David Chesworth and the EMS Spectre

David Chesworth during his Artist-in-residency at Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio, 2017 LP Album cover, 50 Synthesizer Greats, David Chesworth


Synthesizers: Sound of the Future features exploratory music and video for synthesizers composed by artists working in Melbourne in the 1970s and 1980s. A highlight of the exhibition is the presentation of video art by sound artist David Chesworth, created with the EMS Spectre. 

Chesworth has had a long and rich association with analogue and digital synthesizers. Early in his career, in the late 1970s, Chesworth recorded the iconic album '50 Synthesizer Greats', recently re-released by Chapter Music, Melbourne.  With guitarist Robert Goodge he formed the band Essendon Airport. This group released 'Sonic Investigations of the Trivial' and 'Palimpsest'. Chesworth went on to become the coordinator of the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, renowned as an experimental music venue. He founded the Innocent Records label with Philip Brophy, engineering or producing much of its output. 

50 Synthesizer Greats

Originally self-released, the album 50 Synthesizer Greats consists of 37 tracks of minimal synth investigations. The album was recorded in late 1978 by Chesworth in his parents’ lounge room, on an Akai 4000 DS reel to reel tape machine, using a monophonic Mini Korg 700 synthesizer. David was only 21 when he composed and recorded 50 Synthesizer Greats, and he continued to stamp his musical signature on the Melbourne scene and beyond. 

David Chesworth performing '50 Synthesizer Greats' at the Toff in Town, Melbourne, September 2017

Chesworth has continued his career in the sonic arts to the present, as an artist and composer. Key commissions include 5000 Calls, a sound installation for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and Zaum Tractor a two screen sonic and video work included in the main program of the 2015 Venice Biennale, both made in collaboration with Sonia Leber. Most recently, David has continued his exploration of synthesizers as one of the two inaugural Artists-in-residence at MESS in 2017. 

Coinciding with the re-release of the album by Chapter Music, Melbourne, in 2017, Chesworth added post-production effects to these videos, combining audio and video synthesizer works in a new montage. These videos were created on the EMS Spectre Synthesizer which is part of the Synthesizers: Sound of the Future exhibition: 

Kraut Mich Mit Einem Dachshund  (video, stereo, 2’21”)

Flea Circus (video, stereo, 1’42”)

Necrophilia (video, stereo, 1’33”)

3 ¾ (video, stereo, 1’59”)

1978, 2017



EMS Spectre video synthesizer

The EMS Spectre, on loan to the MESS Collection

The EMS Spectre

Designed by Richard Monkhouse of EMS, the Spectre is a hybrid video synthesiser, combining both analogue and digital techniques. It uses the EMS patchboard system to allow completely flexible connections between module inputs and outputs. The video signals are digital, but they are controlled by analogue voltages. The instrument includes a digital patch board for image composition, and an analogue patchboard for motion control. The prototype was said to have been used to provide a projected light show for an early Tangerine Dream concert at the London Rainbow.