‘What The Future Sounded Like’ – EMS Documentary

Off the back of a recent post about Tristan Perich I got an email response from Jimmy Monsta Funk with seven or so youtube links to underrated electronic experiments from back in the day. Among them, I was reminded about this incredible documentary, which easily rates in my top 3 ever made. Funnily enough Jimmy actually supplied some of the archive used in the film.

What The Future Sounded Like was made by Australian production company Plexus Films and first saw the light of day in 2007, taking out a load of awards internationally the following year. For my own part I first saw it by chance, looking to chill out in the cinema at Sonar festival right before the film came on.

It’s a 27 minute documentary on the story of EMS (Electronic Music Studios) who shaped electronic music as we know it. It’s put together brilliantly, whether you’re a geek for this sort of thing or not it’s definitely worth a half-hour of your time to check it out. A definite highlight is the reaction to the first (and last) lone computer (opera?) performance at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967.

Post-war Britain rebuilt itself on a wave of scientific and industrial breakthroughs that culminated in the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. It was a period of sweeping change and experimentation where art and culture participated in and reflected the wider social changes. In this atmosphere was born the Electronic Music Studios (EMS), a radical group of avant-garde electronic musicians who utilized technology and experimentation to compose a futuristic electronic sound-scape for the New Britain.

Comprising of pioneering electronic musicians Peter Zinovieff and Tristram Cary (famed for his work on the Dr Who series) and genius engineer David Cockerell, EMS’s studio was one of the most advanced computer-music facilities in the world. EMS’s great legacy is the VCS3, Britain’s first synthesizer and rival of the American Moog. The VCS3 changed the sounds of some of the most popular artists of this period including Brian Eno, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. Almost thirty years on the VCS3 is still used by modern electronic artists like The Emperor Machine.

What The Future Sounded Like colours in a lost chapter in music history, uncovering a group of composers and innovators who harnessed technology and new ideas to re-imagine the boundaries of music and sound. Features music from Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Roxy Music and The Emperor Machine.