Peter Zinovieff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Peter Zinovieff
Born 26 January 1933 (1933-01-26) (age 81)
Nationality British
Occupation Inventor

Peter Zinovieff is a British inventor of Russian ethnicity, most notable for his EMS company, which made the famous VCS3 synthesizer in the late 1960s. The synthesizer was used by many early progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd[1] and White Noise, Krautrock groups like Kraftwerk[2] as well as more pop-oriented artists, including David Bowie.

Early life and education[edit]

Zinovieff was born on 26 January 1933;[3] his parents, Leo Zinovieff and Sofka, née Princess Sofka Dolgorouky, were both Russian aristocrats, who met in London after their families had emigrated to escape the Russian Revolution and soon divorced.[4] During World War II he and his brother Ian lived with their grandparents in Guildford and then with their father in Sussex, and he attended Guildford Royal Grammar School, Gordonstoun School, and Oxford University, where he earned a doctorate in geology.[5][6]


In 1966–67, Zinovieff, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson ran Unit Delta Plus, an organisation to create and promote electronic music which was based in the studio Zinovieff had built in a shed at his house in Putney.[7][8]

EMS grew out of MUSYS, a synthesiser system which Zinovieff developed with the help of David Cockerell and Peter Grogono which used two DEC PDP-8 minicomputers and a piano keyboard.[9] In 1969, Zinovieff sought financing through an ad in The Times but received only one response, £50 on the mistaken premise it was the price of a synthesiser. Instead he formed EMS with Cockerell and Tristram Cary.[10]

Jon Lord of Deep Purple described Zinovieff as "a mad professor type": "I was ushered into his workshop and he was in there talking to a computer, trying to get it to answer back".[11] Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, in their history of the synthesizer revolution, see him rather as aristocratically averse to "trade".[12]

Zinovieff also wrote the libretto for Harrison Birtwistle's opera The Mask of Orpheus.[13]

He is currently working as a composer of electronic music.

Personal life[edit]

In 1960, Zinovieff married Victoria Heber-Percy; in 1978, he married Rose Verney. He has seven children and eight grandchildren.[14]


  1. ^ Notably on Dark Side of the Moon: Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, Analog Days, Harvard University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-674-01617-3, p. 293.
  2. ^ Pinch and Trocco, p. 297.
  3. ^ Sofka Zinovieff, Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life, London: Granta, 2007, ISBN 978-1-86207-919-9, p. 185.
  4. ^ Pinch and Trocco, pp. 276, p. 278.
  5. ^ Zinovieff, p. 295.
  6. ^ Pinch and Trocco, p. 279.
  7. ^ Zinovieff, pp. 327–28: "by the end of the 1960s, Peter had three children and ran an electronic music studio from a garden shed by the river in Putney".
  8. ^ Unit Delta Plus at, retrieved 19 April 2010.
  9. ^ Zinovieff with VC3 in his garden
  10. ^ "All About EMS: Part 1", Musical Matrices, Sound on Sound November 2000, retrieved 19 April 2010.
  11. ^ Pinch and Trocco, p. 293.
  12. ^ Pinch and Trocco, p. 300.
  13. ^ OCLC 477068522
  14. ^ Peter Zinovieff on, 20 November 2008, accessed 18 April 2010.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]