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BASED ON ‘WALTER MAAS & THE CONTACTORGAAN ELEKTRONISCHE MUZIEK: A LIFELINE FOR ELECTRONIC MUSIC IN THE NETHERLANDS’ BY KEES TAZELAAR

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‘... each sound, each structure is a promise…’
– Gottfried Michael Koenig

From the outset, Dutch electronic music found itself in between two principal European trends: the musique concrète introduced by French radio in 1948 and the German elektronische Musik that emerged from 1951 onwards at the Cologne broadcast station. The first real Dutch electronic music studio was built in 1956, not by a broadcasting company but, remarkably enough, by the acoustics department at Philips Research Laboratories as part of a research program. Around the same time as Philips was establishing the first Dutch studio for electronic music, Walter Maas, director of the Gaudeamus foundation for contemporary music, took steps that led to the founding of the Contactorgaan Elektronische Muziek (Electronic music contact organization), or CEM.

Do you want to learn more about the role of CEM during the early years of electronic music in the Netherlands ? 

Read the full article, by Kees Tazelaar.

WALTER MAAS AND THE GAUDEAMUS FOUNDATION

Walter Maas frequently traveled around Europe, visiting music festivals, and he had become conscious of the development of a broad contemporary music movement. For Maas, electronic music was primarily a new form of composition that he had come across in Germany. In September 1953, Maas led a Dutch delegation to the Internationale Kunstwoche der Musikalischen Jugend Deutschlands (Second international arts week for musical German youth) in Munich.  he heard Werner Meyer-Eppler’s lecture “Elektronische Musik”, and he decided to invite him to give a similar talk in Bilthoven.

 

1953 – 1957

Werner Meyer-Eppler gave his first lecture about electronic musical instruments in the Netherlands during the International Congress on Electroacoustics (ICA) in Delft in 1953. A few months later, Meyer-Eppler visited Bilthoven and gave his“Elektronische Musik” lecture to an audience of young composers and musicians.

Figure 1: Werner Meyer-Eppler 

Figure 2: Werner Meyer-Eppler’s book Elektrische Klangerzeugung: Elektronische Musik und synthetische Sprache (Bonn:Ferd. Dümmlers Verlag, 1949)

‘The electronic music composer no longer needs a medium to realize his art, that art now goes directly from him to the listener.’
“Electronische Muziek”, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, May 17, 1954.

THE NEDERLANDSE RADIO UNIE

Piet Bottema, Ton de Leeuw and Arie Brandon during production of ‘Job’ in one of the NRU’s studios, 1956.

Maas made his first attempt to establish a Dutch studio for electronic music at the Nederlandse Radio Unie (NRU) broadcasting company, where works that included electronic material had been produced incidentally since December 1952. Shortly after Meyer-Eppler’s lecture in Bilthoven, Maas visited Hilversum, where he discussed the possibilities for a studio with the acting director of the NRU’s music department, H. Passchier. Henk Badings had finished his 54-minute radiophonic opera Orestes at the NRU in July 1954. After Orestes won the Prix Italia, it certainly became easier to explain the importance of making a permanent electronic studio available to composers. Maas therefore tried to convince Vermeulen and Philips Research to do so instead.

PHILIPS RESEARCH LABORATORIES 

Henk Badings and Roelof Vermeulen in Room 306 at Philips Research Laboratories during the production of ‘Kaïn en Abel’, April 1956.

Vermeulen and Philips had not gone along with Maas’ suggestion in December 1954, but in April 1956, a studio was installed in Room 306 of Philips Research Laboratories. This new studio was certainly the most advanced in the Netherlands so far, but it did not fulfill the needs of Maas and the composers connected to Gaudeamus. Philips had offered Badings the opportunity to produce the electronic ballet music Kaïn en Abel, and the studio was temporary and set up specifically and solely for this purpose.

CONTACTORGAAN ELEKTRONISCHE MUZIEK

The electronic music studio at Technische Hogeschool Delft in its original state.

The decision to establish the Contactorgaan was made on July 9, 1956.​Gaudeamus’ important role in Dutch contemporary music is well known; CEM’s has been less so. CEM’s principal aim was to set up a studio where composers could be trained to make electronic music independently. Although the Philips studio was emphatically not meant for such a purpose, the corporation was represented in CEM. A studio intended for composers’ use opened in 1957 at Technische Hogeschool Delft (TH Delft). TH Delft, represented by Willem Kok, was a member of the Contactorgaan from the beginning. On September 14, 1957, CEM informed composers that they would now have the opportunity to take lessons and carry out commissions in an electronic music studio. They were invited to an introductory presentation by Kok on September 28, 1957, at the Technische Hogeschool at Mijnbouwplein 11 in Delft. In addition to establishing the studio, CEM rapidly began working in a more general sense to increase awareness of electronic music in the Netherlands, and it played an important role in staging electronic music concerts.

‘One way or another, the new electronic materials will be made available to the many musically creative talents that we have in this country. While, as has already been said, [Heinrich] Heine averred that on Judgment Day he would want to be in the Netherlands, since everything there is 30 years behind the times, our motivation is to do everything possible to correct this delay […]. In this area [electronics], Philips itself is a world leader, and it is therefore in an outstanding position to assist us in the aforementioned efforts.’

