Tristram Cary (1925-2008) - composer and electronic music pioneer

Tristram Cary - photo Tristram Cary was a composer who always had a strong interest in science and electronics, and at school his musical friends included the singers Michael Flanders and Donald Swann. As a radar engineer for the Royal Navy during World War II, he further developed his skills with electronics and after the war he experimented with recorded sound while continuing his music studies. Using ex-military surplus components he designed and built his own circuits to continue his pioneering work in electronic sound creation and manipulation. As a composer he got his first conventional job scoring "The Ladykillers" through his friendship with the director Alexander Mackendrick. This is the Ealing Comedy where Alec Guinness leads a gang of Bank Robbers who pose as musicians practicing in the spare room of an old Lady's house near the bank. The thieves are pretending to be a string quartet, so they play a recording of the famous Minuet by Boccherini while formulating their plans, so Cary incorporates this music into his score and composes some excellent contrapuntal music. After this distinctly classical start, some of Cary's later orchestral scores are more modernistic in style.

Tristram Cary: Doctor Who - Devils' Planets - double album CD cover In the same year as "The Ladykillers" (1955), Cary got his first electronic commission to create background music for "The Japanese Fishermen", a radio play about a fishing boat caught up in the midst of the hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific. From then on Cary was very busy indeed creating music for radio, television, films, theatre, the concert hall and other events (such as the British pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal). Although he had worked in television before, he got a unqiue opportunity to work for the BBC on their new series "Doctor Who" in 1963. The BBC had already formed their Radiophonic Workshop creating music and sound for their productions. As an independent composer working in the same field, it was natural that his name should come up in the contexts of science fiction programmes given the growing association with Electronic Music. He created eerie sound effects for Doctor Who's second story "The Daleks", and was later to work on several other stories from the series mainly from the William Hartnell era, but including the Patrick Troughton story "The Power of the Daleks" and the Jon Pertwee story "The Mutants" in 1972.

Tristram Cary: It's Time for Tristram Cary - album CD cover His work in electronic sound gathered momentum and in 1967 Cary not only wrote the music for Hammer's film version of "Quatermass and the Pit", but he also founded the Royal College Of Music Electronic Studio, and co-founded EMS (Electronic Music Studios), the first company in the UK to develop electronic synthesisers. EMS created a number of synth products which would be used by musicians from Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre to Pink Floyd (on their album "The Dark Side of the Moon"), and used by various studios including the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. While on tour in Australia Cary became aware of business opportunities there, and in 1974 he moved to Adelaide where he settled, taking up a teaching post at the University. Retiring in 1986 to concentrate on his music, Cary continued to develop and expand his studio, and in 1991 he received the "Medal of the Order of Australia" for services to Australian music. He wrote the book "The Illustrated Compendium of Musical Technology" in 1992 and worked almost exclusively in the electronic domain until his death in 2008.

Films by Tristram Cary:

Television Music by Tristram Cary:

Tristram Cary Recommendations:

Here is a selected set of albums with music by Tristram Cary.


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