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Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Elektronmusikstudion] (Swed.: ‘electronic music studio’)

The Swedish national centre for electronic music and sound art, in Stockholm. It was preceded by a smaller studio run by the Worker’s Society of Education from 1960. EMS was established by Swedish Radio in 1964 under music director and composer Karl Birger Blomdahl (1916–68), who hired the composer and performer Knut Wiggen (b 1927) to take charge of creating the studios. In 1965 an old radio theatre studio called the klangverstan (‘sound workshop’) opened for composers. Construction of a new facility was begun, but after Blomdahl’s death EMS became independent, funded only in small part by Swedish Radio, and otherwise by Fylkingen (a society for experimental music and arts) and the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.

Wiggen envisioned EMS as both a place to produce electro-acoustic music and a research institution that would give the composer ‘the possibility of describing sounds in psychological terms’. The studio was equipped accordingly. The sound sculpture ...

Article

GAME  

Hugh Davies, Annette Vande Gorne and Anne Beetem Acker

[Générateur automatique de musique électronique] (Fr.: ‘automatic electronic music generator’)

Composition machine developed by the Belgian composer Léo Küpper (b Nidrum, 16 April 1935) in Brussels between 1968 and 1978. Küpper had begun experimenting with electronic music in 1959 while a student at Liège University, using two Brüel & Kjaer oscillators and a tape recorder. In 1962 he began work in Brussels at APELAC, the first Belgian electronic music studio, and joined the musical sound-effects department of the RTBF. The GAME system formed the basis of Küpper’s electronic music studio in Brussels, the Studio de Recherches et de Structurations Electroniques Auditives, which he founded in 1967. The first version of the GAME, completed in 1971, was used in concerts and installations. It consisted of 60 separate modules, using a combination of analogue and digital techniques, which could be freely selected and combined. The modules were programmed in an upright console approximately 4 × 2 metres by making a large number of patchcord interconnections, so that the surface of the console was festooned with cables. Most of the controls operated during a performance were placed in front of the console....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Interactive computer network used as an extended musical instrument, played by a San Franciso Bay–area experimental computer network band also called The Hub. The band, founded in 1985 by Tim Perkis and John Bischoff, evolved from the League of Automatic Music Composers (1978–83). The concept of The Hub is to create live music resulting from the unpredictable behaviour of the interconnected computer system. The composer/performers consider their performances a type of ‘enhanced improvisation’.

Initially The Hub provided a custom-built central ‘mailbox’ computer and made use of a MIDI network providing communication between the composer/performers’ synthesizers. With the maturation of commercial MIDI equipment, the band shifted to using the Opcode Studio V multiport MIDI interface for their hub. Since MIDI is designed to allow one player or computer to control a group of synthesizers but not to allow a network of synthesizers to interact, band member Scot Gresham-Lancaster devised a way to program the system so the Opcode Studio V could route messages among all the synthesizers in the network....

Article

KIM-1  

Anne Beetem Acker

(Keyboard Input Monitor)

Computer designed by Chuck Pedal and Bill Mensch, both formerly engineers with the Motorola Corporation, and released by MOS Technology Corporation of Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1976. It was next produced by Commodore Business Machines of Palo Alto, California, after they acquired MOS in 1977. It was originally intended as a training and development system for industrial applications. The TINY BASIC programming language could be run on the KIM-1 with extra memory, making programming far more accessible. Hence, the KIM-1 was the first microprocessor adopted by experimental composers and performers as an easier alternative to making their own custom circuitry. Jim Horton, an improvisational flutist and analogue synthesizer player, was perhaps the first to realize the musical potential of microprocessors. He purchased a KIM-1 in 1976 and mentored many of his colleagues in using it. The KIM-1 could directly generate audio or act as a controller for other electronic sound generators. Most important, it provided memory, so that the user could program a time-varying sequence of events; in other words, the program became the musical score. In ...

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Andrei Smirnov

(b Porhov, Pskov province, Russia, April 23, 1891; d Leningrad, USSR, Jan 5, 1951). Russian inventor of pioneering photoelectric composition machines. In 1908 he finished college in Pskov and entered the Institute of Civil Engineers in St Petersburg, which he left to pursue a career as a freelance musician. He was a founding member (with Arseny Avraamov and Sergei Dianin) in the summer of 1917 of the Leonardo da Vinci Society in Petrograd, whose aims were to investigate and improve music scientifically. At the same time Sholpo, inspired by the ideas of Avraamov, wrote a science fiction essay titled ‘The Enemy of Music’ in which he described a sound machine named the ‘Mechanical Orchestra’ capable of synthesizing any sound and producing music according to a special graphic score without a performer. It prefigured the ANS synthesizer, built 40 years later in Moscow by Evgeny Murzin.

