, so I had the pleasure to invite my friend and music collaborator pianist and composer Vassilis Roupas, for a couple of long improvisation sessions. Synthi100&Piano Impro 1 and 2 are edited from material performed during these sessions, the 3rd and 9th of July 2020.
The relationships between almost static and highly active sounds have always been of interest to me, so I tend to think a lot in terms of texture and gesture. Sound-streams in contrapuntal structures, with varying degrees of independence, trajectories within sonic landscapes and abstractions. I feel that acoustic instruments, played with traditional or extended techniques, may very well be part of this musical discourse, especially when there is a shared musical aesthetic and deep connection between the performers. In these sessions I used the Synthi100 for basic sound families such as tones and clusters, grain textures, noise gestures and random sequences, which I would mix and modulate in real time. Vassilis on piano is contributing his own sound world in a constant interplay, leading or responding.
07. Rick Reger – VCS3 Improv (06:03)
I live in the Chicago area and make music using vintage-based keyboards and synthesizers: Arp 2600, VCS3, Hohner D6 Clavinet, Fender Rhodes, Mellotron Mk. VI, Mellotron M4000D Mini, Moog Voyager, Hammond organ. From 2012-2015.
I was a member of The Margots, with Ken Vandermark and Tim Daisy.
I’ve been playing keyboards since was 12 years old.
I had known about the VCS3 since the 1970s, from listening to music by Pink Floyd and Roxy Music. When I began buying gear for my music studio in 2005, I was interested in the VCS3, but prices in the re-sale market were too high, and I basically forgot about it.
Around 2010, I somehow heard that EMS was making a limited run of new Synthi and VCS3 synths. I contacted Robin Wood at EMS and added my name to a waiting list. I heard nothing for years and assumed that I would not get one. Then, suddenly in 2016, Robin contacted me to ask if I was still interested. I was, and in 2017 the VCS3 arrived at my house.
Although I couldn’t afford to buy one of the new Cricklewood keyboards Robin offered, I knew that the VCS3 could be controlled using a midi keyboard with a CV-Midi converter box. I actually bought a converter box because I fully expected to use a keyboard with the VCS3 in the same way I used a keyboard with my Arp 2600.
But once it arrived, I began exploring the VCS3 without a keyboard and quickly saw that it could add a new dimension to my music simply by doing what it does best: creating interesting textures, colors, sounds and effects.
The VCS3 has encouraged me to take my music further into spaces outside of standard and non-standard harmony, which is something that has interested me since I began avidly listening to music by Xenakis, Penderecki, Partch, Stockhausen and others in the 1970s.
I love exploring the VCS3 even though aspects of it still slightly baffle me. But I’ve heard others who’ve used it for decades say the same thing. It’s helped me approach composition from new and different angles. And it’s created opportunities in my music for unexpected, purely intuitive things to happen that add wonderful colors to pieces.
It’s a beautifully constructed and elegant instrument, and I’m grateful to have it.
08. The Canadian Electronic Ensemble – October 4, 1974. (10:44)
Recorded on October 4, 1974. Live studio session.
Musicians: David Grimes, David Jaeger, Larry Lake, Jim Montgomery (the four founding members of the Ensemble).
The recording took place in the Ensemble’s own studio, then located on Queen Street West in Toronto. The instrumentation included three EMS Synthi As, two EMS DK2 keyboards and a self-built instrument the Dyna-soar, which was a Dynaco preamp with the outputs plugged into the inputs and level controls on both, and a mixer.
Grimes, Jaeger, Lake and Montgomery, were all grad students at the University of Toronto, working at UTEMS under Gus Ciamaga. The earliest work at UTEMS was essentially modular (as in patching modules together) so it was the foundation of all of our training in electronic music. We acquired the Synthi A’s and the Dk 2’s in 1972 from Otto Joachim, a composer and visionary who was the EMS rep in Montreal. Live concerts would have been pretty much impossible without them, given our lack of interest in presenting concerts of tape music. Not a knock on tape music, just not where we wanted to go.
As David Sutherland, a current member, says: “the VCS-3 was the first synthesizer I ever saw. It was part of Stockhausen’s Canadian tour in 1970/71 so it had street cred in spite of the terrible review Wendy Carlos gave it in the Whole Earth Catalogue. In ‘76 I bought my own Synthi. The Canadian distributor for EMS, Otto Joachim, was in Montreal so it was an easy choice among what was available. Plus, the Synthi had a Ring Mod”.
