Soviet synthesizer bridged occultism and electronic music


36 Responses to “Soviet synthesizer bridged occultism and electronic music”

  1. saucygit says:

    I’d prefer sound to images.

  2. Ambiguity says:

    Cool article — thanks for posting it.

    While I do like things when it comes to electronic and experimental music (and for those of similar disposition, I recommend Nicolas Collins’ Handmade Electronic Music), it occurs to me that it would be interesting (and pretty easy) to implement this in software.

    • Tchoutoye says:

      Check the last link in the article.

      • Ambiguity says:

        Thanks, missed that.

        Too bad I only have Linux on my computer :(

        In terms of design, an interesting solution would be to implement this in Supercollider. I’ve done some coding in SC3, but the image library would probably have to be developed as a C(++) extension, which is a bit advanced (at least for me, as I haven’t spent that much time in SC).

  3. Mighty Blowhole says:

    So Hegel’s the guy we can thank for Hawkwind and blame for the Pet Shop Boys? (Then we’ve also gotta blame Miles Davis for Kenny G, I guess…)

    The super-cool CD/Book set Gravikords, Whirlies & Pyrophones by Bart Hopkins (Foreword by Tom Waits!!!) has some info about Russolo + Theremin, along with lots of other very interesting soundfreaks + their contraptions.

  4. brainflakes says:

    Wow, that’s almost 20 years earlier than Daphne Oram’s Oramics machine

    • avraamov says:

      Oram began preliminary work on what would be the Oramics machine as early as the mid ’50′s, so they’re kind of contemporaries. It’s generally true that with whatever has happened in experimental sound in the last 100 years, optical sound preceded other technologies. Sound editing began in film, polyphonic synthesis and vocal synthesis on the optical soundtrack, etc. It sometimes reads like an alternative history – Oram’s machine was unique but it had illustrious forebears.

      • impplus says:

         According to the work i’ve seen and heard from her archive (I was part of the Oramics to Electronica co-curation team at the Science Museum in London) Daphne Oram had the initial idea for the Oramics Machine in 1948. Still behind the ANS, but like Murzin, it took her 20 years to turn it into reality. Great article, and interesting comments from everyone, by the way!!!

  5. Tchoutoye says:

    This interesting and otherwise thorough article omits that various Soviet avant-gardists like Denisov, Schittke and Gubaidulina composed works for the ANS. The Soviet label Melodiya released a 10″ in 1969 and an LP in 1990 with ANS music.

    Rossbach’s Gnostic Wars sounds like a hoot but sadly it’s out of print.

  6. slowtiger says:

    While the ANS basically is a visually controlled additive sythesizer, the very same results can be achieved with the software Metasynth which exists since 1999 (Mac only). See for an introduction.

  7. Chris Weaver says:

    An excellent introduction to the ANS.  Andrey Smirnov’s book “Sound in Z: Experiments in Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th-century Russia” is due to be released later this summer. Those interested in Daphne Oram and the Occult should check out Dan Wilsons article in The August 2011 edition of the The Wire magizine

    • klintron says:

      Awesome, thanks – I’m sure Sound in Z would have been a great help while writing this article.

    • avraamov says:

      Andrei has produced some incredible research in the last 5 or 6 years, and is unearthing more stuff every week it seems. He’s in a unique position, being just about the only English speaking Russian scholar who not only understands fully all the technical aspects of what people like Sholpo, Yankowski and later Murzin were up to, but has a pretty comprehensive historical insight, since he’s the custodian of Theremin’s archive amongst other things..

  8. Ambiguity says:

    Klint Finley
    I’m a freelance journalist specializing in developer culture, open source, big data, analytics and enterprise software.

    Yea, but if you’re writing articles like this, I have to wonder if your heart’s in it.

  9. OtherMichael says:

    Now THIS post is  collection of Wonderful Things all by itself.

    So many trails leading out…. experimental music,  the futurists, the New Aesthetic movement (or whatever), Arduino shout-outs, and Machine Learning….

    hot-damn. If I wasn’t so busy at work, this week……

  10. Jesse in Japan says:

    Those pictures look like a map leading to the Black Lodge…

  11. Saltine says:

    Interest in the occult, especially Theosophy, was all over the arts in the early modernist period and in the fin de siecle immediately prior. There are few modernist artists in any medium who don’t have some link to the occult. The anti-communist movements in the 40s-50s US tended to obscure that (a heretic was a heretic was a heretic, it seems).

  12. robin edgerton says:

    If Nikolai Obukhov had executed his electronic music machines before Theremin, we might all be playing “croix sonores”

  13. ÷ says:

    Great article 

  14. Sky Cosby says:

    Fascinating stuff! Keep it coming Klint! And congrats on the top billing!


  15. License Farm says:

    Great work, Klint. You do the CP cabal proud. I wonder how Scriabin’s work dovetails with Gurdjieff’s, since the latter was also affiliated with Blavatsky & related the octave and the spectrum in son et lumière-style presentations. (We’ve had this discussion before, I think, though reached no conclusions.)

  16. The “liner notes” that you link to in the body and at the end of your piece is actually a review that I wrote of the COILANS release, not liner notes. The review was based on information from the Coil website as well as original research. Also, it bears mentioning that ANS and COILANS are not quite two different albums; the latter contains the same material as the former, but also contains additional pieces, as well as better packaging and a DVD of visualizations. Another piece of trivia: one of the pieces from the album can be heard on the soundtrack of Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void, during the DMT trip scene at the beginning of the film.

  17. Gabriel from says:

    And I thought that the Doctor Who theme was the first electronic music ever to be made…

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