Tributes to Michael Gerzon

Here is the text of all the messages posted on the sursound surround sound mailing list, presented exactly as received, without editing. If you find errors or corrections are needed, please take it up directly with the authors. DGM

>From 100707.731@compuserve.comWed May 29 14:58:07 1996
Date: 07 May 96 16:46:21 EDT
From: John Whiting <>
To: Sursound 
Subject: Re: sursound: Michael Gerzon.

It is indeed a sad day. I phoned the Guardian obit editor and
convinced him, he assured me, that Michael should be honoured.
I also convinced him that Barry Fox was the man to do it. I hope
it happens.

I'll never forget the dinner that three of us in this list (Dave,
Jeff & I) had with him in London after the AES surround sound
conference at the end of March. Frail as he was, shuffling a few
steps at a time, he could still out-talk us all - not that we
tried to stop him. He was as brilliant as ever, the topics ranging
from ambisonics to the history of popular music to Middle English
poetry. The world will be noticably less intelligent for his

John Whiting

>From williams@nwlink.comWed May 29 14:58:13 1996
Date: Tue, 7 May 1996 16:08:32 -0700
From: William Sommerwerck 
Subject: Re: sursound: Michael Gerzon.

The audio industry is a cesspool of meretricious stupidity. Michael Gerzon
was one of the few people in the history of sound reproduction who actually
advanced the art. He will be sorely missed.

>From May 29 14:58:18 1996
Date: Wed, 08 May 1996 10:41:42 +1000
From: Marcus Wigan 
Subject: sursound: Michael Gerzon

I would like to share with the list my long friendship with Mike. He and I
were at Oxford together in the 1960's, and he spent many days at my flat in
North Oxford, a few yards from Geoffrey Horns'shop. He had the most acute
ear for distortion and clarity, and yet also greatly enjoyed the music
itelf. This was long before he had gained any recognition of his ideas, and
I introduced him to my father, Edmund Wigan (then the audio quality expert
at the BBC Research labs) to encourage him. When he completed his degree,
though sick at the time of his final examinations, I was able to help him
get the postgraduate place he needed to continue his research, and had many
notes and other memories of how his ideas developed over time from those
many days in North Oxford.

It was with enormous pleasure that I saw him gain (slow) recognition, and
fight his health all the way.

I am extremely glad that I was recently once again in telephone and email
contact, able to exchange email messages with him for a short time (mainly
on DVD and Ambio possibilities), having lost contact for some years while
in Australia, and his communications reflected the same sustained
intellectual excitement I have always remembered him by.

As there in no other way at this distance from Oxford I can share my sorrow
at his loss but with others who knew of his gifts and achievements, I
somewhat hesitantly posting this message.

In memoriam, Mike gerzon

Marcus Wigan

Marcus Wigan                           
PO Box 126 Heidelberg Victoria 3084 Australia
Tel +61 3 9 459 9671  Mobile Tel +61 414 631 516   Fax +61 3 9 459 8663

>From May 29 14:58:24 1996
Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 10:29:57 +1000 (EST)
From: Brett Crossley 
Subject: sursound: Michael Gerzon

I think it is fair to say that none of us would be on this mailing list,
discussing this topic, were it not for Michael and his groundbreaking work.
As Dave Malham says, we have now lost *the* major talent in this field.

Unfortunately I never met Michael (my mental image of him remains that of
the youngish-looking guy pictured in the 1977 AES papers).  However his
writing style always reflected nothing other than brilliance and humility

Our challenge now is to take Michaels work and build on it to further the
boundaries as far as possible.

I gather that Peter Craven was a close associate of Michaels and I hope he
will be able to extend our heartfelt sympathies and best wishes to Michaels

Kindest Regards to you all,

Brett Crossley
Director - Technology
Pacific Advanced Media / ActiveAudio Pty Ptd
29 Albany Street, Crows Nest 2065
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Ph: 61-2-4398700; Fax: 61-2-4395486.
Net:; Applelink: PAMS
ActiveAudio Web Page:

>From ambisonx@well.comWed May 29 14:58:31 1996
Date: Wed, 8 May 1996 12:37:20 -0700
From: Jeffrey Silberman- Aural Adventures 
Subject: Re: sursound: Michael Gerzon.

