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ANS Synthesizer Photoelectronic Instrument

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    The ANS synthesizer is a photoelectronic musical instrument created by Russian engineer Evgeny Murzin from 1937 to 1957. The technological basis of his invention was the method of graphical sound recording used in cinematography (developed in Russia concurrently with USA), 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 spectrogram.

    In this case the sine waves generated by the ANS are printed onto five glass discs using a process that Murzin (an optical engineer) had to develop himself. Each disc has 144 individual tracks printed onto it, for a total of 720 microtones (discrete pitches), spanning 10 octaves. This yields a resolution of 1/72 octave (16.67 cents). The modulated light from these wheels is then projected onto the back of the synthesizer's interface. These are arranged in a continuous swath vertically, with low frequencies at the bottom and high frequencies at the top.

    The user interface consists of a glass plate covered in non-drying opaque black mastic, which constitutes a drawing surface upon which the user makes marks by scratching through the mastic, and therefore allowing light to pass through at that point. In front of the glass plate sits a vertical bank of twenty photocells that send signals to twenty amplifiers and bandpass filters, each with its own gain adjust control. It is akin to a ten-octave equalizer with two knobs per octave. The ANS is fully polyphonic and will generate all 720 pitches simultaneously if required (a vertical scratch would accomplish this).

    The glass plate can then be scanned left or right in front of the photocell bank in order to transcribe the drawing directly into pitches. In other words, it plays what one has drawn, similar to how a score is written. This process can be aided with a gear-motor drive (similar to an engineering lathe) or it can be moved manually. The scan speed is adjustable down to zero. The speed at which the score scans has no relation to pitch but serves only as a means of controlling duration.

    Murzin named his invention in honour of the composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (ANS): Scriabin (1872–1915) was an occultist, theosophist, and early exponent of color-sound theories in composition. The synthesizer was housed in the electronic-music studio situated above the Scriabin Museum (just off of the Arbat in central Moscow) before moving to the basement of the central university on the corner of Bolshaya Nikitskaya. It was saved from the scrapheap thanks to Stanislav Kreichi, who persuaded the university to look after it.

    The ANS was used by Stanislav Kreichi, Alfred Schnittke, Edison Denisov, Sofia Gubaidulina, and other Soviet composers. Edward Artemiev wrote many of his scores of the movies of Andrei Tarkovsky with the help of the ANS. Of particular note is Artemiev's score of Tarkovsky's Solaris in which the ANS was used to abstract, sci-fi effect akin to ambient music.

    After several years at the Theremin Center, the ANS (there is only one—the original was destroyed and this is the improved version) is now located in the Glinka State Central Museum of Musical Culture in Moscow.

    Notes on Using the ANS Synthesizer (1964)

    With ANS a composer can create music of any color in the form of a directly-sounding, without musicians performers.

    The composer writes he needed the sound of glass covered with opaque paint, paint removing cutters in certain places. This glass is a kind of score tool. Recorded sounds sequence codes can be immediately executed on the machine, the composer listened to and, if necessary, adjusted.

    On one glass score record all possible voice and polyphony, and any noise. All the synthesized sound composer on the score as a combination of pure tones sound with selected laws change their strength. For this purpose at the disposal of the composer are controlled oscillators 720, covering 10 octaves height sound. The main instrument scale represents the division of the octave into 72 interval. When working with precision recorders using mounting operation is possible with the division of the octave into slot 144 or even 216 intervals. Such a wide range of initial tones provide any synthesis of sounds.

    Composer, working on the score synthesizer, is likened to a painter who paints a picture: it tints, retouching, washes and causes the new code pattern, realizing the auditory control of the result. Freedom of work in such a score fraught with endless possibilities.

    Composer can develop on the glass score absolutely unusual spectrum of sounds. The device allows you to store this kind of research on magnetic disks and subsequently use them, striking automatically to the desired location of the score sequence of spectra by varying their pronunciation from one sound to another.

    ANS allows the composer to write music every party in the rate of live performing, performing it, if necessary, with the executive vibration and nuances volume and tone. With the help of the studio system tape composer can sync to mount a set of parties and clarify the overall pace of execution and the power of the sound, and enter the required reverberation.

    In order to provide a thorough control sound synthesizer ANS total number of controls is very large (more than two hundred), however, they are grouped by function and can be easily made by composers.

    Lacking practical limitations in temperament, ANS allows you to compose music using any frets and scale on the globe. Not having restrictions in their voices and changes in the works ANS allows music to use artificial voices and noises of all kinds of buildings and fragility.

    Some technical characteristics of the ANS synthesizer
    - The generation of pure tones - optical
    - Read useful signals - photoelectric
    - Long-term memory - magnetic
    - Channel amplifiers - vacuum electronics
    - Control circuit - a semiconductor electronics
    - Power units - a stable, solid
    - Range of spectra at temperament in 72 steps - from 20 to 20,000 cps. (10 octaves)
    - Range of spectra at temperament in step 72 to 6 octaves lower and upper stages 144 - from 40 to 10,000 cps
    - The number of managed band-pass registers - 20
    - Registration number of control channels - 10
    - The accuracy of the drawing up of a formant-5 points per octave
    - The accuracy of drawing up the envelope - 22 points per sweep
    - The dynamic range in the spectrum of the useful signals on the score - two versions: 48 and 24 decibels
    - The highest sharpness of the attack shock of sounds I ms
    - Maximum speed of the score - 24 mm / sec
    - The smallest amount of RAM on the score - 20 sec
    - The basic resolution of the reading target by score - 0.8 mm
    - Power - 50 Hz, 220
    Type: Analog
    Synthesis: Additive, Oscillator(s)
    Oscillators: 720
    Waveforms: Sine
    Osc Modulation: Input
    Filters: 20
    Types: Band Pass
    Polyphony & Tuning
    Polyphony: 720
    Tuning: Atonal, Micro, Standard
    Modes: Polyphonic
    Patches RAM: 1
    Case: Desktop
    Controls: Optical
    Audio Output Connections: Mono Out
    Power: 220 AC 50 Hz
    Year Released: 1957
    Year Discontinued: 1958
    Units Made: 1
    Used By
    Edward Artemiev, Stanislav Kreichi, Alfred Schnittke, Edison Denisov, Sofia Gubaidulina, COIL
    Manuals & Documents

    Virtual Software
    YouTube Videos
    References & Sources
    Related Software
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