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Focus on Institutions

A column about past, present and future ongoings in international electroacoustic and related institutions [index].

Folkwang University

Development of Electronic Music and the ICEM — Institut für Computermusik und Elektronische Medien (Essen, Germany)

At the end of the 1960s “live electronics” was the buzzword in electronic music. Manageable equipment such as the VCS III synthesizer made by the British company EMS could be used in numerous ways which included being played live together with mechanical instruments. In 1970 the Berlin company Hofschneider was given an order for three pieces of equipment for live-electronic music. This equipment was designed with the focus on transformation of instrumental sounds.

From 1971, an ensemble that emerged from the group MHz (directed by Günther Becker) and which consisted exclusively of Folkwang Hochschule 1[1. Since 2010 the Folkwang Hochschule is called Folkwang University of the Arts.] members, worked with this equipment. The members of the ensemble were Alfred Alings, Günther Becker, Ferdi Brendgen, Mirko Dorner, Pierre W. Feit and Dirk Reith. In subsequent years the ensemble changed a few times until it stopped working as a fixed live-electronic ensemble in 1973/74.

Besides the live-electronic work on stage, it was soon obvious that for the research and preparation of certain live-electronic projects, an appropriately equipped studio was needed. Thus between 1975 and 1978 the studio, which hitherto had only been very sparingly equipped, was extended with a newly constructed analogue modular system (“Synlab”), developed by Udo Hofschneider and Dirk Reith in cooperation with the Electronic Music Studios of the Technische Universität Berlin. The high degree of precision of this voltage-controlled system made it possible to directly control the analogue devices using a digital processor with an appropriate interface. In the beginning a Tektronix 4051 mini-computer was used for this, in subsequent years it was replaced by an Apple II Plus and an APS 64/40 made by the Essen company micro-control. Special programs were developed for the realisation of electronic compositions in this hybrid environment (sound synthesis with analogue devices, controlled by digital processors).

The ongoing collaboration with micro-control during the 1980s led to the development of the AUDIAC digital workstation, an attempt to integrate audio processing, real-time control, musical databases and compositional strategies into one system. The Audiac had developed to prototype state and has been used in several projects during the early 1990s.

In 1990 the senate of the Folkwang Hochschule founded the ICEM (Institute for Computer Music and Electronic Media).

In addition to educating composers, the ICEM supports all projects at the Hochschule which utilise electronic media to a certain extent. In addition to the electronic studio, the ICEM also encompassed further specialised departments for audio and media technology.

With the introduction of a diploma course of studies in jazz, the Project Studio, a custom-made studio for the requirements of jazz and pop, was built under the direction of ICEM. Another studio for visual media was set up between 1996 and 1999, when the ICEM had the auspices of the working group Multimedia & Art NRW of the MSWWF (Ministry for Town Development, Science, Further Education and Research). This media studio was expanded from 1999 to 2002 as part of the MSWWF research project “Interactive Media Stage” to become the AudioVisual Studio. In 2000 the newest ICEM facility, the sound recording studio, was inaugurated. Beside the standard equipment for such a studio it has also been equipped with a modern Dolby Surround (6.1) monitoring technology as well as a projection system for video post-production.

The current artistic director of the ICEM, Professor Dirk Reith, teaches electronic composition, while the technical director Dipl.-Ing. Roland Masslich teaches theory of sound synthesis and studio technology. Visual media is the artistic field of Professor Dietrich Hahne. Professor Thomas Neuhaus teaches computer music and related fields. Stefan Hüfner teaches electronic media in the context of popular music and jazz composition and Roman Pfeifer teaches computer-based notation and other special topics for media-based composition. The sound engineer of our recording studio is Dipl.-Ing. Arthur Jogerst, the service technician in the electronic studios is Ralf Galberg. Martin Preu is responsible for acoustic technology and sound diffusion at events with electronic media, while Dipl.-Ing. Michael Schlappa is in charge of the video equipment of the ICEM.

In 2001, electronic music at the Folkwang-Hochschule celebrated its 30th anniversary. To this occasion the ICEM published the issues Volumes 4–6, “The Anniversary Issue” as part of its CD series ex machina. Three CDs with productions from the ICEM over three decades present a comprehensive sound picture of the electronic creativity at the ICEM. 2[2. These and other ICEM CDs are available through the Cybele label.]

After over thirty years of educating composers in electronic music, the ICEM was heavily engaged in the development of the new composition course of studies. It is now possible to follow a course of studies in “Integrative Composition” and obtain a Bachelor or Master of Music degree at ICEM. The Integrative Composition programme involves study in five main subjects — instrumental composition, electronic composition, composition and visualisation, jazz composition and pop composition — with comprehensive possibilities of setting different weightings.

Besides its role in educating composers, the ICEM considers itself as a vital part of the Folkwang University of the Arts as a whole and is open to students of all kinds of music, theatre, dance and design, who want to experience a comprehensive education and participate in all kinds of inter-disciplinary projects in which electronic media come into play.

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