From 1918 to 1922...

Article

Hugh Davies

Electronic composition machine (not a synthesizer in the current sense of the word), developed by Helmut Klein and W. Schaaf at Siemens & Halske in Munich between 1956 and 1959. It was designed for and was the chief component of the Studio für Elektronische Musik in Munich, which Siemens began planning in 1955, initially to produce the soundtrack for a one-hour publicity film; it was linked to all the other equipment in the studio. A second model was installed in 1964. The director of the studio and the composer most closely involved with the Siemens Synthesizer was Josef Anton Riedl; others who used the machine included the composers Mauricio Kagel, Bengt Hambraeus, Milko Kelemen, and Ernst Krenek, and the sound poet Ferdinand Kriwet. The studio was taken over by a foundation in 1963, and its equipment was moved to Ulm in 1967; it was later acquired by the Deutsches Museum in Munich....

Article

SSSP  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Structured Sound Synthesis Project]

Interactive computer-assisted music composition system, including a polyphonic digital synthesizer, developed by the Canadian composer and computer scientist William Buxton (b 10 March 1949) and others at the University of Toronto Dynamic Graphics Lab in 1977. Its basic 16-voice multiplexed digital oscillator was used in three different systems. In the SSSP Composition System (1978) it was controlled by a PDP 11/45 computer in a studio environment; material developed in this way (up to eight ‘scores’ simultaneously) could be performed in concerts with the SSSP Conduct System (1979), controlled by a portable LSI 11/2 microcomputer. Both systems included a visual display unit and a choice of inputting devices: a 61-note keyboard, an alphanumeric keyboard, and a special graphics tablet by means of which the operator could ‘draw’ on the screen. This very flexible system offered a choice of notations as well as the sophisticated facility of the tablet, and composers needed no previous programming experience to operate it. The tablet led to the development of a new live performance instrument, the SSSP Touch-Sensitive Drum (...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Monophonic analogue synthesizer produced between 1982 and 1984 by Synton Electronics, a Dutch firm founded in 1973 by Felix Visser. The device was created by Visser along with the product specialist Marc Paping and product developer Bert Vermeulen. Synton originally built vocoders, but soon began importing and distributing Fairlight, E-mu, and Linn products in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The Syrinx 1, created about 1975, was never produced commercially. Only 300 Syrinx 2 synthesizers were built. First priced under £400, but prized by collectors, originals sold for more than £1200 in the early 2000s. The device is not MIDI-compatible and has no presets, but includes two voltage control oscillators, a voltage divider, a noise generator, two ADSRs (attack decay sustain release envelope generators), two low-frequency oscillators, a pulse-width modulator, a ring modulator, and three voltage control filters. It features a mixer and a touch pad that can control pitch-bending and other parameters. All but the last series (which were mounted in a flight case), had a 44-note keyboard. The Syrinx 2 was distributed in the USA by Robert Moog. Synton went bankrupt in ...

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Andrei Smirnov

Photoelectric composition machine, four models of which were developed in Leningrad between 1930 and 1949 by Evgeny Aleksandrovich Sholpo, inspired by experiments in graphic sound which he made with Arseny Avraamov at the end of 1929 and later on his own.

In May 1930, while working at Alexander Shorin’s Central Laboratory of Wire Communication in Leningrad, Sholpo applied for a patent on a ‘method and device for the production of a periodic sound track on film’, later named the Variophon. Supplementary applications claimed improvements, and he obtained copyright on 31 August 1931. In October 1930 he applied for a patent on a method of additive synthesis of graphic soundtracks: ‘a mechanism for the transformation and addition of harmonious fluctuations with different amplitudes’.

A shaped vane, or ‘acoustical drafter’, rotating between a length of film and a beam of light, shaped the optical recording, producing different pitches related to the ratio of speed of rotation of a disk and the speed at which the film moved. The first version of the Variophon was built with assistance from the composer Georgy Rimsky-Korsakov in ...