	Well from my point of view, it was indeed a great privilege to dine
with all of you considering how much each of you has further the ambisonic
cause.  However, on this sad occasion, it is only fitting that special
praise be given to Michael.

	I must confess that I found him quite eccentric, most especially his
incessant talking.  Of course, given how rare the opportunity to hhear him
speak was, and the intellect behind that discourse, this peccadillo was
easily overlooked.

	In retrospect, I should have been grateful given how much he had to
say.  Apparently he had been living on borrowed time, and he no doubt
realized how precious it was.

He will be sorely missed.


>From May 29 14:58:49 1996
Date: Fri, 10 May 96 10:05:57
From: "Geoffrey J.Barton" 
Subject: sursound: Michael Gerzon

In article: <> writes:

> 	For those on this list who knew Michael Gerzon well professionally
> or personally, I have the following questions:
> 	1. What was his precise contribution to the development of ambisonic
> theory?  Are there others who deserve as much or more credit?

Michael Gerzon and Peter Fellgett were working quite independently on something heading in
the direction of Ambisonics. I think it really gelled when they got together. I do not
think Peter F. would disagree if I said that MAG was the superior theorist (I think the
first patent was a Fellgett though), but without Peter Fellgett's determination and
dedication it would never have happened. The Soundfield Microphone was co-invented by MAG
and Peter Craven. More recently MAG remarked to me that Duane Cooper really invented
B-format. Cooper's work is often forgotten; remember it was significant enough for NRDC to
want to acquire the patents.
I claim a humble part in helping Michael get the theory into experimental and practical

> 	2. Was he bemused and/or distressed by the lack of acknowledgment of
> ambisonics?
Being Michael, he seemed to regard it as a shortcoming of the world, but did not take it
too personally. What did distress him was the politics surrounding Ambisonics.

> 	3. Are his published papers sufficiently understood so that his work
> can be carried on or has he taken some secrets to his grave?
As far as Ambisonics is concerned, it is mostly there in the papers; as always we could do
things better if we could ask him because of his unique insight. There are still some
unpublished papers, some of which were distributed privately eg. 'non-linear models for
auditory perception' (I do not think this has been published) and also a paper about the
soundfield microphone which goes some way beyond the 1975 patent. Some of us are now
trying to ensure that the unpublished work is not lost and becomes available for study. We
are aware of unpublished work he did in quantum field theory and relativity which he told
us about but, being humble audio engineers, we did not understand. He may have taken this
with him.

> 	4. Was he collaborating with anyone with regard to future ambisonic
> developments?
Yes, me. We had already filed a patent on 'Ambisonic' decoding using 5 speakers and
different decoding algorithms appropriate for 'home cinema' applications. I put Ambisonic
in quotes because strictly speaking it violates at least two of the cardinal rules of
Ambisonic decoding; but then so does the assumption that the main sound sources are in
front! There is also the work (published) on putting B-format type signals through a 5 or
5.1 channel medium in a 'compatible' way (i.e. you can play it without a decoder, but it
is better with).

Geoffrey Barton

>From May 29 14:58:55 1996
Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 10:23:13 GMT
From: Chris Travis 
Subject: sursound: Time and place of Michael Gerzon's funeral.


For those of you who might be interested, the time and place of Michael
Gerzon's funeral are as follows:

  11.30 am on Wednesday 15th May

  Oxford Crematorium, Headington, Oxford, UK

The crematorium is by the A40.  The coach from London to Oxford makes a stop
there before it reaches Oxford city centre.

It is unclear as yet, but the funeral may be followed by some kind of
special event at the Holywell Music Room, Oxford.  This is Europe's oldest
music room, and Michael made many of his recordings there.

Chris Travis

tel +44 1454-615-554
fax +44 1454-615-532

>From jeffb@audiolab.uwaterloo.caWed May 29 14:59:01 1996
Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 09:41:53 -0400
From: Jeff Bamford 
Subject: Re: sursound: Michael Gerzon

At 06:25 PM 96/5/9 -0700, tm wrote:

>	3. Are his published papers sufficiently understood so that his work
>can be carried on or has he taken some secrets to his grave?

