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What The Future Sounded Like: A Video Account of Electronic Music Studios (EMS)

Posted on: November 10, 2013

Found through the Binary Heap blog : a short 27-minute Vimeo video documentary about the British Electronic Music Studios (EMS), famous for their groundbreaking VCS3 and Synthi synthesizers.

VCS3 advert

VCS3 advert

This is the synopsis of the video: Post-war Britain rebuilt itself on a wave of scientific and industrial breakthroughs that culminated in the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. It was a period of sweeping change and experimentation where art and culture participated in and reflected the wider social changes. In this atmosphere was born the Electronic Music Studios (EMS), a radical group of avant-garde electronic musicians who utilized technology and experimentation to compose a futuristic electronic sound-scape for the New Britain. Comprising of pioneering electronic musicians Tristram Cary (famed for his work on the Dr Who series) and Peter Zinovieff, EMS’s studio was one of the most advanced computer-music facilities in the world. EMS’s great legacy is the VCS3, Britain’s first synthesizer and rival of the American Moog. The VCS3 was a uniquely British invention, which changed the sounds of some of the most popular artists of this period including Brian Eno, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. Almost thirty years on the VCS3 is still used by modern electronic artists like Aphex Twin and Chicken Lips.

What The Future Sounded Like uncovers a group of British composers and innovators who harnessed technology and new ideas to re-imagine the boundaries of music and sound. The documentary places the emergence of EMS in the larger context of 60’s post-war Britain, with its focus on “space age” technology and the advent of the counter-culture. A must-see for everyone interested in the history of electronic music and electronic music devices! If you want to know more about EMS and their activities and products after viewing the documentary, check the 2 part article series of Sound-On-Sound on the history of EMS.

And EMS still exists! You can still buy a Synthi A or VCS3 online. Check the website of “The World’s Longest Established Synthesizer Manufacturer” for prices and ordering…

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