How to Create Evolving Soundscapes with VirtualANS

Written by Critical Vibrations on . Posted in Tutorials

ANS synthesizerPhoto of the ANS at the Glinka Museum in Moscow by Charles Hutchins

In this tutorial, we’ll be exploring the technique of spectral synthesis for creating long, evolving ambient soundscapes, using the freeware application VirtualANS.

VirtualANS is a software emulation of an electrical/mechanical synthesizer called the ANS, which was conceived by Russian inventor¬†Evgeny Murzin in the 1930s, and finally built in the 1950s. The operator would inscribe designs on a sheet of glass coated with an opaque black material, and light shining through the transparent areas would strike photocells, activating oscillators tuned to individual frequencies corresponding to the clear areas on the glass. In this way, the ANS was the original precursor to today’s software-based spectral synthesizers, like Izotope Iris, MetaSynth, and Photosounder.

Much like its more famous Russian cousin, the theremin, the ANS was capable of strange, eerie microtonal sounds that were perfect for ambient music, especially science fiction movie soundtracks, like the scores of 1970s movies Solaris and Stalker.

Watch the video tutorial, take a look at the links to download the software and learn more about the original ANS, and have fun!

Download VirtualANS here:

More about the original ANS synth:

Music made on the ANS:
ANS Electronic Music (1969 album from USSR)
Musical Offering (1971 album from USSR)
Solaris OST (1972)

Here is a 2004 album by British experimental music group Coil, made entirely on the original ANS synthesizer in Moscow:

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Comments (1)

  • Neil


    This evening I just came on your extremely helpful video on Youtube. Thank you so much for posting it. I think you said towards the end, that you would maybe make another tutorial. I hope you will.
    As I use Cubase I, unfortunately, don’t think I’ll be able to use your packs for Ableton, which is a pity.
    Anyway, thank you again for being so good as to provide help on how to use ANS for total strangers and beginners like me!
    Best wishes,


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