        I certainly hope that there are not any secrets left out there.  I
certainly would be quite happy to do more work with Ambisonic theory.  I am
sure that there are still many areas to be explored.


Jeff Bamford, M.Sc.
Audio & Acoustical Consultant
Voice: +1 905 570 0130     Fax:   +1 905 570 1161

>From 100707.731@compuserve.comWed May 29 14:59:06 1996
Date: 10 May 96 16:19:12 EDT
From: John Whiting <>
To: Sursound 
Subject: sursound: Michael Gerzon

A happy footnote re Michael Gerzon:

At a scientific conference in Provence in 1983 I recorded a
three-hour talk by Buckminster Fuller on the regular
tetrahedron as the basic three-dimensional form in nature:
the simplest structure whose frame would stand without
reinforcement, and the building block of the geodesic dome.
After the talk I told him that he had in fact been recorded
by a regular tetrahedron - the capsules of a Soundfield
microphone! He was fascinated to learn of yet another
instance of the tetrahedron's fecundity and asked if I could
send him any technical information. I promised I would
photocopy Michael's article on the Soundfield's mathematics
- the one which came as part of my Mark III manual - and did
so after I got back to London.

A few weeks later I got a letter from Fuller saying that he
had been very impressed with Michael's paper and declaring
that he intended to refer to it in subsequent lectures and
papers. Unfortunately he died shortly thereafter and was
unable to do so.

At the end of May, after the AES surround sound conference,
I finally remembered to tell Michael over dinner that Bucky
Fuller had been one of his fans. He beamed with pleasure. I
was glad to be able to give him what turned out to be a
farewell present.

John Whiting
October Sound

>From 100707.731@compuserve.comWed May 29 14:59:16 1996
Date: 13 May 96 04:12:41 EDT
From: John Whiting <>
To: Sursound 
Subject: sursound: Michael Gerzon Obituary - Guardian

The [London] Guardian  May 13 1996


Michael Gerzon: An insight on sound

I FIRST came across Michael Gerzon, who has died aged 50
from complications from asthma, in the early 1970s.  It was
the time of the absurd quadraphonic sound battle.  At least
four companies had squeezed four hi-fi channels into a
stereo LP groove for reproduction through four loudspeakers,
one at each corner of the living room.

The CBS record company - later bought by Sony - demonstrated
its SQ system at a Park Lane hotel and provided a highly
technical mathematical explanation of why SQ was better than
their Japanese rivals' systems with talk of "vectors".  It
sailed right over our heads.

A frail young man stood up, and, turning a flimsy square
wire cage through angles, explained vectors in gloriously
simple language.  Michael Gerzon's point was that although
SQ might sound good with some musical material - like that
used for the demonstration - theory proved that there would
always be more music that would sound wrong.  Gerzon could
make the most complicated concepts understandable, without
ever sounding even slightly patronising.

After a spell at Oxford's Mathematical Institute, Michael
worked for 20 years as a consultant on digital audio, video
and computer projects.  His partner on many projects was
Peter Craven.  "What Michael has done," he said, explaining
why few people outside the electronics industry will have
heard of Gerzon, "the world will want in 30 years time."

During the 1970s, relations between Gerzon and CBS worsened.
At industry seminars, Michael kept popping up and asking
questions which demolished their theories.  He wasn't out to
harm CBS, but he firmly believed - and had the maths to
prove it - that none of the quadraphonics systems would be
right for home hi-fi.  His arguments carried special weight
because he was not just a maths theorist.  He loved music,
of all types, and made many live recordings as a hobby.  He
also had very acute hearing.  He could hear much higher
frequencies - 23 KHz - than most people.  Inevitably,
Michael developed his own surround sound system, Ambisonics,
which he worked on with other academics and recording
engineers.  The system was backed by the National Research
Development Corporation - which later became the British
Technology Group - but never took off.  The NRDC never
seemed to understand the consumer electronics market, and
missed the opportunity to team up with Dolby Laboratories
and offer the choice of Ambisonics for playing music CDs
with subtle fidelity and Dolby surround for the blockbuster
home cinema effects that are now all the rage.

