This months WIRE magazine has a review of COILANS the last album Coil completed before jhonn’s untimely death in November of last year. All compositions were performed on the Soviet ANS synthesiser – a very special kind of musical instrument. E. Murzin, its inventer, called the ANS “a photo electronic optical synthesizer of soundâ€?. It is based on a photo electronic device allowing the music to be drawn onto a special plate.
‘The photo electronic principle of synthesis, used by E. Murzin, implies the graphic imaging of soundings on a special plate, covered by a solid layer of black colour, which he has very exactly called “the scoreâ€? Before the composer is a row of levers, on the end of each one of which is a chisel. In the necessary places the colour can be removed (with the chisels), and then one can create a system of breaks in a definite configuration: a richer sound requires drawing a line (instead of a point), and a chord required putting several points in different places. Working this way, breaks, points and lines serve to create a regulation of the brightness of light rays, directed onto photo elements through rotating discs – frequency modulators. Due to this effect of light there appears electric current, which was later transformed into real current. “The Scoreâ€? also played a role as operative memory, letting the composer make various changes in the character of created sound signals, i.e. to correct the sound picture in accordance with the author’s ideas.’
The ANS remains a unique apparatus available to only a limited circle of musicians: the single experimental model of the device in existence currently belongs to Moscow State University. Although the ANS has not achieved widespread fame, the idea of directly transforming graphic structures into sound structures has not lost its relevance and can now be used successfully in computer music.
selected ANS links :
The ANS synthesizer – Composing on a Photoelectronic Instrumernt, Stanislav Kreichi
Electroacoustic Music Volume IV: Archive Tapes Synthesizer ANS 1964 – 1971.
Image of and entry on ANS from the Musuem of Soviet Synthesziers
‘Electricity has truly made angels of us all’- Coil