Peter Zinovieff obituary

Though the Moog synthesiser turned synonymous with digital music, Peter Zinovieff’s Digital Music Studios (EMS) deserves equal credit score. The VCS3 synthesiser it launched on the finish of the Sixties turned a favorite artistic device of among the most adventurous musicians of the period, together with Brian Eno, Hawkwind, Robert Fripp, Curved Air, Led Zeppelin, Gong, Roxy Music and Jean-Michel Jarre.

“To me, the unique VCS3 synthesiser is sort of a Stradivarius,” Jarre commented. “All these outdated analogue devices are very poetic. I’ve an enormous emotional relationship with them.”

Pete Townshend used the VCS3 to create the pulsing organ observe for Gained’t Get Fooled Once more (from the Who’s 1971 album Who’s Subsequent), whereas a variant of the machine, the Synthi AKS, featured prominently on Pink Floyd’s Darkish Facet of the Moon, after the guitarist David Gilmour visited Zinovieff at his Putney residence in south-west London.

“He constructed this factor in his backyard shed,” Gilmour reported. “He confirmed me the unique machine, plenty of wires and tons of of parts throughout the partitions, ground to ceiling, which he had miniaturised right down to a briefcase mannequin.” Due to apeSoft’s iVCS3 app, at present’s musicians can use VCS3-like results on an iPad.

Zinovieff, who has died aged 88, based EMS in 1965, and it developed right into a seething artistic hub for digital music in Britain within the late 60s and 70s. The actual goal of EMS was, in Zinovieff’s view: “To have the ability to analyse a sound; put it into wise musical type on a pc; to have the ability to manipulate that type and recreate it in a musical approach.” EMS turned a artistic residence for such experimentalists as Harrison Birtwistle, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Hans Werner Henze, and its popularity prompted visits from innovators together with Ray Dolby and Bob Moog.

Zinovieff had invaluable assist from his collaborators, the composer and digital experimentalist Tristram Cary and David Cockerell, a former medical technician whose experience helped Zinovieff translate his concepts into actuality. “Peter had constructed up his studio utilizing his personal fairly amateurish engineering abilities,” Cockerell defined. “He actually wanted somebody with a bit extra technical competence – effectively, extra persistence – than he had, to make the sounds that he had in his head … he was daring and adventurous, and he thought ‘let’s do it’, and he did it.”

Peter Zinovieff in Cambridge in 2015. His synthesier was utilized by Pink Floyd, The Who and Brian Eno. {Photograph}: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

In 1966, Zinovieff shaped Unit Delta Plus in collaboration with Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, with the goal of making digital music in addition to selling its use in movie and TV. In its transient lifespan (it dissolved in 1967), Unit Delta Plus staged supposedly the primary live performance of British digital music, on the Watermill theatre in Berkshire. It additionally took half within the Million Volt Gentle and Sound Rave in 1967 on the Roundhouse, in London, at which Paul McCartney’s 14-minute sound collage Carnival of Gentle was aired.

Zinovieff started to seek out working his studio a monetary burden, not least as a result of he had little curiosity in making income. “I didn’t need to have a industrial studio, I needed an experimental studio, the place good composers may work and never pay,” he defined. “If anybody had a great undertaking, they might come and work in my studio and I wouldn’t cost them.”

He wrote a letter to the Instances providing to donate the studio to the nation, however this attracted scant curiosity. He and his companions then determined to create a model of EMS synthesisers to be offered commercially, and their first try, in 1969, was the Voltage Managed Studio 1 (VCS1). This was designed by Cockerell and was offered to the Australian composer Don Banks for £50.

EMS’s console-sized Synthi 100 was utilized by, amongst others, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who used it to create music for Physician Who and Blake’s 7. Then got here the VCS3, which was designed as a conveyable digital music studio fairly than simply an instrument, and had a keyboard connected. It offered for about £330. It might subsequently evolve via a collection of iterations together with the Synthi A, the Synthi AK and the Synthi AKS. By the mid-70s, rivals comparable to Oberheim and Yamaha had been threatening to overhaul the synthesiser market, however in 1976 EMS scored one other coup by introducing the Vocoder voice synthesiser.

Zinovieff was born in London, the son of Leo Zinovieff and his spouse, Sofka (nee Sophia Dolgorouky). His dad and mom had been Russian aristocrats who met in London after their households had fled their homeland to flee the Russian revolution. Peter and his brother, Ian, spent the second world conflict dwelling with their grandparents in Guildford, Surrey, after which with their father in Sussex following their dad and mom’ divorce.

After attending Guildford Royal grammar faculty and Gordonstoun faculty, in Moray, Scotland, Zinovieff went to Oxford College and took a DPhil in geology. He spent a while in geological exploration in Pakistan and Cyprus earlier than turning his full consideration to the digital music by which he had beforehand dabbled alongside his educational research.

He married his first spouse, Victoria Heber-Percy, in 1960. The next 12 months he constructed himself a house studio in a bunker in his backyard overlooking the Thames in Putney. “I used to be fortunate in these days to have a wealthy spouse and so we offered her tiara and we swapped it for a pc,” Zinovieff reminisced.

He thus turned one of many first individuals anyplace to put in a pc in a non-public residence – it was outfitted with a now-inconceivably minuscule 4 kilobytes of reminiscence, and value a then astronomical £5,000 to construct –and he used it to manage his sound-generating gear. Zinovieff was breaking unknown floor, although he was evidently conscious of the work of the computer-music explorers Max Mathews and Jean-Claude Risset at Bell Labs in New Jersey, and of the doctoral analysis of David Alan Luce (future inventor of the Polymoog synthesiser) on the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise.

After EMS collapsed out of business in 1979, Zinovieff retreated into instructing and dealing in graphic design, although he wrote the libretto for Birtwistle’s opera The Masks of Orpheus (1986) whereas dwelling on the island of Raasay in Scotland, the place each he and Birtwistle had properties.

He returned to composition in 2010. He collaborated with the violinist Aisha Orazbayeva on OUR (2010) and Our Too (2014), created a collection of items with the poet Katrina Porteous, and with the cellist Lucy Railton conceived RFG (the title stood for Rowntree’s Fruit Gums). This was carried out stay in 2016-17, and launched because the album RFG Innovations for Cello and Laptop in 2020. In 2015, a compilation of his early work was launched in 2015, the identical 12 months that Anglia Ruskin College awarded him an honorary doctorate of music.

He’s survived by his fourth spouse, Jenny (nee Jardine), and by six kids: Sofka, Leo and Kolinka, from his first marriage, and Freya, Kitty and Eliena, from his second, to Rose Verney; his son Kyril, from his third marriage, to Tanya Richardson, died in 2015. His first three marriages resulted in divorce.

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