In the 1980s, Gerzon moved on to digital audio and video,
laying the foundation for many of the contemporary systems.
With Craven, he wrote the theory for noise shaping, which
lets recording studios squeeze higher fidelity on to CDs.
His last work was for a voluntary industry group, Acoustic
Renaissance for Audio, which aims to persuade the Japanese
industry to set standards for future variants of CD that
will deliver super hi-fi that surround[s] the listener.  The
key to this is a digital technique, lossless coding, and
Gerzon and Craven were at the final stages of research when
he was rushed to hospital and died.  The work will continue,
and sometime around 2026 engineers will be trying to patent
inventions that they think are new - and repeatedly finding
that Michael Gerzon had got there first.

Barry Fox

Michael Gerzon, mathematician, audio expert, born December
4, 1945; died May 6, 1996


>From May 29 14:59:44 1996
Date: Fri, 17 May 1996 11:07:47 +0100 (BST)
From: DG Malham 
To: 3-D Audio mailing list 
Subject: Re: sursound: Michael Gerzon. (fwd)

I thought the group would like to see this, it was sent to me by an
ex-student who did our Music Technology MSc then went on to do a DPhil
with us. I knew Tim had known Michael whilst he (Tim) was an
undergraduate at Oxford so I forwarded him the news. I think his comments
encapsulate Michael far better than anything I have written.....

Hi Dave

I'm really upset to hear about Michael, and I had to write something down.

I can see his face so clearly. Recording improvised music on an array
of PCM / betamax equipment in a room above the Jericho Tavern in
Oxford - he attended every concert of the Oxford Improvisors Coop, for
the sheer love of the music. His collection of recordings was so
huge and so meticulouly catalogued as to be stupifying.

I remember him holding forth to me in the drizzle at midnight in the car park
after one concert (oblivious to the weather or anything else) about
quantum mechanics He was so clever it hurt.

He was a unique person in every way; everyone who knew him
personally had great regard for him - his infectious enthusiasm for
everything audio and music - never mind his incredible technical and
theoretical genius.

It's helped to write this.

Thanks for letting me know


| Dr. Tim Anderson       | Phone:          York (01904)  432 417        |
| Drake Research Fellow  | Fax:                 (01904)  432 335        |
| Dept of Electronics    |                                              |
| University of York     | Email:           |
| YO1 5DD, England       |                                              |

>From 75600.652@compuserve.comWed May 29 14:59:58 1996
Date: 18 May 96 07:02:37 EDT
From: Duncan Foster <>
To: sursound 
Subject: Re: sursound: Testing 1...2...3...

Geoffrey Barton wrote:
>I have just become aware that I have not seen some messages posted to
>the group in the last two weeks. At Michael Gerzon's funeral
>some group postings which I have not seen were read out. It seems to
>accept my postings, if you are reading this, that is!


I have only just subscribed to this list so I do not know know the range of
tributes for Michael that appeared here.  At MAGs  funeral one of the most
moving tributes was from Waves staffers Gilad Keren and Meir Shashua and there
was another one from "seva".  These tributes were originally posted in the Waves
forum on CompuServe (part of the Midi D Vendor area, shared with the likes of
Digidesign and Sonic Foundry).

I had passed copies of these postings on to Peter Craven who was heavly involved
in the organisation of the funeral (and in the the collection of the email

If you wish I still have copies of these tributes and I can repost them to the
sursound list.   They are all the more poignant in that Gilad Keren had been in
Oxford working with Michael for the week preceeding his death.

Duncan Foster

>From 75600.652@CompuServe.COMWed May 29 15:00:11 1996
Date: 21 May 96 02:06:28 EDT
From: Duncan Foster <>
To: DG Malham 
Subject: Re: Tributes to MAG


As you requested here are the postings from the Waves forum on CompuServe.

I seem to remember talking with you at one APRS exhibition a couple of years ago
after being introduced to some other Ambisonic enthusiasts  (including, I
believe, Mike Skeet and John Whiting) by Mike Beville at the Audio and Design
Stand.  Do you remember this or do I have you confused with someone else?

