Sound + Vision

by James Greer


The ANS light-sound synthesizer, developed by Russian optical engineer Evgeny Murzin between 1937 and 1957, synthesizes sounds from artificially drawn sound waves. The sine waves generated by the ANS are printed onto five glass discs using a process which Murzin had to develop himself. Each disc has 144 individual tracks printed onto it, producing a total of 720 microtones (discrete pitches) available to the user. These are arranged vertically from low frequencies at the bottom to high frequencies at the top. Convolved light is then projected onto the back of the synthesizer’s interface. The ANS is completely polyphonic and will generate up to all 720 of its pitches simultaneously if required.

The ANS was used by Edward Artemiev in composing several of his scores for the director Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Stalker, etc.) There is only one in existence; it currently resides in the Glinka Museum in Moscow. Murzin named his creation  in honour of the composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (ANS).