In the intervening 49 years, people and instruments have come and gone, but the Synthi abides. The current iteration of the CEE features an A and an AKS; long may they wave (pun intended).
09. Ernesto Romeo – El Maestro se inspiró (15:33)
EMS VCS3 The Putney & Synthi AKS. Roland Space Echo RE-201, Lexicon 480.
6-channel direct take recorded on March 21, 2015. Mixed on Aug 7, 2021.
La Siesta Del Fauno Estudio-Laboratorio, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Composer, keyboardist and synthesizer specialist who is internationally recognized as a lecturer in sound synthesis and music technology, he is also a professor at the National University of Tres de Febrero. He composed music for plays, videos, exhibitions, multimedia actions and installations in galleries and art spaces and is director of the Pulso-UNTreF Festival.
After more than 20 years of experimentation with synthesizers and electronic instruments in different laboratories, he founded in 2011, together with the sound engineer Pablo Gil, the La Siesta Del Fauno studio, one of the most important electronic music laboratories in the world.
In 1988, he founded the electronic music group Klauss, integrated the electroacoustic ensemble TriØN and Seiko project and has been a member of many bands and recorded hundreds of albums and performed a large number of concerts all around the World.
I started experimenting with synthesizers in January 1988, in my early 20s, en Buenos Aires.
At the end of the 80s and early 90s, at the height of the rise of digital, I felt that analog technologies -although considered obsolete- could complement each other very well in a sound art dominated at that time by samplers, MIDI, digital synthesizers and computers. In 1994 I incorporated two devices that clearly went beyond the concept of synthesizers as “musical instruments”: the ARP 2600 and the EMS Synthi AKS… both equipment are literally self-integrated portable labs for electroacoustic art, involving enormous possibilities for self-generativity, external signal processing (something I had already found fascinating in the Korg MS20), and the creation of the whole range of articulable harmonic and inharmonic spectra with extremely flexible shapes from very inspiring front panels.
In particular the Synthi AKS – with its attaché format, its joystick, its interconnection matrix, its digital / analog sequencer, its capacitive keyboard, its voltage-controllable decay and reverb, etc. – it turned out to be (and is still to this day) one of the most fascinating devices for electroacoustic sound art. The AKS (I bought the first of my Synthis from the great Argentine composer Alicia Terzián, who used it in the 70s to make a couple of works and then kept it for almost 20 years in a closet) is the synthesizer that has accompanied me to the most concerts in the last three decades, I have recorded it in countless musical productions, it is one of the most captivating didactic tools when I teach sound synthesis and it is an incredibly seductive piece of technological art and I find it permanently inspiring, both for its wild sound and for the conceptual and practical genius with which it was conceived.
In 2006 I met the Synthi 100 from the Gabinete De Música Electroacústica De Cuenca (in Spain, now restored) and I had my first contact with the VCS3 of a friend from Madrid. In addition to the ergonomic differences between the VCS3 and the Synthi AKS (both beautiful equipements!) I was surprised by the difference in sound between the two models (distant in just a couple of years in the making), which I confirmed when in Argentina I was able to add a second Synthi AKS to my setup. For a while I used two Synthi (unforgettable experience) and then I swapped one AKS for the VCS3 Mark II and then that one for the VCS3 Mark I, The Putney. All the Synthi / VCS3 that I used (including a couple more AKSs from other colleagues) are instruments with their own personality, “living beings” full of artistic proposals that invite feedback in such a magical way that I feel they manage to be part of my being, I feel that they are machinic manifestations of my existence as part of a cosmic totality!
The piece “El Maestro Se Inspiró” is the title that my bandmates from Klauss jokingly put when one day for a recording session in our La Siesta Del Fauno studios I interconnected my Synthi AKS and VCS3 The Putney and performed a jam of a 15-minute take in which the mutual dialogue between the EMS and myself ran through extremes of extreme dynamics that left me hypnotized.
10. Vincent Epplay – Mentaliste Mémo 03 (02:01)
11. Vincent Epplay – Mentaliste Mémo 04 (02:33)
12. Vincent Epplay – Mentaliste Mémo 08 (01:38)
13. Vincent Epplay – Mentaliste Mémo 10 (01:03)
Vincent Epplay is a French sound artist. Since the beginning of the 90s, he has been developing an unclassifiable artistic work exploring the interaction between the sound process and visual forms. He began to develop a particular and forward-looking approach to electronic music, centred on intuitive composition, learnings from musique concrète and a poetic/humorous re-appropriation of vintage sound/film materials.