The sadness of the loss of Michael whom I had known since 1972 has made me
determined to help to keep the Ambisonic flag flying.   To this end I have
restarted my efforts to keep up to date with the work in the field, and I
presume that the sursound list is one of the best ways to do this.

Duncan Foster

To All,

Michael Gerzon was 50 years old, he suffered from severe asthma for many years.
He would have been 51 this coming November.

I visited him in Oxford last Week and saw him on Monday through Wednesday and
did not realize just how serious and life threatening his condition was . We
spent these days discussing our mutual research and development plans for the
next few years and we had a great time.   Thursday evening his condition
worsened and he decided to go to the hospital,  he called for an ambulance and
made it into the emergency room walking.  Shortly after that his hart stooped
beating and he was treated with electric shock and connected to a breathing
ventilator.  His conditioned stabilized but he was under sedation and the
doctors decided to keep the sedation for a few days.  Monday night his condition
deteriorated and he passed away during the night.

Michael is now gone and as sad as this truly is, he  left  behind him INCREDIBLE
amounts of papers, patents, ideas, poems and other works of art.  Almost all of
which have not gained any recognition.  Many of these have not been published

Michael by training was a mathematician.  He graduated Oxford University in 1967
and did postgraduate research in axiomatic quantum theory there.  He has done
extensive research in psychoacoustics and was awarded an AES Fellowship for work
on directional psycoacoustics in 1978.  He also had extensive practical live
recording experience in classical, jazz, improvised and rock music areas -
including several LP and CD issues.

He is the main inventor of the Ambisonics technology for surround sound, done
under the auspices of the British Technology Group and has had numerous patents
and technical publications to his name.  He was the co-inventor of the
Soundfield microphone and was deeply involved in its development.

Using his knowledge of fundamental mathematical techniques from functional
analysis and quantum theory, he has over the last 30 years been developing new
techniques for the design and analysis of linear and nonlinear systems.  The
technology of signal processing is now reaching the point where all full
advantage of these methods can now be taken.

In 1971 and 1976, he published papers on multichannel versions of the
Schroder-Loagan algorithms for unitary networks, a methodology that permits
the design of  true stereo-in stereo-out reverb algorithms with complex
directional patterns of echoes related to the Stereo position of individual
input sounds.  this was the basis for Waves TrueVerb product and other products
that will be released  in the future.

Also in the 1970s he published papers on the design of subjectively
well-behaved non-linear audio signal processors (using a new theory of
harmonic nonlinear systems).  this work was complimented by then unpublished
work on subharmonic systems (e.g. octividers) and on bispectral models for
auditory perception that incorporate many nonlinear aspects of auditory analysis
ignored by conventional spectral analysis.

Some of his papers are very abstract and I believe that it will take many years
for all to realize how valuable these works are.  He had a very rare talent of
being able to see and design very practical devices like the surround field
microphones and also formulate all mathematical and physical models of
Ambisonics, for which he was awarded the AES award of excellence in 1992.

Our list of his published papers has 121 entries, also these are many other
works and unfinished works that he left behind..  Apart for the last few years
during most of his life Michael lived in real poverty,  a small one room flat in
oxford.  He usually had no money and when he did he would use it to buy records
and CDs before food.  From stories we heard he was really taken advantage by
companies he worked with in the 70s and 80s.  this included promising him money
and  things that where never delivered.  During these years he had a  reputation
of being a non practical researched whose works are impractical  and

We have been working with him during the last 5 years at Waves and  if there is
anything like a father to a company - this is what Michael was for Waves.

Michael was present with us, in Israel, in the US, wherever we were. He
knew, and was in touch, with almost all of us, weather it is the fresh
engineer that just programmed his first delay-line, the graphic designers,
the marketing people, the company management, beta testers, quality
control, and products development team. His involvement, presence and
influence were very vivid.

It is incredible how Michael managed to transfer a huge amount of energy
that stimulated every aspect of the company, all trough e-mail and some
very few meetings.

Only a man with great sensitivity to personalities and trends in the
company, and a very deep honest truth and devotion, can listen and
influence so much, from such a long distance.

