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Peter Zinovieff (1933-2021)

Dr Peter Zinovieff

Areas of Interest


Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Music, 2015


Dr Peter Zinovieff was a composer, librettist and pioneer of electronic music.

He was educated at the Royal Grammar School Guildford, Gordonstoun and Oxford where he obtained a D.Phil. in Geology. After short periods as an exploration Geologist in Cyprus and Pakistan he started experimenting in electronic music.

During the 1960s he rapidly developed a world class studio in London and installed the first computer in a private house in the world which he used to control the sound generating equipment. He was also the first to use sampling as a musical technique.

Later he asked David Cockerel and Tristram Cary to form EMS - a company to manufacture synthesisers and support the studio. The first product was the VCS3, a self-contained modular synthesiser which has now achieved legendary fame and was used by many famous pop groups including Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and The Who. ARU bought one in 1971, which is now in the Cambridge School of Creative Industries.

EMS also produced numerous other pieces of electronic music equipment ranging from the huge Synthi 100, the Vocoder, and the Synthi AKS to modules for studio and live performance.

Dr Zinovieff collaborated with many composers and especially with Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Hans Werner Henze. He wrote the libretto and scenario for the huge opera The Mask of Orpheus by Birtwistle which was produced by the English National Opera in London in 1986.

As a result of a commission he started composing again in 2010, writing number of large scale electronic works before his death in 2021. These included two multi-spatial works commissioned by TBA21 Vienna – Bridges from Somewhere and Another to Somewhere Else, first produced in Istanbul, and Good Morning Ludwig at ZKM, Karlsruhe. They also included two violin concertos played by Aisha Orazbayeva and three soundscapes with poet Katrina Porteous.

A lavishly produced booklet and dual CD titled Electronic Calendar of his early works and other pieces from the EMS era was produced by Space Age Recordings in 2015.

Dr. Tom Hall, Course Leader of our Creative Music Technology degree, has published research on Peter’s collaborations, and in 2013 he organised a symposium and concert celebrating Peter’s work and 80th birthday.

Peter Zinovieff had an enormous influence on the evolution of electronic music, and was an inspirational role model for our Creative Music Technology and Audio Music Technology students. As a remarkable innovator and pioneer, we were delighted to welcome Dr Peter Zinovieff to our Anglia Ruskin community in 2015.