Tristram Cary

Last updated 09 January 2020

Tristram Ogilvie Cary

Born: Thursday 14th May 1925
Died: Thursday 24th April 2008 (age: 82)


Tristram CaryOAM was a pioneering English-Australian composer.

Cary was born in OxfordEngland, and educated at the Dragon School in Oxford and Westminster School in London. He was the son of a pianist and the novelist, Joyce Cary, author of Mister Johnson. While working as a radar engineer for the Royal Navy during World War II, he independently developed his own conception of electronic and tape music, and is regarded as amongst the earliest pioneers of these musical forms.

Following WWII, he created one of the first electronic music studios, later travelling around Europe to meet the small numbers of other early pioneers of electronic music and composition.

With Peter Zinovieff and David Cockerell, he founded Electronic Music Studios (London) Ltd, which created the first commercially available portable synthesiser, the EMS VCS 3, and was then involved in production of such distinctive EMS products as the EMS Synthi 1000

His concert works of note include a Sonata for guitar (1959), Continuum for tape (1969), a cantata Peccata Mundi (1972), Contours and Densities at First Hill for orchestra (1972), a Nonet (1979), String Quartet No. 2 (1985) and The Dancing Girls for orchestra (1991).

Cary is also particularly well known for his film and television music. He has written music for Doctor Who (including the first Dalek story), as well as the score for the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers (1955). Later film scores includedQuatermass and the Pit (1967) and Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971), both for Hammer. He also composed the score for the ABC TV animated version of A Christmas Carol.

Cary was one of the first British composers to work in musique concr�te. In 1967 he created the first electronic music studio of theRoyal College of Music. He built another at his home in Suffolk, which he transported to Australia when he emigrated there, and incorporated it into the University of Adelaide where he worked as a lecturer until 1986.

He provided the visual design for the EMS VCS3 synthesizer

Cary died in AdelaideSouth Australia on 24 April 2008, aged 82.

Cary won the 1977 Albert H. Maggs Composition Award. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1991 in recognition of service to music. He also received the 2005 lifetime achievement award from the Adelaide Critics' Circle for his contribution to music in England and Australia.

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