[spectre] In loving memory of Peter Zinovieff (1933/2021). RIP.

Radio Web MACBA rwm2008 at gmail.com
Sun Jun 27 23:07:26 CEST 2021

*We dig up our conversation with composer, engineer and geologist, Peter
Zinovieff <https://rwm.macba.cat/en/sonia/peter-zinovieff-/capsula>, who
passed away a few days ago. RIP*

*Peter Zinovieff assembled the first personal computer in the world*

Podcast: https://rwm.macba.cat/en/sonia/peter-zinovieff-/capsula

An isolated garden shed overlooking the Thames, the first personal computer
in the world and the romantic vision of creating an emotional musical
machine: this was the setting in which Peter Zinovieff
<https://rwm.macba.cat/en/sonia/peter-zinovieff-/capsula>, composer,
engineer and geologist, took his first steps towards becoming a legendary
pioneer of electronic music in the 1960s.

Back then, Zinovieff was busy creating a studio in a private house in
London in which he used a PDP-8 computer to control sound generating
equipment. This computer had four kilobytes of memory and no hard drive.
When he later expanded it with 32 kilobytes of storage, he thought he’d
never fill it. Similar computers had previously only been used in
factories, universities and laboratories, so it’s little wonder that
Zinovieff’s compositions from that period are probing sound experiments,
and that his studio was so intricate to navigate. Later that decade,
Zinovieff would also use PDP-8s for the first-ever unaccompanied
performance of live computer music.

The need to financially sustain this studio would eventually lead Zinovieff
to launch EMS with partners David Cockerel and Tristram Cary. A company
dedicated to manufacturing portable synthesisers, EMS manufactured the
best-selling VCS3 as well as other pieces of electronic music equipment
such as the Synthi, the MUSYS and the Vocoder. At the end of the 1960s, EMS
was one of four companies offering commercial synthesizers, along with ARP,
Buchla and Moog, but it went bankrupt in the 1970s leading Zinovieff to
part with his studio.

Throughout his career Zinovieff collaborated mostly with Harrison
Birtwistle and Hans Werner Henze, but his work and studio spurred the
interest of myriad bands, musicians and composers from academia to pop
stardom, from Ringo Starr to Karlheinz Stockhausen. Together with Delia
Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson, Zinovieff also ran Unit Delta Plus, an
organization to create commercial electronic music that mostly proved
unproductive. Following a hiatus of about twenty years during the 80s and
90s, artist Russell Haswell commissioned a new work from Peter Zinovieff in
2011. Since then, he has been back at composing and challenging electronic
music as we know it.

In this podcast, Zinovieff talks about how he assembled the world's first
personal computer, his time at EMS and the team that accompanied him, about
the listening room, academia; about engineering, experimentation and how
not to keep a sound archive; about Unit Delta Plus, how to run a
synthesiser off a windmill, and how to kindly ask a computer to make us a
beautiful composition.

*06:15* Working solo
*08:43* Sequencing with David Cockerel
*12:09* The first Personal Computer
*15:46* Working with time and paper-tape
*19:26* Tristram Cary and the production of the VCS3 synthesizer
*21:52* Synthi
*23:24* The Listening Room
*25:43* “Partita for unaccompanied computer”, January 1968
*30:19* Max Mathews and electronic music in Academia
*32:51* "I don’t like synthesizers": the downfall of EMS
*35:00* Alan Sutcliffe and the Computer Arts Society
*36:21* Correcting subroutines
*38:30* Peter Grogono and the studio as a music system
*39:50* Brian, Delia and Peter: Unit Delta Plus
*43:32* Overwritten tapes: the best is yet to come
*44:31* "Chronometer" with Harrison Birtwistle
*46:04* "Tristan" with Hans Werner Henze
*47:37* Studio documentation: a fossil

*01* Peter Zinovieff, “January tensions”, 1968 (4:45)
*02* Peter Zinovieff, “Tarantella”, 1966 (3:46)
*03* Peter Zinovieff and Alan Sutcliffe, “March probabilistic”, 1968 (4:19)
*04* Peter Zinovieff “Lollipop for Papa”, 1968 (6:25)
*05* Peter Zinovieff and Alan Sutcliffe, “ZASP”, 1968 (5:10)
*06* Peter Zinovieff and Harrison Birtwistle, “Chronometer”, 1971 (24:16)
*07* Peter Zinovieff and Hans Werner Henze, “Tristan (long section)”, 1973
*08* Peter Zinovieff, “Now’s the time to say goodbye”, 1978 (4:11)

*In loving memory of Peter Zinovieff (1933/2021). RIP.*
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