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The Influence of Recording

Technologies on the ABSTRACT

Early Development of F rom the earliest experi-

ments with the manipulation of
Electroacoustic Music 78-rpm disks during the 1920s,
the technology of recording has
played a major role in the
evolution of electroacoustic
music. This has extended not

Peter Manning only to the recording and

reproduction of materials but
also to key components of the

T he development of resources for recording

and reproducing sound has had far-reaching consequences
for the art and practice of music. Hitherto the processes of
served the subjective effects of play-
ing gramophone records at differ-
ent speeds [1]. Their discoveries,
compositional process itself.
Although such influences have
become less prominent with the
advent of digital technology,
their impact during the formative
years of electroacoustic music
synthesis and communication required the physical presence however, were mainly of an ex- was significant and far-reaching.
This article examines some key
of both performers and audience in a shared experience. ploratory nature, and no detailed aspects of the pioneering era of
Today the social intimacy of an unmediated live performance records or artifacts have survived creative development through
in the concert hall or opera house is regularly traded for the for further study [2]. Greater sig- the early 1950s, with particular
engineered commercial broadcast or CD, where the interme- nificance can be attached to the reference to the Bauhaus sound
artists, Pierre Schaeffer and
diate processes of recording and editing have a significant im- work of the Bauhaus artists László
musique concrète, and the
pact on what is delivered to the consumer. This intervention Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Fischinger and Cologne studio for elektronische
of technology has created an interesting continuum between Paul Arma during the early 1930s, Musik.
the quest for authenticity of reproduction and more manipu- seeking in the first instance to mod-
lative applications designed for cultivating genuinely new ify the physical contents of the
means of musical expression. This article considers pioneer- record groove [3]. However, their attempts to modify this
ing composers and artists associated with the latter activity who acoustical data by scratching new vibratory patterns produced
embraced many different aesthetics but also a common goal: only noisy distortions of the original material, and their at-
the exploitation of recording technology in the pursuit of sonic tention quickly turned to the medium of optical sound record-
art. ing, developed in the first instance for the film industry [4].
Two competing systems had emerged, one developed by
RCA and the other by Western Electric [5]. In both cases the
KEY INITIATIVES: FROM GROOVE physical characteristics of audio signals are registered photo-
TO OPTICAL SOUND TRACK graphically alongside the main sequence of film frames on a
Matching expectation to reality in the search for genuinely continuous track located towards the edge of the film. The
new musical horizons presupposes the ability to hypothesize Bauhaus artists adopted the RCA system, which produces
the characteristics of the unknown, and thus many early at- waveform patterns similar in nature to those encountered in
tempts to explore recording technology as a creative tool were the record groove, registered as an opaque profile within the
motivated by simple curiosity rather than clarity of purpose. track [6].
During the 1920s, for example, Paul Hindemith, Darius Mil- The German filmmaker Walter Ruttman employed optical
haud, Ernst Toch and Percy Grainger each individually ob- recording facilities for his pioneering sound-only work Week-
end (1930), constructed from urban and recreational sounds
recorded over a weekend in Berlin [7]. This imaginative col-
lage, however, required only relatively simple editing tech-
Fig. 1. Daphne Oram’s Oramics system, circa 1966. (Photo: Martin
Cook, © Daphne Oram Estate. Courtesy of Hugh Davies.) niques to juxtapose and overlay the sounds. The Bauhaus
artists took an altogether more proactive approach to the ma-
nipulation of optical recordings, discovering that the con-
stituent wave patterns could be physically altered using a fine
paintbrush and suitable masking solutions and solvents.
By 1932 Fischinger had established the basic principles of
composing with “drawn” sound [8], demonstrating how the
basic parameters of pitch, time and amplitude interact to cre-
ate a composite optical waveform [9]. The frequency compo-
nents of pitched musical sounds exhibit strongly cyclic
characteristics, and such features produce distinctive contours
when coded in an optical format. Conversely, many percussive

Peter Manning (musicologist), Electroacoustic Music Studio, Department of Music,

University of Durham, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RL, United Kingdom. E-mail:

