Perfect Sound Forever

OHM- The Early Gurus of Electronic Music


WDR (Westdeutscher Rundfunk)- radio station in Cologne, Germany where a studio was establised in 1951 to "compose directly onto magnetic tape."

Compiled by Thomas Ziegler
(April 2000)

from Marietta Morawska-Büngeler Schwingende Elektronen, P.J. Tonger Musikverlag, Köln-Rodenkirchen, Germany, 1988

Each history comes with past history and that applies to the Studio for Electronic Music in Cologne
as well. The following facts are part of the past history to the same degree:

- the musical development in the first half of the 20th century
- the history of mechanical instruments to the development of the "electric" or "electronic"
instruments in the thirties (there always has been an argument regarding the terminology, similar to
arguments about the expression "electronic music")
- the fact that magnetic sound storing only came into existence in the early fifties
- the work, the following people did prior to 1951, those people are of enormous importance to the
start or development of electronic music: Robert Beyer, Herbert Eimert and Werner Meyer-Eppler.

Robert Beyer, born 1901 in Wittlich, studied at the universities of Halle and Berlin,
Musikhochschule in Cologne. Releases about the problem of the "coming music", i.e. music based on electroacoustic (1928), 1928 - 1934 he was a sound mixer for Tobis. From 1946 on he worked for WDR as an editor.

Herbert Eimert, (1897 - 1972), born in Bad Kreuznach, studied at the Konservatorium in Cologne and at the university of Cologne. In 1923 he wrote a 12 tone book and a string quartet, which was
published in 1924/25 as an early German 12 tone release. In the thirties he built sound intruments.
He worked for WDR between 1928 - 1933. In 1945 he went back to work for Cologne broadcast and took over the "Musikalische Nachtprogramm" (the night music programming) in 1948.

Werner Meyer-Eppler (1913 - 1955), was born in Antwerpen. He earned a 1942 postdoctoral lecturing qualification for physics, 1953 postdoctoral lecturing qualification for phonetics and communication studies. From 1949 on he was professor at the Institute for phonetics and communication studies in Bonn. In 1949 his book "Elektrische Klangerzeugung" (generating electric sounds) was published, it summarized the knowledge about electronic music instruments and the method of speech synthesis known at the time.  In 1949 he did a lecture about possibilities of sound developments at the sound mixer conference in Detmold featuring a presentation of a magnetic tape with the sounds of an American vocoder.

It was at this sound mixer conference in Detmold in 1949 where Beyer and Meyer-Eppler exchanged their ideas and knowledge. The idea of doing lectures about electronic music was born. This was not about experiments in this field, but more about a report about the existing possibilities. Robert Beyer got approval from Wolfgang Steinekke, the manager of the Darmstadt holiday courses. On August 21, 22 and 23, 1950 Robert Beyer and Werner Meyer-Eppler gave lectures about "the world of sounds of the electronic music".

It was here in Darmstadt where Beyer, Meyer-Eppler and Eimer met: Herbert Eimert was (besides Edgard Varese, Stockhausen and others) present at these lectures and people got interested in the subject of electronic music and it was part of the holiday courses the following year as well, this time under the title "music and technology".

Herbert Eimert lectured about "music in the border zone", Robert Beyer about the importance of
generating electronic sounds regarding the upcoming development of music and the space problem in electronic music. It was at this conference in 1951 when Meyer-Eppler presented the first models of synthetic sounds, which he had produced with the help of a Bode melochord and a AEG Magnetophone.

These sounds were presented again to a larger audience during Eimert's broadcast of night music of the NWDR on October 18, 1951 together with lectures by Herbert Eimert, Robert Beyer and Friedrich Trautwein, the inventor of the Trautonium.

This already was the beginning of the history of the studio for electronic music in Cologne. Soon
after the above mentioned broadcast, Herbert Eimert (with the support of Werner Meyer-Eppler) managed to convince Hanns Hartmann, the director of the Cologne broadcast, to found the studio for electronic music.

NOTE: Some of the most important work from WDR can be heard on the WDR: Early Electronic Music compilation (BV Haast). BV Haast also has compilations of important WDR composers such as Berio, Ligeti, Madena, Pousseur and Koenig

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