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2009/83/4 Matrix patch panel, plastic / metal, maker unknown, used by Tristram Cary, England, 1960-1969. Click to enlarge.

Matrix patch panel from Tristram Cary studio

Made in United Kingdom, Europe, 1960-1969.
This object is a patching matrix of the same type as was used in the EMS VCS3 audio synthesisers. It was used to connect the output of the main control desk of Tristram Cary's studio with the tape recorders and the mixer he used to finish his works and listen to them.

It comes from a very early version of Tristram Cary's studio. Photographs of the Fressingfield, Suffolk studio, about 1969, show it mounted in a rack above the central mixing and signal selection panel.

It is most likely to have been assembled from surplus equipment acquired in post-WWII military equipment disposal stores in London in the early 1960s. It would certainly have been used in the production of much of Cary's electronic music and continued to be incorporated into the studio in Adelaide up to his death.

When electronic music was first developed studios consisted of packages of test instruments, like the function generators used in Cary's studio, custom built effects units such as the ring modulator and the transient waveform modifier, and various filters, echo and reverb units. There were at first no audio synthesisers until Robert Moog produced his Moog Modular system in the US about 1965. Cary's special contribution was the musical support and physical design advice he gave to his friends Zinovieff and Cockerell that led to the establishment of the Electronic Music Studios company and the development of the VCS3. Between them they produced a cheap versatile and portable audio synthesiser that could be used in schools and other music courses. Because it was so cheap it took the English popular music scene by storm and was used by many bands from the Beatles to Pink Floyd, King Crimson and soloists like Brian Eno.


Object No.


Object Statement

Matrix patch panel, plastic / metal, maker unknown, used by Tristram Cary, England, 1960-1969

Physical Description

This is a patching matrix used in Tristram Cary's early studios. It was used to connect the line output from the main control panel to the Revox tape recorders and the mixer input for the monitoring speakers in the studio. It consists of a black metal panel with sixteen rows and sixteen columns of patch points, which are connected by small matrix pins. It is the same kind of patching matrix as was used in the VCS3 and presumably came from the same surplus equipment source or directly from EMS. Many of the matrix points are labelled with dymo tape indicating their signal source or destination.


Dymo-tape labels



331 mm


185 mm


43 mm



United Kingdom, Europe 1960-1969



Tristram Cary (b. Oxford, UK, 1925 - d. Adelaide, 2008) was a pioneering English composer who worked in electronic music. His first studio was set up in the UK about 1965. He was instrumental in the development of the audio synthesiser being at least in art the impetus behind the development of the Electronic Music Studios' (EMS) Synthi A, and VCS3. In 1974 he moved to Australia, first to Melbourne University to teach electronic music using the EMS Synthi 100 at Melbourne University and subsequently to Adelaide to teach composition and electronic musk at the Elder Conservatorium, University of Adelaide.

He gained his knowledge of electronics as a Naval radar operator during WWII. During this period he heard of the development of tape recording and he realised that he could edit and make musical works by cutting up the tape with a razor blade and re-splicing it. As he later said:
"It occurred to me that ? here was a chance to have a new sort of music altogether. The editing capacity meant that you could cut sounds together that were not normally together." [David Ellis, "Music pioneer celebrates milestone", Lumen, The University of Adelaide Magazine, winter, 2005, ]

After the war he returned to university at Oxford and then went on to Trinity College of Music in London. He began to experiment with electronic sound in 1949, bought his first tape recorder in 1952 and began composing electronic and orchestral music. His first great success was the score for the film The Ladykillers (1955) starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. He continued to write film and television music and is famous for producing the music for several episodes featuring the Daleks in the BBC's Dr. Who.

Around 1965 Bob Moog began selling his early synthesisers in America. In 1967, Cary established an electronic music studio for the Royal College of Music and assembled his own studio in his London house. Up until this time most electronic music had been produced within large workshop style studios using an assemblage of electronic workshop test equipment (function generators and filters and the like) and hand built special purpose devices.

Cary met and consulted for Peter Zinovieff who had established a private electronic music studio in Putney (on the south bank of the Thames in London). Zinovieff had purchased a DEC PDP-8 minicomputer to explore computer music and established it in the studio. David Cockerell was an experienced electronic designer who built a ring modulator that gave the distinctive sound to the Dalek's voices in Dr. Who. He became Zinovieff's engineer in 1968. Cary, Zinovieff and Cockerell, through their common interest in electronic sound, worked together to come up with an audio synthesiser that would be more portable and a lot cheaper than existing devices such as the Moog synthesisers.

Legend has it that the Australian composer Don Banks who, in the 1960s was resident in London, also wrote film music and was interested in incorporating jazz into his compositional repertoire, had asked Zinovieff and Cary to make him a small voltage controlled synthesiser. With Cockerell as the main electronic designer, they mapped out how to build what became the VCS1, of which three were built. Banks' VCS1 is in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum [H9953-13].

By 1969 Zinovieff, Cockerell and Cary had established Electronic Music Studios as a company and began marketing the VCS3 (a larger version of the VCS1) with 3 VCOs, a VCFilter, an envelope generator and other interesting modules. Again the electronics were designed by David Cockerell, the case was designed by Cary and the whole project was supported by Zinovieff. Apart from its small size the most interesting aspect of the VCS3 as against the American synthesisers of the period was that it used a small plug settable patching matrix to connect outputs of sources to inputs for control or audio signals. This object is one of those though more likely to have come from the parts store.


Credit Line

Gift of John Cary, 2009

Acquisition Date

16 October 2009

Cite this Object


Matrix patch panel from Tristram Cary studio 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 6 July 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Matrix patch panel from Tristram Cary studio |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=6 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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