© 2003 ISAST LEONARDO MUSIC JOURNAL, Vol. 13, pp. 5–10, 2003 5
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sounds are discontinuous, exhibiting companying washes of synthetically his formative work between 1948 and
noiselike spectra that are much less likely drawn sound. 1952 involved the manipulation of both
to produce a similar degree of visual co- The narrow width of the optical sound gramophone and magnetic recordings.
herence. There are, however, no guar- track used for standard 35mm film for- The origin of Schaeffer’s interests can
antees that attractive patterns will mats proved a major drawback for those be traced back to 1942, when he me-
translate into interesting sounds or vice seeking to explore the full potential of thodically began to study the subjective
versa, and this lack of continuity led to optical sound synthesis. Having experi- characteristics of natural sounds. His
some highly speculative ventures based mented in the USSR with the possibili- training as an electronic engineer en-
largely upon trial and error. Experimen- ties of hand-drawn optical sound images couraged him to establish a quantitative
tation extended to the use of a variety of in 1929 [14], Yevgeny Sholpo decided to classification of these features, for exam-
sources for optical scanning, ranging develop a pioneering audio-only synthe- ple, the attack and decay characteristics
from fingerprints and abstract shapes to sis facility known as the Variophone of individual sounds and the nature of
letters of the alphabet and photographic (1932), using the full width of the film as their evolving timbres. In January 1948,
images [10]. a sound recording area [15]. This desire Schaeffer started a more rigorous series
Although this practical linkage of for more controllable composing tools of experiments in his laboratory, con-
image and sound broke new ground, im- inspired the Americans John and James cerned not only with creating a mor-
portant precedents for such a closely in- Whitney to develop an optical synthesizer phology of individual sounds but also
tegrated artistic environment can be in 1947 using a system of pendulums to with the development of re-synthesis
found in the work of such artists as Wass- draw waveform oscillations [16]. techniques that would allow the sounds’
ily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, repre- In the United Kingdom, Daphne constituent components to be used for
senting ideals close to the heart of Oram took optical synthesis technology the purposes of composition.
Expressionism [11]. The use of optical a stage further in the design of her Oram- The evolution of musique concrète was
recording technology, however, facili- ics system (Fig. 1), completed in 1966 heavily influenced by the functional char-
tated a direct correlation between visual [17]. Ten synchronized strips of 35mm acteristics of an increasingly outdated
representations and their sonic realiza- film were used to code control informa- recording technology. Notwithstanding
tion. Both Fischinger and Moholy-Nagy tion for the operation of an associated the rapid pace of technical advances dur-
experimented with combinations of synthesizer. Three strips were used to ing the immediate post-war years, Schaef-
hand-drawn optical tracks and abstract code discrete pitch information using fer had access only to a rudimentary
film images. An extreme example of au- rectangular neumes [18] drawn on 78-rpm disk-cutting lathe and four
diovisual integration is Moholy-Nagy’s lightly traced musical staves, with two fur- turntables for this initial phase of re-
film Sound ABC (1933). In this work, the ther strips available for coding other dis- search and development. This situation
film component is based entirely upon crete functions, such as the frequency raises some interesting issues concerning
