Tristram Cary first started to think about the possibilities of combining musical composition and electronics during long shifts as a Royal Navy radar operator in the Second World War. On his demobilisation in 1946, Cary spent his demob stipend on a disc cutting lathe and all his other spare time and money in buying, begging, borrowing and scavenging valves and oscillators to create a device that would help him fulfill his ambition to create electronic music. Completely hand-built, ‘the machine’ (it was never given a formal name) was a wonder of Heath Robinson technology, and was the first of its type in Britain, and one of the first in the world (France and Germany had similar machines, but each country genuinely thought their machine unique).
Cary’s experiments soon attracted the attention of the BBC, and he began working for them in the late fifties. Never purely avant garde, Cary was equally adept at more conventional orchestral and choral works, and this was demonstrated by the sheer volume of variety of his work over fifty years. While at the BBC he worked with the nascent Radiophonic Workshop, scoring the earliest episodes of ‘Dr. Who’, including providing eerie musique concrete for the first Dalek story in 1963.
In 1967, Cary provided an experimental tape loop sound environment for use in the Worlds Fair / Expo (these events were extremely important in the development and promotion of electronic music throughout the sixties and seventies) as well as providing electronic buzzes and bleeps for psych-lite spy thriller ‘Sebastian’ and an intense score for my favourite Hammer film, the superb ‘Quatermass & The Pit’.
After working to create the seminal EMS Synthesiser and Synthi (a portable version), Cary relocated to Australia in 1974 to teach at the University of Adelaide, and was still teaching and composing right up until his death in 2005 at the age of 82.