Vale Tristram Cary, 1925-2008

Photograph of Tristram Cary

The godfather of British electronic music, composer Tristram Ogilvie Cary OAM, died on 24 April 2008. He was aged 82.

Cary’s story is told in his Wikipedia profile and the Times Online obituary. If anyone outside the “serious music” world knows him, it’s usually for writing the soundtracks for early Doctor Who episodes and films (which he hated talking about), or the Hammer Horror movies Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971).

However Cary was also a pioneer of music synthesisers. Trained as a radar technician in WWII, he co-founded Electronic Music Studios (EMS), which created the first portable synthesiser, the VCS 3.

I worked briefly with Cary one summer as a programmer. He was director of the electronic music studio at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide. I wrote a digital filter in PL/1 (!) for what I think was the Synclavier synthesiser — though it may have been something else, because as a hardware hacker Cary was well wicked. In his studio, it was difficult to see where one machine ended and the next began, they were so cross-linked.

I remember he was particularly fascinated with the sounds of bells, which then were starting to become achievable through digital synthesis. It was the first time I’ve ever found my applied mathematics knowledge of Fourier Transforms to be even remotely useful.

If you enjoy any kind of electronic music, you should take an hour of your day to learn more about Tristram Cary. He made your world.

[Footnote: I found out about Tristram Cary’s death from a most unusual source: the end credits to Shaun Micaleff’s program Newstopia. The more I discover about you, Shaun, the more I think my initial assessment of you as an arsehole was a mistake.]

I’ve changed my mind about Newstopia

I didn’t like the first episode of Newstopia on SBS last year. I thought Shaun Micaleff was trying too hard to sound like he was being satirical. “I. Am. Telling. A. Joke. Now. And. I. Am. Clever.” But last night I changed my mind. I watched the latest episode online: he’s relaxed into the role, and much lolz. Maybe I’m finally over the fact that I found Mr Micaleff to be a painful arsehole back when he was at the Uni of Adelaide with me. (Weren’t we all, though.) Maybe it’s because I was, as Christian Kerr alleges, the first person to play him Supernaut’s I Like It Both Ways.

A Night of Politics: grubby, grubby…

The entire evening was filled with politics yesterday and the chafing this morning is quite painful and I learned a lot.

Christian Kerr, the national affairs editor for Crikey, was promoting his book “in conversation with” Antony Green, the thinking woman’s crumpet — a combination too good to miss! We went for dinner afterwards.

I didn’t realise I’ve actually met Christian before, until he saw me. “I know you,” he said. “You were the first person to play me I Like It Both Ways with Shaun Micaleff at 5UV.” I have no recollection of this event, Your Honour. However Christian recalled sufficient details for me to be convinced the event probably did happen. Somewhere. He knew certain obscure hand gestures. Stop asking questions.

In a preview of the federal election and subsequent conversation I learned:

  • Christian thinks that the election won’t be fought over industrial relations, as many pundits are saying, but over the economy. It’ll be about the Howard government’s “sound economic management” (as they describe it) versus the It’s Time factor.
  • Unless something changes, it will be a Labor victory. For all the talk of “the polls are all over the place,” Antony Green says this is the most consistent series of polls he’s ever seen.
  • There is a Big Yabby in Alexander Downer‘s electorate, at Goolwa, which is symbolic somehow.
  • Malcolm Turnbull could still win the federal seat of Wentworth thanks to his Fabulousness Factor.
  • No-one seems to understand why John Howard won’t support gay-related issues. And I’ve just finished reading his biography — nothing there gives a clue either.
  • Mattresses.
  • Iguanadons.

Now where’s that moisturiser…?