direct projections of waveform images settings of a tracking filter. The remain- the role of technology in musique concrète.
copied from the accompanying sound ing five strips were used for registering The early record experimenters had en-
track, thus inviting the audience very di- continuous functions such as the ampli- countered a number of technology-spe-
rectly to explore possible relationships tudes of individual notes. cific features such as the effect of
between image and sound. Today visual representations of sound turntable mass on the resulting speed tra-
Others were soon to pursue the possi- information are integral features of syn- jectories when changing from one speed
bilities of drawn sound tracks, most im- thesis and signal-processing software de- setting to another. Schaeffer’s require-
mediately the Australian filmmaker and signed for personal computers. Although ments were of an altogether different
sound designer Jack Ellitt, who briefly ex- such sophisticated tools could scarcely order, taking on a particular significance
perimented with the technique in Lon- have been envisaged during the earlier by virtue of his deliberate exclusion of
don in 1932 [12]. The work of Norman part of the 20th century, both John Cage any procedures that directly modified the
McLaren is also notable in this context. and Edgard Varèse recognized the cre- physical content of the recordings.
As a student at the Glasgow School of Art ative potential of optical representations These self-imposed constraints con-
during the early 1930s he became inter- of sound data during the 1930s [19]. At trasted sharply with the highly manipu-
ested in filmmaking, taking a keen in- the time their predictions of future re- lative world of the Bauhaus sound artists.
terest in Fischinger’s work. Having first sources for electroacoustic composition Synthetically generated sounds were in-
experimented with overlaid visual images were predicated upon the continuing compatible with Schaeffer’s concepts, as
in Love on a Wing (1938), produced for prosperity of optical recording. Matters, were the electronic processing of sounds
the General Post Office film unit in Lon- however, were to take a rather different or physical alterations to the contents of
don, McLaren moved to New York in course with the emergence of a rival tech- the record groove itself other than to iso-
1939, where the Guggenheim Museum nology, that of magnetic tape [20]. late individual sounds or segments
financed his direction of a series of short thereof. Known as objets sonores, these
abstract films using drawn sound [13]. In components formed the basic materials
1941 he transferred to the National Film MUSIQUE CONCRÈTE for composing musique concrète. The func-
Board of Canada, where he was able to Of all the pioneering initiatives of the late tional characteristics of the technology
continue making experimental films 1940s and early 1950s in Europe and thus materially influenced the art and
from time to time. The quality of his work America, by far the most methodical and craft of musique concrète, in terms of both
is more refined than that of the Bauhaus reflective was that of Pierre Schaeffer the creative working environment and
artists, which was partly a reflection of im- and his associates. Working in the Club the acoustic quality of the results. The
proved technology. In Loops (1948), for d’Essai, Paris, using resources provided recording medium itself suffered from
example, the movement of loops of red by Radiodiffusion Télévision Française major problems of fidelity. These in-
and white against a blue background (RTF), he developed the art and craft of cluded a poor audio bandwidth, extend-
form an intricate counterpoint with ac- musique concrète [21]. Most significantly, ing only to about 7 kHz, the high

