15 February, 2009

Two Machines: 1 - The ANS

Of all of the one-off electronic musical instruments I've seen (either in the flesh, or photographed), the ANS is simply the most beautiful. It's now resident in the Glinka Museum in Moscow, probably for good, and when I made some recordings on it recently, needed considerable maintenance work - the lowest tonewheel is out of action and there is a lot of 100Hz bleeding into the audio. Stanislav Kreitchi (who has looked after the machine for many years) tells me he'll get it up and running properly - but I don't think even he can solve the small matter of the Velvet Rope...














Apologies for the phone camera. Sadly it was all I had with me...

4 comments:

continuo said...

Amazing photos. Thanks for sharing. In 1970, the late Sofia Gubaidulina said the ANS was "too complicated" while she was working with Stanislav Kreitchi on her own 'Vivente - Non Vivente' composition for ANS synth. The instrument is the holly grail of soviet electronic music. I have been told the keyboard has some glass keys covered with black paint. Did you actually see that?

Rob Mullender said...

The interface for the instrument is a glass plate covered in non-drying black mastic, which you scratch through to draw your score. There's an earlier post here which shows this more clearly (with some audio). The only thing resembling keys are an array of plastic switches, which were intended to become an analogue memory bank and sequencer, and I don't think Muerzin left any drawings explaining how this would have been achieved. In fact there is provision for several features (buttons, mechanical bits and pieces, housing for circuitry) which were never included, and Stanislav doesn't seem that sure of what some of them were intended for.

The Gubaidulina quote is interesting, because the ANS has always seemed to me to be the most intuitive instrument to use. All you have to do is make marks and turn a wheel; I can imagine the Ondes Martenot being much trickier, for example. She wrote a lot for violin, so perhaps she found the transition difficult.

Thanks for the comment...

Anonymous said...

I'm confused - what's that keyboard-like thing in the 8th pic down?

Jacko-Macca
Ebonyivoryspotter

Rob Mullender said...

o.k - i can see i've caused confusion here. the keys in the picture are part of an equal temperament registration/marking device, which applies fine claws, or needles (a bit like a metalworker's scribe) to the surface of the mastic, and which are dragged across the glass left to right. the marks in the score you can see in the picture underneath were produced in this way.
the claws are arranged so that the first is the fundamental, and the rest can be arranged to generate either orders of harmonics, or scales. in this way you can either build up triangle-ish waveforms using additive synthesis, or build chords. you can also disengage the equal temperament registration and produce glissandi if so desired.
the keys are a visual aid, and don't actually do anything, so they are keys in a visual, not functional sense.
hope that makes sense...