NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1958 __ ANS
Yvgeny Murzin (?-?)
Comment : In 1938 Murzin invented a design for composers based on synthesizing complex musical sounds from a limited number of pure tones; this proposed system was to perform music without musicians or musical instruments. The technological basis of his invention was the method of photo-optic sound recording used in cinematography, which made it possible to obtain a visible image of a sound wave, as well as to realize the opposite goal.synthesizing a sound from an artificially drawn sound wave. Despite the apparent simplicity of his idea of reconstructing a sound from its visible image, the technical realization of the ANS as a musical instrument did not occur until 20 years later. Murzin was an engineer who worked in areas unrelated to music, and the development of the ANS synthesizer was a hobby and he had many problems realizing on a practical level. It was not until 1958 that Murzin was able to establish a laboratory and gather a group of engineers and musicians in order to design the ANS. The function of the ANS would be impossible to determine from it’s appearance: The only part of the machine that gives a clue to it’s intended purpose is a small ‘piano’ keyboard vertically positioned next to a greasy inked glass plate: The ANS is infact a musical instrument, an early synthesiser, conceived by the jazz loving military scientist Yvgeny Murzin during the Second World War (or ‘Great Patriotic War’ in Russia). Murzin’s ambition was to create a universal instrument that would combine the visual and audio aspects of composition in one machine (Murzin christened the machine the ‘ANS’ after Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin who’s synaesthetic theories were very influential in the USSR at the time), freeing the musician and composer from the restaints of standard composition and giving them an unlimited palette of sounds. The basic theory of the machine was to rebuild a sound from it’s visible image - echoing Scriabin’s ‘colour organ’. At the heart of the machine was the sound generator: 144 glass disks, each disk containing multiple pure sine waveforms which when spun at varying speeds produced multiple and complex combinations of tones. The sound was created by directing a light beam through the spinning glass disk to a photo-electric cell - which in turn created a voltage tone output whcih could be heard through a set of speakers. Incredibly, each of the 144 glass discs were hand drawn, in itself a phenomenal task which took many years to complete. Following Murzin’s light-to-sound design of the ANS was the control mechanism. The composer simply wrote into a glass plate covered in black ink - the higher the line the higher the pitch (generated from the glass disks) the lower the line, the lower the pitch. The horizontal axis of the plate represents time, so the length of the line determines it’s longevity. To play the composition a ‘light reading head’ traveled over the inked plate and picked up a light beam shining through the lines made by the composer ( interestingly, the speed of the ‘play head’ could vary without altering the pitch or timbre of the piece a unique and powerful musical and composition tool). The vertical keyboard manual when presssed created straight lines in the ink - therefore producing fixed interval tones. The ANS project was not supported by the state and Murzin had continual problems self financing the instrument. As well as co-opting friends and colleagues to help out, the sheer size of the machine was a major issue and it was only until 1958 that the ANS found a secure home - oddly enough in the Zoological University. It was here at the University where the instruments was pressed into military service. Dolphins it was agreed would be useful weapons - planting mines, locating enemy ships and so-on, if only they could be understood (and vice-versa). The ANS with it’s unlimited range of sounds and timbres was seen as a viable way of decoding and learning dolphin language:Photographic images of dolphin calls were drawn on the the ANS plate, analysed, altered and presumably played back to the dolphins… While all this delphinic research was going on the ANS was beginning to be used by a new generation of electronic composers (including Edward Artemiev - composer of soundtracks to Tarkovsky’s films ‘Stalker’ and ‘Solaris’, Oleg Buloshkin, Vladimir Martinov, Edison Denisov, Sofia Gubaidulina, Alfred Schnittke, Alexander Nemtin and Stanislav Kriechi - the ANSs’ keeper) who had realised the potential of the instrument. (Simon Grab)“. (This photoelectronic instrument takes its name from the initials of Russian composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, whose creative work and ideas about synthesizing the different arts inspired the young inventor Eugeny Murzin. In 1938 Murzin invented a )
French comment : De 1937 à 1957, le Russe Evgeni Murzin met au point un synthétiseur qui sera notamment utilisé par le compositeur Alfred Schnittke pour la pièce “Steam”. Cet instrument construit à un seul exemplaire s'appelle l'ANS, il reprend les initiales du compositeur Alexander Nikolavitch Scriabine. (Sonhors)
Source : Bossis, Bruno (2004), “Introduction à l’histoire et à l’esthétique des musiques électroacoustique - Session 2: Une nouvelle lutherie”, Séminaire Unesco.
Urls : http://crab.wordpress.com/2007/10/31/the-ans-soviet-dolphin-translating-instrument-pt-1/ (last visited ) http://sonhors.free.fr/panorama/sonhors5.htm (last visited ) http://www.discogs.com/Various-Electroshock-Presents-Electroacoustic-Music-Volume-IV-Archive-Tapes-Synthesizer-ANS-1964-197/release/235627 (last visited ) http://portal.unesco.org/culture/fr/files/26265/1115371608302sonmusique.pdf/02sonmusique.pdf (last visited ) http://theremin.ru/archive/ans.htm (last visited )

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