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background noise levels and an uneven track, usefully reduces the subjective im- sisted of a continuous tape-loop system
frequency response that colored the tim- pact of discontinuities every time the sty- with 10 playback heads, the latter pro-
bre [22]. It was the characteristics of the lus jumps across the groove break. In viding successive reiterations of the
recording lathe, however, that proved es- other contexts these abrupt interrup- recorded signal that could be blended to
pecially significant in terms of the com- tions were to become significant and produce a pulsing type of reverberation
positional process. often undesirable artifacts. Yet another [26]. The other two systems, known as
I have already noted above that the cut- factor limited the flexibility of this tech- Phonogènes (Fig. 2), played pre-
ting of a groove to record acoustic infor- nique. The duration of the loop is de- recorded tape loops at different speeds.
mation involves a physical alteration to termined by the rotational speed of the One machine offered a continuously
the record surface. Moreover, the maxi- turntable: approximately 0.8 seconds at variable playback speed range. The other
mum recording time at 78 rpm was very a standard playback speed of 78 rpm. Fur- created tempered pitch transpositions
limited, typically little more than 3 min- ther constraints are encountered if at- controlled via a 12-note keyboard, with a
utes with the use of standard 10-inch tempts are made to increase the loop two-position octave transposition switch
records, and it soon became clear that length significantly by using lower speeds to extend the overall range to two oc-
two or more playback machines would be of rotation. At 30 rpm, for example, the taves. The transformation in terms of the
required for the construction of longer loop duration has increased only to 2 sec- enhanced range and scope of composi-
works [23]. In essence the possibilities onds, and if the recording speed is re- tional opportunities thus afforded could
were limited to (1) playing recordings duced any further, the fidelity of not have been more dramatic. In partic-
backwards as well as forwards, (2) juxta- reproduction starts to degrade rapidly. ular it became possible for objets sonores
posing sounds extracted from their The quintessential work to emerge of different duration to be looped with
original time continuum, (3) playing from this formative period of musique con- ease and considerable precision. More-
back recordings at a different speed and crète is Symphonie pour un homme seul over, these sounds could be easily re-
(4) creating repeating sound loops by de- (1949–1950), produced jointly by Schaef- called and transformed by reproduction
liberately breaking the groove at selected fer and Pierre Henry, who had joined the at different pitches.
points [24]. staff as an associate composer. This essay The initial response from other studio
Schaeffer’s procedures were further in 11 movements dissects and reinter- users, however, was far from that ex-
limited by a number of practical con- prets the internal and external sounds pected. Schaeffer’s diary for 30 April
straints. The isolation of sounds or seg- produced by individuals, from shouting, 1951 notes that “the studio is a battle-
ments within sounds, for example, humming and whistling to footsteps, field: Everyone is fighting” [27]. His pri-
required the use of a hand-operated vol- knocking on doors and playing orches- mary associates, notably Henry and
ume control during the recording pro- tral and percussion instruments. Here Poullin, had come to the view that the
cess to attenuate the signal electronically the constituent objets sonores are for the use of the tape recorder unwittingly de-
to either side of the chosen extract. Fur- most part complete sound events in their stroyed many of the features intrinsic to
thermore, several recordings on the own right, spoken, sung or performed on the philosophy of musique concrète. As a di-
same disk required a series of suitably instruments. As a result, the processes of rect consequence, strenuous efforts were
spaced grooves. Even the construction of re-synthesis are primarily based upon the made to re-create key features of the
a simple montage, joining a number of juxtaposition of these elements to create older composing environment, with vary-
different segments together to create a new perspectives regarding association ing degrees of success [28]. The new
freshly recorded sequence of sound and contrast. technology encouraged Schaeffer to
events, demanded an elaborate set of stu- Our insight into the impact of record- modify his notions of musique concrète to
dio procedures to line up and accurately ing technology on musique concrète is embrace the more general concept of ex-
cue the constituent recordings on dif- greatly enhanced by the detailed day-to- periences musicales. The influence of newer
ferent turntables. The playing of record- day records kept by Schaeffer during associates such as Luc Ferrari and
ings in reverse posed particular these formative years [25]. From a his- François-Bernard Mâche also led to this
difficulties. Whereas professional-quality torical perspective, looking back at a major reformulation of creative objec-
331/3 -rpm turntables can withstand short- working environment that has no true tives and the technical means for their re-
term spinning of the platter by hand in parallel today, these revelations are most alization, now including the use of
either direction, the same is not true of instructive, not least in identifying the synthesis and processing techniques
older 78 systems, given the much larger precise ways in which technical possibil- other than those directly associated with
mass of the pickup arm. The solution ities and constraints proved to be of the medium of recording [29].
here was to reverse-mount an additional such material significance. In 1951 the
arm, allowing the stylus to trail the mo- RTF recognized the true significance of
tion of the groove. Schaeffer’s work, commissioning the stu- ELEKTRONISCHE MUSIK
It was inevitable that these operational dio engineer Jacques Poullin to design a Although a number of the features asso-
characteristics materially affected the new studio for musique concrète. A funda- ciated with the formative years of musique
composition of early musique concrète mental consideration was the replace- concrète are unique to its concept, some
works. Schaeffer’s very first complete ment of the disk cutter with modern interesting parallels can be established
study, Étude aux chemins de fer, for exam- recording facilities based upon magnetic with the development of elektronische
ple, constructed from recordings made tape, consisting in the first instance of a Musik in Cologne, established by the
at the depot of the Gare des Batignolles, set of mono tape recorders and an ex- radio station Nordwestdeutscher Rund-
Paris, during early 1948, makes extensive perimental three-track machine. funk (NWDR) in 1951 [30]. In many re-
use of looped sounds. Here the me- Three further tape-based devices were spects elektronische Musik represented the
chanical and repetitive nature of much constructed to assist in the processes of antithesis of early musique concrète, pur-
of the material, such as the sounds of analysis and re-synthesis. The first of suing a philosophy that rejected any use
train wheels passing over joints in the these, known as a Morphophone, con- of natural sound sources in favor of an

