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Subscriber: null; date: 20 November 2019

Siemens Synthesizerlocked

  • 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.

The Siemens Synthesizer was probably named after the RCA Electronic Music Synthesizer developed in the USA during the 1950s, which it resembles in many ways. It was controlled by four synchronized punched paper tapes, two carrying pitch information (within a total range of seven octaves) and the other two respectively controlling envelope and volume; the running speed of the tapes could be increased by a factor of 1.5 or 2. The sounds were generated by more than 20 oscillators, a white noise generator, a Hohnerola (an electroacoustic reed instrument manufactured by Hohner), and an impulse generator, which could be controlled from a five-octave keyboard. Sounds could also be specified by a graphic sound technique, using the specially designed Bildabtaster (image-scanner), which read graphic information from photographic slides; from 1963 the painter Günter Maas translated into sound several of his paintings, which he divided into small areas that were read by the scanner in an organized sequence. The sound-processing equipment included a Siemens vocoder; this was probably the first application of the device in electronic music.


  • H. Klein: ‘Einrichtungen des Siemens-Studios für elektronische Musik’, Konzerte mit Neuer Musik des Bayerischen Rundfunks, no.4/5/6 (Munich, 1962)
  • M. Supper: Elektroakustische Musik und Computermusik (Darmstadt, 1997)