EMS Founder Peter Zinovieff Has Died

The Guardian reports that British composer and synth pioneer Peter Zinovieff has died at the age of 88.

Zinovieff has been described as “Britain’s Bob Moog.” Along with Tristram Cary and David Cockerell, he founded Electronic Music Studios (EMS) in 1969, one of the first synthesizer companies.

While EMS pioneered the use of a wide range of technologies in electronic instruments, it is probably best known for creating the VCS3 and Synthi A, early portable synthesizers that were used by the likes of Klaus Schulze, Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Hawkwind, The Who, Jean-Michel Jarre and others.

Zinovieff was also active as a composer, with his works exploring cybernetics, sound spatialization, computer music and classical electroacoustic instrument + electronics combinations.

He collaborated with Radiophonic Workshop members Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson in the 60’s as Unit Delta Plus, creating electronic music and multimedia events. Later collaborations include creating the libretto for Harrison Birtwistle’s 1986 opera The Mask of Orpheus, and more recent collaborations with cellist Lucy Railton and violinist Aisha Orazbayeva.

Zinovieff and the story of EMS are the focus of the 2007 documentary What The Future Sounded Like:

Pink Floyd shared this memorial message

“Our condolences to the friends and family of Peter Zinovieff, the British composer and synth pioneer, who has died.

Peter’s company Electronic Music Studios (EMS) created instruments such as the portable VCS3 and Synthi A, which formed a key part of Pink Floyd’s sound on every album between 1972’s Obscured By Clouds and 1977’s Animals, with On The Run from 1973’s The Dark Side of The Moon being a particular example of their use.”

15 thoughts on “EMS Founder Peter Zinovieff Has Died

    1. His reaction to the Erica synth was extremely positive. There was a lengthy period when it seemed like his work would be forgotten as a historical footnote, so getting to see a modern instrument inspired by his work must have been fulfilling.

      1. I agree and I would go even further as I think its a shame there arent more synths that takes inspiration from his work compared to Moogs, 303s and others.

  1. Yes one heck of an artist n engineer….RIP…..your person will be missed…but your spirit lives on…..some people can leave but they’ll never be gone!!

  2. the EMS synths are the most impressive sounding vintage analog instruments IMHO

    Just in terms of the raw sonic dynamics and variety of tones

    1. I agree. Its interesting that they are so impressive because they were finicky instruments. But that only added to their charm and the fun of exploring them and the wonder of how you could get so much out of them. They were all such BASIC instruments. Nothing fancy. Just basic modules. But look what we did (and still do) with them!

  3. Oh my! This is really sad. Its funny how we keep some people in a mythical zone in our heads, assuming the they will always be there. Then reality kicks the door in and …BAM… someone dies.

    Peter Z. had a major impact on my life, musically and professionally. He never knew me. But I worked for his American Affiliate, EMSA (Electronic Music Studios of America), which operated out of Amherst Mass. I was a sort of field rep for them in Southern California. Allen Strange was doing the same thing up in the San Jose/S.F. Bay Area This was my first gig in the synthesizer industry. I went on to do lots of other stuff. But it all started with EMS.

    His influence on me and countless others will remain. But he was no myth. He was a real person who did some big things in the world of Electronic Music that, if you are reading this, you probably love as much as I do.

  4. It was Eno playing the suitcase synth
    On the first Roxy album that made me feel synth players could finally take over flexibility in soloing listen to the Eno synth solo on Editions of You, it was a pioneering shining moment in early synth history

  5. Peter was an inspiration.

    Peter along with other designers inventors of Electronic instruments and Synthesisers
    have had the most influence upon Electronic music
    upon most of the pioneers of Electronic music.

    Such a wonderful legacy Peter.

  6. He and Max Matthews in their respective analog and digital fields, were the forerunners of everything that followed, not forgetting Chowning, Risset, Giuseppe Di Giugno…

  7. Sometimes it is very difficult to separate mythology from the man, and to have someone that mirrors those myths is rare indeed, and rarer yet to have someone that exceeds them. Peter Zinovieff was that rarest of men, always congenial, ever so humble, and always a gentleman.

    He was a giant amongst giants. Despite being widely misunderstood, derided, and dismissed early for much of his professional career, he was always pressing forward and not simply breaking barriers yet carving new and unheard paths.

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