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and composed a short concrète study, Étude

(1952). In so doing he engaged directly
with the art of creating individual sound
objects, recording sounds on tape and
then isolating selected fragments thereof
using a razor blade and splicing tape. Un-
like the record groove or the optical
sound track, the registration of sound
waves on tape produces magnetic pat-
terns that are invisible to the eye, pre-
cluding any visual interaction with the
data itself. The primary advantage of the
medium is the precise and strictly pro-
portional relationship that exists between
the duration of a sound fragment and the
length of recording tape required for its
registration [33]. All that is required is
knowledge of the speed of the recorder,
expressed in centimeters (or inches) per
second, and a ruler to measure out the
This simple physical relationship al-
lowed Stockhausen to explore the musi-
cal potential of complex rhythmic
structures, using tape fragments of pre-
determined length and duration to cre-
ate precisely ordered patterns [34].
Aspects of this direct engagement with
the operational characteristics of the
recording medium were to feature in his
Fig. 2. Pierre Schaeffer in front of a Phonogène, one of the special tape recorders designed first two Cologne works, Studie I (1953)
for his studio, circa 1963. (Photo: Serge Lido, © Archives Institut National de L’Audiovisuel, and Studie II (1954). In the case of Studie
Groupe de Recherches Musicales, Paris) I Stockhausen determined the duration
of each tone mixture by taking the value
of the strongest frequency within the
entirely synthetic environment, creating of about 13 octaves. The quest for total mixture and dividing this number by 10.
sounds from electronic tone generators. ordering in every aspect of synthesis en- He then applied this new number as the
This highly formulaic approach was couraged the use of a single sound physical length, in centimeters, of the tone
driven by the desire to further Anton source, a high-precision sine-wave oscil- mixture recording. In Studie II the com-
Webern’s principles of serialism in order lator manufactured by Bruel & Kajer. poser generated the tone mixtures them-
to embrace every aspect of composition, This device generated a pure electronic selves from short extracts of each tone,
eliminating the use of the traditional tone, entirely free from any harmonic precisely measured and spliced together
music score and its interpretation by per- coloration, variable in both pitch and am- in order of ascending frequency to cre-
forming musicians [31]. The tape plitude. Composite timbres, otherwise ate a tape loop. He then processed the
recorder became an integral part of this known as tone mixtures, could be created resulting sequences of arpeggios via a
deterministic process, which involved the precisely to order by overlaying sine reverberation unit to create a quasi-
manipulation of recorded material in waves of appropriate frequencies and am- continuous, dynamically pulsing sound.
ways no less intensive and painstaking plitudes. This working environment de- As in the case of musique concrète, the
than those required for the production manded a highly methodical approach, evolution of elektronische Musik was to em-
of musique concrète. using the multitrack recorder to register brace increasingly more flexible ap-
The studio recording facilities con- up to four individually recorded compo- proaches to the art and practice of
sisted of two single-track tape recorders, nents at a time from the single master os- composition, embracing both the syn-
a variable-speed tape recorder and a four- cillator. These components could then thetic and the natural sound worlds. Al-
track recording system [32]. The latter, be mixed and re-recorded to permit fur- though the electronic facilities became
built by the Albrecht company, consisted ther components to be added as re- increasingly sophisticated, the tape
of two stereo recorders linked together quired. recorder, editing block, razor blade and
and synchronized by means of perfora- Two of the most significant works to splicing tape still provided the primary
tions inserted along the edge of each reel emerge from this early era of elektronische means of shaping and manipulating such
of magnetic tape, manufactured to a spe- Musik were composed by Karlheinz materials for many years.
cial width of 17.5 mm. The variable speed Stockhausen during 1953–1954, at the Such a close bonding of recording
facility consisted of a specially modified start of his long and fruitful association technology to the compositional process
Allgemeine Elektrizitats Gesellschaft with the Cologne studio. Stockhausen had yet another parallel in terms of con-
recorder, offering a continuously variable had spent the previous year in Paris study- comitant developments in the United
playback speed that allowed recordings ing with Olivier Messiaen and just prior States, starting with the Music for Mag-
to be transposed over a maximum range to his return he visited Schaeffer’s studio netic Tape project. This was pioneered

