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H9953-13 Electronic music synthesiser, part of collection, 'Don Banks Box' (VCS 1), metal / plastic / electronic components, designed and made by David Cockerell / Tristram Cary / Peter Zinovieff, England, 1968, commissioned and used by Don Banks, England 1968-1971 / Australia 1971-1980. Click to enlarge.

‘Don Banks Box’ electronic music synthesiser

Designed
The ‘Don Banks Box’ was commissioned and used by one of Australia’s most revered 20th-century artists, Don Banks. Banks was a composer of commercial music, including music for feature films, documentaries, animated films, television, advertisements, record libraries and theatre. He was a leading figure in the development of electronic music in England and Australia.

The ‘Don Banks Box’ was designed and made by a group of electronic music pioneers, engineers and entrepreneurs in late 1960s London. Around that time the sounds of the Moog synthesiser began to emerge in popular music and film. However, Moog synthesisers were large, cumbersome and very expensive which made access difficult for artists wanting to explore electronic music and its possibilities. Australian composer Don Banks, then living in London, asked his friends Tristram Cary and Peter Zinovieff, who later co-founded the synthesiser company Electronic Music Studios in London in 1969, to build him an instrument using this type of technology and they agreed. The ‘Don Banks Box’ was versatile and portable and may be considered a prototype of the first portable synthesiser, the VSC3.

Campbell Bickerstaff, Curator, 2020

Summary

Object No.

H9953-13

Object Statement

Electronic music synthesiser, part of collection, 'Don Banks Box' (VCS 1), metal / plastic / electronic components, designed and made by David Cockerell / Tristram Cary / Peter Zinovieff, England, 1968, commissioned and used by Don Banks, England 1968-1971 / Australia 1971-1980

Physical Description

Rectangular metal casing with grey front panel housing conrtol dials and sockets. Three rows of dials with four at top, seven in middle and seven at the bottom. Dials control particular parameters;

Top (L to R): Attack Time, Attack, Filter Mode, Hi Triang.

Middle: (L to R): Noise Out, Decay Time, Suppress Mod 2, Filtyer Freq, Hi Freq, Lo Freq, Reverb Depth.

Bottom: (L to R): Mic Out, Attack Out, Mod Out, Filter Out, Hi Out, Lo Out, Reverb Out.

Below bottom row of dials is series of input and output sockets arranged in four groups of five sockets. Some are identified as outputs, other as inputs. Outputs are listed above particular sockets for Noise, Mic, Attack, Mod, Filter, Hi Osc, Lo Osc, Reverb.

Inputs are listed below sockets for Mic, Mod 1, Mod 2, Filter, Hi Osc, Lo Osc, Reverb.

Metal for other parts of case is honey-combed. White power cord attached to front. Level indication marks have been drawn onto front panel around some knobs in blue pencil or pen.

Marks

Dymo adhesive labels read;

"E.M.S. VCS 1"
"DON BANKS"

Control knobs and sockets marked with their purpose.

Dimensions

Width

132 mm

Depth

165 mm

Weight

3.75 kg

Production

Notes

The instrument was commissioned by Banks in 1968. David Cockerell and Tristram Cary had been helping Peter Zinoveiff build his electronic music studio in London and applied themselves to the design of 'Don Banks Box'. Both of them were well versed in electronics and Cary had already built his own electronic music studio many years before.

History

Notes

Don Banks was a prominent Australian composer who pioneered electronic music in Australia and was later head of the Canberra School of Music. The VCS1 was commissioned by Don Banks in 1968 from Peter Zinovieff, Tristram Carey and David Cockerell.

The studio equipment was sold as one lot following the death of Don Banks and acquired by the Powerhouse Museum in 1983.

Cite this Object

Harvard

'Don Banks Box' electronic music synthesiser 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 November 2020, <https://ma.as/259174>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/259174 |title='Don Banks Box' electronic music synthesiser |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 November 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}