on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2011 17 Okt

VCS3 (you remember?)

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags:  2 Comments

Also in the Science Museum show is the very first synthesizer that I ever owned, another beast in its own right, and that’s the VCS3. The VCS3 was quite a difficult instrument to use, though at the time it was a fantastic thing to have for someone like me, who couldn’t actually play any conventional instruments. There were no rules for playing synthesizers, so nobody could tell me I couldn’t play one. Nobody else could play one either. It was an instrument you made up yourself… its role was waiting to be invented.
The VCS3 was a particularly good instrument for that, because unlike nearly all the synthesizers that followed, it didn’t dictate a particular path for the signal. Nearly all the synthesizers that followed went: oscillator into filter into envelope-shaper into effects. Everything was in that straight line. With the VCS3 you could feed things back into themselves, so you could take the output of a filter and feed it back into itself and this gave me some very unusual and quite unpalatable noises, which of course I liked. They sounded a lot better than me trying to play music anyway.
The VCS3 preceded, or maybe was even simultaneous with, the Moog. But what was interesting about it was that it wasn’t really a keyboard instrument. There was a keyboard with it, but it was impossible to get it in tune, so most of the people who used it abandoned the keyboard. That was a big step, because prior to that synthesizers had been thought of as electronic organs with a few stranger sounds.
Abandoning the keyboard took you into a new musical territory. I’m sure Peter Zinovieff, who invented the VCS3, would have been very pleased if he could have made a good keyboard. But the fact that he failed to was what made that instrument special, and what started the different forms of electronic music you hear everywhere now. It came out of an inadequacy of that particular instrument.

In den 70er Jahren verhieß dieser rein technologische Begriff – VCS3 – manch aufregendes Hörerlebnis, speziell, wenn Eno mit ihm hantierte. In diesem Ausschnitt eines Essays erinnert Eno an die Synthesizer-Ära, und wie Defizite und gravierende Mängel zu einem neuen Musikverständnis führten, das mehr mit Erfindung als mit Nachspiel zu tun hatte. Interessant: manche der tollen Kompositionen mit VCS3-Signatur wirken gleichermaßen wie aus alter Zeit und zeitlos.

This entry was posted on Montag, 17. Oktober 2011 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Q. What is „Sky Saw Guitar“ (credited to Fripp on Another Green World)?

    Paolo Valladolid explains:

    Quoting Robert Fripp from a 1987 Electronic Musician interview („Zen and the Art of the Guitar“ or some such title) (this is paraphrased from memory): „Sky Saw Guitar is a specific technique of processing the guitar through a VCS-3 synthesizer with digital feedback. You hit one note and it rings forever.“

    R Carlberg adds:

    I was a staff writer for EM at the time so I happen to still have the June 1987 issue on hand.

    The interview, by John Diliberto, was titled „Zen and the Art of Fripp’s Guitar.“ They’re discussing his relationship with Eno.

    EM: I believe he was the one who created Sky Saw Guitar.

    RF: Yeah, Sky Saw was a name for a particular sound which had to do with feeding the guitar through a VCS Synthi synthesizer and digital feedback. It’s a specific technical approach for getting the sound. You can get the sound or a very close approximation in a number of different ways, but that was the name he came up with. He came up with that particular sound. Wonderful rrrr. So gripping. Great. Yeah. My response to that is visceral. Now you don’t need lots of clever notes and theories about musical organization. You just hit the G and go rrrr. And that’s it. It’s all over.

    You know, that used to really frustrate me. There I would be practicing and working hard and all the different things one could play, and yet you turn up the amplifier and hit the one note and it would go hhhhhhmmmmmmzzzm and it would be all you needed. Wonderful appeal. Wonderful appeal.“

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Brian Eno: Sky Saw (aus ANOTHER GREEN WORLD)

Manafonistas | Impressum | Kontakt | Datenschutz