He regularly plays in trio with Jac Berrocal and David Fenech, the Japanese composer Sayoko Papillon, and the group Bader Motor. He has produced a dozen records for various music labels: Blackest ever Black, Akuphone, AKA, Planam Alga Marghen, Klang Galerie… He continues to archive lyric records and vintage 8mm educational films. He creates listening spaces by staging sound and questioning its mode of distribution and reception.
In his work, visual artist and musician Vincent Epplay focuses on the notion of experience in his musical and filmic productions (video link). The different configurations of listening sound installations and live interventions explore the link between sound and image, offering visitors a field for experimentation.
With the Synthi AKS in hand, a new field of play and encounters began, notably with my accomplice the musician Samon Takahashi, and our exhumation of a little-known piece: Trios, a random score for VC3 and turntable, by the composer Tristram Cary, first performed in 1971. Chance operates in the manner of the Yi-King and the performers, who play the score with dice, move to the side of indeterminacy, on the model of John Cage’s “Music Of Changes”.
Exhume Trios was a kind of “archaeosonic” reconstitution, a respectful appropriation in homage to this prolific but strangely little known composer, founder with Peter Zinovieff and David Cockerell of Electronic Music Studios (EMS).
Other encounters followed, such as the one with musician Frédérick Galiay for an ephemeral formation AKS Duet, with a cathartic concert for “Les rendez-vous contemporains” at the Saint-Merri Church in Paris in 2012.
This synthesizer remains my favourite machine, a most untamable instrument, with surprising possibilities and sounds.
14. Jonas Broberg – Squadrak AKS (03:10)
Jonas Broberg has been composing electroacoustic music since the late 80s. He works with synthesizers and sound processors to obtain material ranging from chaotic to meditative.
My interest in EMS synths started in the early eighties when I heard Tangerine dream records such as Atem and Rubycon. In 1987 I was lucky to get an AKS and I started exploring it and using it at several live concerts. I love the flexibility of the pin matrix.
« Squadrak AKS » is an improvisation with Synthi AKS
15. Mathew Watson – Sidebands (05:28)
Mat Watson is a Naarm (Melbourne) based artist focussed on the exploration of electronic sound and the drum set in many forms and under many guises. He has an extensive and diverse list of past and ongoing artist collaborations, and has performed at arts festivals, music festivals, galleries and theatres across Australia, Japan and the USA.
He has released solo and collaborative albums exploring a vast spectrum of sound, style and form, moonlighted with Bronx legends E.S.G, and collaborated on several large scale Boredoms BoaDrum performances in Australia and Japan. He wrote, arranged and conducted Magnitudes – a work for 40 synthesisers performed by the MESS Synthesiser Orchestra at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne and most recently, curated and produced HEAVY SPECTRA, an individual audio visual work, and event for experimental artists working with sonic densities at Max Watts in Melbourne, Australia.
SIDEBANDS is a snapshot taken from a series of recordings I created on my Aks in 2014. This piece feels like raw electricity and sounds like liquid flowing through the machine. I get a sense that the electricity is very close to the surface. Like all of us working with modular systems, ideas are not the problem but time to realise our ideas can be. I love creating drone pieces like this as an antidote to the feeling of there not being enough time. By spending my time creating sounds that inspire a sense of timelessness, I am able to momentarily make the very concept of time redundant. The Synthi is my time machine in that sense.
16. Julien Palomo – Bae an Anaon (09:37)
Julien Palomo lives in Paris and likes to be discreet even if he has been active in our Experimental scenes for quite some time now… Founder of the label Improvising Beings devoted to improvisation, provoking encounters and, at the same time, paying homage to an underestimated part of the radical musics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially Free Jazz but not only. Julien plays a Synthi E and is fluently speaking the language of EMS…
Bae An Anaon – literaly, Bay of the Dead.
The ocean’s roar.
No set boundaries between waters and skies: dark, blue, grey, the taste of chalk. Yet, I couldn’t include the gulls in the music. The winged mockery of gulls. There’s nothing sinister to this area of the Brittany coast, though. The shipwreckers are long gone, replaced with surfers. Just avoid it on Christmas Eve, when bones cry. And don’t overstay at dawn. I hid under a lone dry shrub with the Synthi E – hid carefully, I don’t like to show off. The E has the dubious benefit of working on batteries. You better work quickly or carry a large supply of batteries. I let the synthesizer respond to the roar. Battle of the waves. Why, the cheeky little yellow toy wasn’t too impressed. It probably felt at home with the clouds’ electricity, a +/– joy of sorts. Nothing cheerful like an E in the wild.