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in New York by the filmmakers Louis and iting procedures to manipulate sound 7. This work proved an important reference point
Bebe Barron in 1948 and subsequently material. The seeds of a design revolu- for several works associated with musique concrète and
the subsequent Groupe de Recherches Musicales, for
developed by a group of experimental tion, however, were already bearing fruit, example Presque Rien No. 1 (1961), by Luc Ferrari,
composers during 1951 and 1952 that in- starting with the launch of the RCA syn- which starts out as a similar collage of country and
seaside sounds before proceeding to more elaborate
cluded Earle Brown, John Cage, Morton thesizer in 1956, subsequently installed at transformations.
Feldman, David Tudor and Christian the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music
Wolff [35]. Notwithstanding their alle- Center in 1959 [38]. Its use of a punched 8. See Glossary.
giance to a very different set of aesthet- paper tape control system to regulate a 9. Credit for similar discoveries is also due to another
ics than those of Paris or Cologne, these comprehensive range of synthesis and German artist with Bauhaus connections, Rudolf
Pfenninger. Pfenninger’s work on drawn sound led
composers wielded the razor blade with processing facilities transformed the tech- to a pioneering demonstration film, Tönende Hand-
equivalent precision and purpose, using nology that had originally inspired the Pi- schrift (1932). See also Robert Lewis and Norman
short extracts selected from all manner anola into a powerful, programmable McLaren, “Synthetic Sound on Film,” Journal of
the Society of Motion Picture Engineers 1 (1948)
of recordings to create abstract works of means of creating electroacoustic music pp. 233–247.
significant complexity and diversity. without the intermediate assistance of a
10. Fischinger and Moholy-Nagy experimented ex-
Works such as Imaginary Landscape No. 5 tape recorder [39]. tensively with these possibilities.
and Williams Mix by John Cage formed By the mid-1960s, the concept of inte-
11. Kandinsky’s interests in linking visual images with
part of this venture, the editing flexibil- grated design had led to the commercial theories of musical timbre were strongly stimulated
ity of magnetic tape proving invaluable voltage-controlled synthesizer, launching by his association with Schoenberg. Futurists such as
in the prosecution of Cage’s interests in a technology that offered increasingly Luigi Russolo and Bruno Corra were also interested
in the association of sound with color.
the use of chance as a tool for compos- powerful and versatile facilities for both
ing. These random-selection tape tech- composition and performance [40]. 12. Unfortunately, none of his experimental materi-
als have survived. See Roger Horrocks, “Jack Ellitt:
niques were revisited for the construction Tape-based composition, however, was to The Early Years,” Cantrills Film Notes (1999–2000)
of Fontana Mix, completed in the Studio remain a popular medium for a number pp. 93–100.
di Fonologia Musicale, Milan, in 1958 of years, its eventual demise being her-
13. Sadly, only Allegro (1939) was to survive and even
[36]. In 1955 the Canadian scientist and alded by the development of digital this film eventually disintegrated as a result of too
composer Hugh Le Caine completed the recording and an increasing emphasis on many performances.
prototype for a multi-track tape recorder computer technology. 14. Other artists, such as Arseny Avraamov, carried
that allowed six different reels of tape to What has nonetheless been lost in out similar experiments in the USSR.
be played simultaneously, with indepen- these changes is the intimate and very 15. Aspects of this technology were subsequently
dent control of their playback speeds. productive relationship that developed adapted for the ANS synthesizer, developed at the
This extension of the tape loop princi- between many composers and the phys- Moscow Experimental Studio in 1958 and named
after Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin.
ples used in the design of Schaeffer’s ical representation of their sound mate-
Phonogènes led to five different pro- rials as tangible objects to be handled 16. See John Whitney, “To Paint on Water: The Au-
diovisual Duet of Complementarity,” Computer Music