Michael had endless creativity, ideas and enthusiasm for the things he did.
He did not need much for himself and truly worked out of enjoyment,
together with a strong sense of mission.

Even a simple thing like Q10 - a 10 bands equalizer, something that you
would think be no more than a boring everyday tool for someone as
experienced and knowledgeable as Michael - inspired him to create a library
of 200! different setup files, each of which is useful and justified on
it's own right.

Michael knew so much, about so many things, and still he never stopped
learning. He used every opportunity to experiment and to learn more. He was
eager to learn. Each time we just got one tool ready, he would already use
it, in very creative ways, to experiment how the next step will be like. He
was never lazy to go on, and on and on, any achievement was for him just a
step for the next one, a tool to explore things he could not before.

Every now and than there would be a letter saying how he used a new tool to
confirm a theory, or a speculation he did 10 or 20 years ago. He never
neglected a thing.

Michael really cared about every aspect of our work, weather pure
technical, or marketing, PR text, or Graphics art and user interface. He
insisted on the smallest details. And he did not spare the time to teach,
and explain and educate. Waves mail-boxes are full with long letters from
Michael explaining, and educating us on all of these aspects. What colors
to use for a graph, what words to use in an advertisement, what marketing
attitude we should take, how should we treat our customers, how should we
treat our competitors, and what does the user expects from a certain

Maybe above all, Michael was a free spirit. A free bird. His commitment was
above all to the integrity of himself and what he felt was his mission for
humanity. These are not just big words. There was a strong feeling that
this was his driving force, to which he was obliged. This is why he
educated, this is why he insisted on the details, this is why he did not
gave up.

Above all it was clear to me, that he did not work with Waves because of
obligating agreements, nor because it was a convenient source of income,
but only because he believed we make a good team, and if we would
compromise this integrity, he would not hesitate to continue on his own.

He has made a tremendous contribution to our company which  includes:

Increased Digital resolution -- IDR type-1 and type-2 and new types that have
not been released yet.

He had important input to L1 ultamaximizer and the new L2.

S1 Stereo Imager is his brain child.

TrueVerb is based on his distance patents and was subjectively optimized by him
for minimal coloration and smoothens. He also  created the setup library for it.

He had very important inputs to the C1 and he also created the setup library.

His favorite tool which he was obsessed with during the last few years was
StereoMaker.  This tool is just about to be released and is again his brain

He left many ideas and papers for additional products and algorithms and these
will be incorporated in products in the next few years.

We loved him dearly and will truly miss him.

May his soul rest in peace.

Gilad Keren and Meir Shashua

i worked with michael during these past few years, with Waves, but our talks
went far beyond the ones of mere business associates.

except michael, i have known no one who was able to integrate so many fields in
such simple terms, to see the connection between almost completely different
disciplines, then to comment on it, work from it, and laugh about it.

he and i laughed together as my brother and i did, as only brothers could.

his knowledge of music was far more than any of my composition teachers, one of
the few persons anywere who could speak of Xenakis, Zappa, Stockhausen, Sun Ra,
Siouxsie and the Banshees, LaMonte Young, the Beatles, Harry Partch, obscure pop
music, and some overlooked brilliance, and then not only see, but feel the
connection, and write long about it, speak passionately to it, and share his
thoughts without pretense.

during conversations, he would sometimes excuse himself to make his way to a
radio, to tape a show that he wanted to capture, leaving the radio up so i could
hear it behind him, and, after returning, explain a related story of amazing
detail about one member of the band, or of a related concert he recorded, always
accompanied by an anecdote, followed by his splintered laughing, dissolving into

there was a certain quantum spirituality to Michael that i hold so dear, that is
so rare, that so few will know in their lives, that i hope that any of us who
understand it will strive to incorporate that into our lives, so that we could
emulate his greatest strengths: applied knowledge, with grace;  honesty, with
pure intent;  selfless friendship.

he was a poet, inventor, scientist, mathematician, and appreciator of all art.
he suffered serious physical challenges and pain, but worked at staggering

i never saw the gleam in his eye, but felt it. i never shook his hand, but i
knew the man. i pray he is at complete peace.


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