Back home though I found out it had gifted me with choice sinewy dread. Lots of work went into it then – but this track and the album were refused everywhere, of course. The music bears the obvious influence of André Stordeur.
17. Anthony Capelli – I can’t seem to avoid the synth (05:17)
Anthony Capelli is a composer, drummer, sound engineer and electronic tech.
Builder enthusiast of electronic musical instruments, he plays in the French bands FAT32 & Chevignon and has produced some plays for Radio programs, theatres, short-movies.
Back in 2005, in a warehouse in Oakland California, before we begin the tour, there was this incredibly talented DIYer, soundguy and musician called Christian that brought the case when he came back in the evening. It was a very unique and rare moment discovering the Synthi A.
Georgios Karamanolakis – Tunguska Blues 97 (05:38)
EMS Synthi AKS and Tapes.
Georgios Karamanolakis (Γεώργιος Καραμανωλάκης) is an experimental artist and composer-improviser who lives in Athens Greece. He creates sounds that originate from monolithic drones mixed with elements of free jazz, noise and musique concrete, using a chimera of analogue and digital synthesizers, field recordings and tapes, metallic objects and various electroacoustic techniques. He is influenced by the culture of mysticism, experimental films and the aesthetics of cyberpunk.
He leads the Athenian post-apocalyptic synth-punk band ΟΔΟΣ 55 and is a member of the underground urban intervention team Omio. He also runs the black metal noise band Yorgas Helmet. He has cooperated and composed albums with a wide range of experimental artists such as Japanese noise legend Hiroshi Hasegawa (Astro) and he is the producer of the Athens Inner City Broadcast program at London’s Resonance Extra experimental radio station.
I have been an explorer almost all my life, since young I liked to explore ww2 bunkers and abandoned train cemeteries around my home town and collect various weird objects and books. During my youth I came across a record in a flea market called Greek Electronic Music 1 featuring greek avant-garde composers of the 60’s. On the cover of the record there is an EMS VCS3 and all recorded material on this lp where done with this machine. I instantly new that this was the synthesiser for me and it became a quest to find one slightly just before their prices exploded, it took me 10 years but in 2009 I finally got the opportunity to get a super modified ems synth aks. The last 10 years all of my music projects involve the synth aks and the synth E and they are my main instruments. I have other synths as well but I am an ems user and I compose only on these machines. EMS for me is freedom in a suitcase. Style and function hand by hand, science and magic combined to form this chimera, this ‘’silver crystal dream machine’.
19. Bernard Filipetti – A&T belgian Mix 2 (05:10)
An emblematic figure of the French alternative scene of the 70s and 80s, Bernard Filipetti has long heated the circuits of his analog synthesizers within the Camizole group or his solo project Art & Technique.
Raw, industrial, uncompromising.
The first time I saw a Synthi was when Dominique Grimaud bought one … 10,000 francs in 1974 (approx. 1500 euros). At the time, I was playing keyboard, organ while Dominique was making little noises… The second time was at the Red Festival in Pantin at the slaughterhouses in October 1975; There was a French duo Atom Crystal playing with 2 synths and between them a Tandberg tape recorder for the echo… They were playing sitting on the floor.
In 1979 I switched from keyboards to synthesizers. MS 20 MS 50 B.A.R PS 3300… tape echo… In 1981 I bought a second-hand Synthi which was unstable and half-broken… Towards the end of the 80’s, I started to really take an interest in synths, I had it brought into shape stability accuracy etc.