duction versions over the following 12 and manipulated as entities in their own Journal 18, No. 3, 45–52 (1994).
years, the first being installed at the Uni- right. For all the additional sophistica-
versity of Toronto in 1959. tion offered by modern graphically based 17. Further details of Oramics can be found in
Daphne Oram, An Individual Note: of Music, Sound,
sound-editing facilities, not least the abil- and Electronics (London: Galliard; New York: Galaxy
ity to manipulate the physical character- Music, 1972). (Oram’s piece, Four Aspects, appears on
NEW HORIZONS: THE END istics of sound waves in a visual Not Necessarily English Music, Vol. 11 of the Leonardo
Music Journal CD Series. A note about her work, writ-
OF A PIONEERING ERA environment, the clicking of the editing ten by Hugh Davies, is included in LMJ11’s CD Com-
The late 1950s proved a watershed in the mouse offers a very different type of cre- panion section.)
evolution of electroacoustic music. Tra- ative experience. 18. See Glossary.
ditional concepts of studio design
19. See, for example, John Cage’s essay “The Future
reached their zenith with a second wave References and Notes of Music: Credo” (1937), reproduced in John
of studios that, like their predecessors, Cage, Silence (London: Caldar and Boyars, 1968)
1. See Herbert Russcol, The Liberation of Sound (En- pp. 3–6, and Edgard Varèse’s 1937 address to a meet-
relied upon the tape recorder as both a glewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972) p. 68. ing of the Seattle Arts Society, reproduced in
general-purpose recording medium and Fernand Ouellette, Edgard Varèse, Derek Coltman,
2. The Hochschule für Musik in Berlin took an early
a primary tool for shaping and manipu- institutional lead in 1928, facilitating a research pro-
trans. (London: Caldar and Boyars, 1973)
pp. 146–147.
lating sound material. This period of ex- gram in the manipulation of phonograph records in-
pansion embraces both the Studio di volving both Hindemith and Toch. 20. Since the film industry subsequently migrated
Fonologia Musicale, established in 1955 3. During the recording process, acoustical wave- towards magnetic sound tracks, it is somewhat ironic
forms are converted into equivalent oscillations via that the digital revolution has re-established the for-
by Luciano Berio and Radio Audizioni tunes of optical sound recording within the film in-
a cutting stylus, used in turn to register a corre-
Italiani (RAI) in Milan, and the San Fran- sponding pattern of vibrations in the record groove. dustry.
cisco Tape Music Center (SFTMC), es- These patterns are clearly visible under a microscope.
21. See Pierre Schaeffer, À la recherche d’une musique
tablished by Ramon Sender and Morton 4. See Glossary. concrète (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1952).
Subotnick in 1959 [37]. Both centers of 22. The associated resonant peaks are especially
5. The RCA system uses a Variable Area format
creativity drew freely upon the role mod- whereby fluctuations in the audio signal are regis- prominent if the playback stylus directly drives an
els of musique concrète and elektronische tered as variations in the width of sound track ex- acoustic horn.
posed to light during recording and thus rendered
Musik, breaking down further the ideo- opaque when the film is developed. The rival system 23. These technical requirements provided an in-
logical boundaries associated with these developed by Western Electric uses a Variable Den- teresting bonus, since they facilitated early experi-
sity format whereby these fluctuations are repre- mentation with spatial projection using independent
pioneering developments. loudspeakers for each turntable. This was first ex-
sented by corresponding variations in the overall
This expansion increased the pressure opaqueness of the entire sound track. plored in Symphonie pour un homme seul, composed
for improvements to the technology, not jointly by Schaeffer and Pierre Henry and performed
6. The variations in the solid profile are analogous live at the first public concert of musique concrète,
least in terms of reducing the high de- to the outline of a dark mountain range observed at staged in the hall of the École Normale de Musique,
pendency upon manual cutting and ed- a distance against a bright skyline. Paris, on 8 March 1950.