With the Indus wave of the 90s I started to integrate synths into my music. Today I have 2 totally modified CV / GATE
The way I use them today is a far cry from what we did with them in the 70s. The charm of this INSTRUMENT are the sometimes brutal reactions to a small change in volume. The sound of the synth is very thick “Unstable” fluctuating but soft violent charmer in short like love …
20. Richard Scott – Tiny Creatures of Putney(05:30)
The two pieces I include in this compilation are quite friendly and modest creatures. Like most of us they are just looking for a place to shelter without fear and that is what I have tried to give them in these compositions. I have taken a somewhat anthropomorphic approach to synthesisers; choosing to regard them as organic life forms with creature-like personalities; bodies and organs drawn from the elements and blood made of flowing electricity. Electronic sounds are not totally abstract, but are surely natural objects and organic algorithmic processes just as much as they are synthetic products of a rational and orderly mathematical thought. This anthropomorphism definitely prejudices me more to the noise, the distortion, the non-linearities and mathematical failures of the analogue domain and in particular towards the modular instruments of Serge, Hordijk and EMS, which seem to me to personify this tendency, which of course is not to say that all of them are not capable of some very clean and precise sounds too. The sounds I tend to be drawn to the most generally seem to have some kind of tangibility – which I understand as a corporeal sense of plausibility or feasibility. However abstract the sounds might seem, for me there is always an embodied material spectromorphology binding them to the earth. Maybe such sounds sometimes gaze into the sky and space above and wonder what it would be like, maybe they even try to travel there for a while, but they remain beholden to gravity, and thus keep some mud and twigs beneath their feet. The synthesisers made by EMS in the 1970s come from a different and now quite distant era of music and technology, but for me they are not nostalgic objects, rather they are unprecedented and very current tools which connect us to the possibility an optimistic musical futurism of the kind that perhaps few of us feel any more in many other areas of life. So while I don’t think these pieces try to look back to a mythical golden age of synthesisers or electronic music, they do keep an important link with the past, particularly in its more futuristic and utopian aspects. They also remind us that even now, in a digital era, an entirely analogue music can, as the genius Edgard Varese argued so vehemently, still engage the ear in new ways and can take us and our ideas towards a new kind of beauty and towards new possibilities of musical organisation. Of course has to be said that these pieces would not exist at all without t efforts of Peter Zinovieff, Tristram Cary and David Cockerell, and also Robin Wood and Thomas Lehn and thus they are dedicated to all of these gentlemen.
21. Biome – Skags (12:31)
Composed by Allen Strange.
Biome were: Allen Strange, Frank McCarty, Pat Strange, Boots McCarty, Steve Ruppenthal, and Steve Whealton.
Allen Strange composed for live electronic instrumental ensembles, for live and taped electronics with voices and acoustic instruments, and for the theatre; most of his works for acoustic instruments require extended performance techniques. He is particularly interested in linear tuning systems (as in The Hairbreath Ring Screamers, 1969, and Second Book of Angels, 1979), spatial distribution of sound (Heart of Gold, 1982, and Velocity Studies, 1983), the isolation of timbre as a musical parameter, and composing for groups of like instruments or voices. Elements of vaudeville, rock-and-roll, country-and-western music, and the guitar techniques of Les Paul are found in his works. His theatre pieces employ various media including film, slides, and lighting effects; he produced a series of such works in collaboration with the playwright and director Robert Jenkins, of which the most important are Jack and the Beanstalk (1979) and The Ghost Hour (1981), an audio drama.
In the mid-1980s, Strange became interested in alternate tuning systems. Strange lives on Bainbridge Island, Wa. pursuing a full-time career composing and concertizing with his wife.
Strange is one of the leading authorities on analogue electronic music; his Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls (1972) is now a classic text. He also wrote Programming and Meta-Programming the Electro-Organism (1974), the operations manual for the Buchla Music Easel and has documented the 200 Series synthesizers made by Buchla.
He was president of the International Computer Music Association (1993–8) and has appeared as a guest artist-lecturer throughout the world.
22. Paul Pignon – Play Me (11:47)
Born and grew up in the UK. Began playing jazz at 15. Studied physics at Oxford. While there made first forays into non-idiomatic improvisation (1961). Abandoned Ph.D. research at Oxford in favour of music. Moved to Yugoslavia, after a few years of working with tape music at Radio Belgrade was coopted to help found the Radio Belgrade Electronic Studio.
I had previously visited Peter Zinovieff in Putney and was able to propose EMS London as one of the manufacturers to be contacted”. RB also contacted Don Buchla, who did not reply at all, so the contract fell to EMS London (perhaps luckily). Through close cooperation with Zinovieff and David Cockerell the Synthi 100 was born, initially as a custom order from RB.
“I worked on the Synthi 100 in Belgrade for some 15 years, also using a VCS3, that particularly in live performances. Initially my approach was largely “classical” assemblage using a multi-track tape recorder, though greatly facilitated by the then rather ground-breaking digital sequencer of the Synthi 100. From around 1980 on I also began exploring the territory of complex self-exciting combinations of modules made possible by the uniquely flexible patching system of this machine, exploiting volatile semi-unstable combinations of modules which I (much) later began to call creatures, and combinations of such creatures which I now call zoetic engines. Early examples may be heard in Mechanical Cartoons and Play Me. Essentially I make use of the vast number of patching configurations which the unique patch bay contruction of the Synthi 100 enables to create very unstable and reactive patches (circuits), which I since recently have begun to refer to as “creatures”. They can also be made sensitive to external stimuli; in the piece Play Me I was interacting with them via a microphone, playing the clarinet.
In the 80’s both I and Vladan Radovanović were keen to see the Radio Belgrade computerised, as was the trend of the times. As this wasn’t about to happen I took the opportunity to move to Sweden and work at EMS Stockholm (not to be confused with EMS London). So it was computer music and software development for me for some years.
With the “modular synth revival” trend of the last decade or so several Synthi 100’s which had fallen into disuse and disrepair were resurrected, and I got the opportunity to resume my involvement with this machine, in both Belgrade and Athens. There I was able to further explore the zoetic engine approach, which I still consider as unique to the Synthi 100. I have admittedly little hands-on experience of any but EMS synthesizers but as far as I can tell no others permit the kind of “forbidden” patching which can give rise to these living organisms. And they are fundamentally impossible on a digital computer.
I have just completed a mammoth project I’m calling 3Z in which I constructed different zoetic engines on three Synthi 100’s, at Radio Belgrade, KSYME in Athens and IPEM in Gent, and had them communing with each other, and from time to time with several human musicians at the three sites, recording huge amounts of material.
23. Julio Sanz Vazquez – Instrospección desde el mundo analógico (09:31)
Composer, Professor and Technical Manager of the Cabinet of Electroacoustic Music of Cuenca since 1989 dedicated to the composition, research, creation, dissemination and conservation of Electroacoustic Music Research.
Member of the I + D + I Fuzzygab.4 Group of the ITCT Institute of Technology of the UCLM.
He carries out important and pioneering teaching work, spreading music with new technologies, teaching courses on contemporary and electroacoustic music in conservatories, universities and specialized forums.
Awarded by the UNESCO International Music Tribune.
Founder and coordinator of the International Seminar on Music and Computers UIMP.
Member of the Electroacoustic Music Association of Spain.
Founder of the Center for Applied Technological Initiatives in 1995. President of the AVADI Association and GME Action. 4. Professor of the Multimedia courses of the INEM. Developer of the Unified Theory of Quantum Music. What is music? From the sound of the spheres to Quantum Music, he coined the term CuMusic.
He currently enjoys listening, cultivating sounds and music in “El Huerto del Sonido”.
The Gabinete de Música Electroacústica de Cuenca was the first public center for teaching, research and diffusion of Electroacoustic Music in Spain, linked to the Professional Conservatory of Music of the Provincial Council of Cuenca. Inaugurated in 1983 it is one of the very few places in the world where one can play the EMS Synthi 100.
The figure of Composer Gabriel Brncic-Isaza, alma mater of the teaching and diffusion of Electroacoustic Music in Cuenca, has been fundamental.
With Gabriel Brnciç I had the pleasure of organizing and conducting the first specialized courses in Electroacoustic Music in a Professional Conservatory of Music in Spain, with durations of 2 and 4 years of specialization in Electroacoustic Composition, monthly concerts in the Conservatory of Cuenca and later in the Teatro-Auditorio, in all schools, public and private buildings and spaces available or not, in the city of Cuenca.
Electroacoustic music became an everyday thing for all the students of the Conservatory and we involved groups of students from all over the world.
Numerous composers of international stature requested to be able to compose in Cuenca, and the Diputación Provincial
24. Ed Herrmann – Persona Magnitech (07:27)
Equally at home with free improvisation, analog electronics, and invented instruments, Ed Herrmann shapes sound into music using whatever electronic and acoustic means necessary. He has composed music for dance, theater, and broadcast; created site specific sound installations; produced and hosted radio, podcasts, and audio tours.
He was a founding member of BCR, playing Serge modular synthesizer.
Ed Herrmann studied music composition and electronic music with Thomas McKenney at the University of Missouri, where he learned analog synthesis on an EMS VCS-3 and Emu modular. The VCS-3 had a unique voice, and being compact, was useful for live performance.
“Persona Magnitech” was made in 1979 on the VCS-3, when Ed was thinking about technology, human evolution, and the disaster at Three Mile Island.
25. Maciek Polak – Exercise 35 (06:45)
Maciek Polak’s professional life has been revolving around analogue synths for the best part of last 25 years but EMS have always remained his most cherished (or even default, “go to”) instruments. He released a few records as a member of a duo called Pin Park and a handful of Synthi solo albums, too, using either his own AKS or Synthi 100 at KSYME in Athens.