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24. Such techniques have a number of features in 33. The same is also true in the case of optical sound Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Étude, Studie I, and Studie II,
common with the hip-hop art of turntabilism, pio- tracks, except that the tape is shuttled frame by frame Stockhausen Verlag CD 3 (1991).
neered by artists such as Kool Herc, Afrika Bam- rather than at a steady speed.
baataa and Grandmaster Flash during the 1970s.
Although the pioneering work of Schaeffer provides 34. Stockhausen was not the only visiting composer Glossary
an important precedent for such activities, it is im- to conduct such experiments in Schaeffer’s studio.
portant nonetheless to recognize that the musical His teacher Olivier Messiaen also completed a short drawn sound—any method of synthesis that seeks to
objectives of musique concrète and hip-hop are driven rhythmic study, Timbres-durées, in 1952. create sounds from the shapes of hand-drawn im-
by different aesthetics, and caution must be exer- ages, using an optical playback system to convert
35. The project terminated in 1952 when members these characteristics into acoustic waves.
cised in making direct comparisons. of the group left to pursue their interests elsewhere.
25. See Schaeffer [21]. neume—a generic term for the various scored rep-
36. Cage first encountered the ancient Chinese text
resentations of music prior to the evolution of mod-
on random selection, the I Ching, in 1950 and used
26. A more compact version of such an arrangement ern music notation during the 17th century.
chance operations in the selection and ordering of
was subsequently marketed as a commercial product Rectangular neumes were widely used in the 13th
recorded sounds for these pieces. See Michael
in the early 1960s, known as the Watkins Copycat. and 14th centuries, their sounding duration being
Nyman, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (Cam-
indicated in the first instance by the length of the
27. Schaeffer [21] p. 96. bridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999).
28. A fuller perspective is provided in Peter Manning, 37. The SFTMC became a public access studio in
1961. optical sound recording—a recording technique
Electronic and Computer Music (New York: Oxford whereby the characteristics of sound waves are coded
Univ. Press, 2003). 38. See Harry F. Olson and Herbert Belar, “Elec- photographically onto film. In conventional use the
tronic Music Synthesizer,” Journal of the Acoustical So- associated variations in air pressure are coded as
29. This expansion of activities led to the birth of the
ciety of America 27, No. 3, 595–612 (1955). equivalent variations in film exposure, registered via
Groupe de Recherches de Musique Concrète in
a modulated light beam.
1953, renamed Groupe de Recherches Musicales 39. The RCA synthesizer was originally supplied with
(GRM) in 1958. a directly coupled disk-cutting lathe to record its serialism—a technique that developed from Arnold
sound output, a feature soon discarded in favor of Schoenberg’s principles of composing with 12 tones,
30. Although NWDR is now known primarily for the the tape recorder. first formulated in the early 1920s and developed fur-
work of Karlheinz Stockhausen, the responsibility for
ther by his pupils, notably Alban Berg and Anton
its conception and technical design fell to others, no- 40. The key development in this context was the se-
Webern. This ordering of the notes of the chromatic
tably Werner Meyer-Eppler, Herbert Eimert, Robert quencer, a device that allowed the functions of the
scale in fixed permutations was extended in due
Beyer and NWDR technical director Fritz Enkel. synthesizer to be programmed electronically rather
course to other attributes of instrumental writing
than mechanically, as was the case with the RCA syn-
31. See Glossary. such as their duration and dynamic articulation.
32. The technical specification of the early Cologne
studio has been variously misrepresented, largely as Discography Manuscript received 16 December 2002.
a result of faulty recollection and post hoc docu-
mentation. In this context the description recorded Cage, John. Fontana Mix, Hat Art Records SRI-ART
in the archives of NWDR may be taken as definitive. CD 6125 (1993).
See Fritz Enkel, “Die technischen Einrichtungen des
Peter Manning is director of the Electroacoustic
Cage, John. Williams Mix, Elipsis Arts CD-3671 Music Studio at the University of Durham,
Studios für elektronische Musik,” Technische Haus-
mitteilungen des Nordwestdeutschen Rundfunks 6 (1954) U.K., and a founder member of the Electronic
pp. 8–15; translated as “The Technical Facilities of Schaeffer, Pierre. Étude aux chemins de fer, INA-GRM Music Foundation. As a writer, composer and
the Electronic Music Studio of the Cologne Broad- CD C1006 (1990).
casting Station,” by David Sinclair, National Research
researcher, he has been actively involved in the
Council of Canada, Technical Translation No. 603 Schaeffer, Pierre. Symphonie pour un homme seul, INA- development of the medium since the early
(1956). GRM CD C1007 (1990). 1970s.

10 Manning, The Influence of Recording Technologies