Letter from Maas to Vermeulen, December 15, 1954; Netherlands Music Institute.

From left: Ton de Leeuw, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varèse and Walter Maas after the CEM concert in Eindhoven on November 16, 1957.

STAGING THE FIRST CONCERT

CEM’s involvement in programming electronic music at concerts and festivals had become an important part of its activities soon after its establishment. In March 1957, for instance, the Contactorgaan had been asked by the Holland Festival to give advice regarding electronic music demonstrations at the upcoming edition of the festival.

CEM stages its first concert with electronic music at the Philips Schouwburg in Eindhoven with works by Henk Badings, Ton de Leeuw, Bruno Maderna, Pierre Schaeffer, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Vladimir Ussachevsky.

The concert, announced in various newspapers as the very first concert of electronic music in the Benelux, consisted of the following elements:

KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN

On August 27, 1956, ​Karlheinz Stockhausen gave a lecture and performed Gesang der Jünglinge as part of the the Gaudeamus Muziekweek.

The people involved in the upcoming founding of the Contactorgaan were all invited to the lectures and concerts, in which the Cologne school was strongly represented. Meyer-Eppler lectured on the scientific foundations of electronic music. In his lecture, Stockhausen warned composers as well as commissioners and listeners not to consider electronic music as something sensational.

1958 – 1964

Gaudeamus Muziekweek participants visit STEM in September 1964. From left: Gottfried Michael Koenig, Frank de Vries, Walter Maas and Earle Brown
(staring at the ground). Sixth from right: Jan van Vlijmen.

In 1959 it was decided to close not only the Philips studio in Eindhoven but also the studio in Delft. A power struggle around who would host a successor studio broke out between the universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht; the conservatories in Amsterdam and The Hague also became candidates, and CEM forcefully attempted to influence the course of events. The work of the Philips studio eventually continued at a new studio at Utrecht University, STEM. But STEM was unable to take over the training duties of the Delft studio, so CEM set up a small educational studio in the town of Bilthoven as a stopgap.

Gottfried Michael Koenig established a successful internationally oriented electronic music course in Bilthoven. As a result of the quality of this course, Koenig entered the picture as a potential director of STEM. He took over the position in 1964. From then on, Koenig’s course was gradually incorporated into the pedagogical program of STEM.

VISUAL HISTORY OF DUTCH STUDIOS FOR ELECTRONIC MUSIC

The electronic music studio at Technische Hogeschool Delft after renovation, 1959.

Klaus Gorter, Gottfried Michael Koenig and Jaap Vink in the Bilthoven studio, 1963.

Beate Christina Koepnick, Bruno Maderna and Walter Maas in the Bilthoven studio, 1960s.

The electronic music studio at Technische Hogeschool Delft in its original state.

Henk Badings and Roelof Vermeulen in Room 306 at Philips Research Laboratories during the production of ‘Kaïn en Abel’, April 1956.

Dick Raaijmakers and Leidi Kiewiet in the Utrecht University electronic music studio, April 1961.

1964 – 1979

Jaap Vink at the CEM Studio in Bilthoven.

FROM STEM TO THE INSTITUTE OF SONOLOGY

Between 1964 and 1967, STEM was renovated, expanded and modernized in three phases. The new studios were officially presented to the press on October 18, 1967. STEM by now had a much larger share of the building on Plompetorengracht, with two production studios, a four-channel studio, a teaching studio and a microphone recording room. Lectures were given in the lecture hall of the Theologisch Instituut, which was housed in the same building. The practical duties of the Bilthoven course – whose lessons STEM had been hosting since 1964 – could now be taken over too. The last electronic music course in Bilthoven hosted by STEM took place from October 1966, to June 1967. After that, the Bilthoven studio continued to operate independently of STEM. On the day of the official presentation of the new studios, it was decided to change STEM’s name to the Institute of Sonology. The first year-long sonology course began in 1967.

Music from the Bilthoven course for electronic music 1962-1966:

Miroslav Miletić (Croatia) – Lamentation for viola and tape (1962)
Arne Mellnäs (Sweden) – CEM 63 (1963)
Henrik Otto Donner (Finland) – Esther (1963)
Will Eisma (Netherlands) – Bth. 3457 (1963)
Louis Andriessen (Netherlands) – Sweet for recorder and tape (1964)
Klaus Gorter (Netherlands) – K 45 (1964–65)
Luctor Ponse (Switzerland) – Etude I (1964–65)
Tera de Marez Oyens (Netherlands) – Etude II (1964–65)
Berend Giltay (Netherlands) – Phonolieten ’65 (1964–65)
Gary McKenzie (USA) – Luminations ’65 (1964–65)
Will Eisma (Netherlands) – Cooperational Applications for violin, piano and tape (1965)
Ramon Zupko (USA) – Transients (1965–66)
Rainer Riehn (Germany) – Chants de Maldoror (first version, 1965–66)
Luctor Ponse (Switzerland) – Nacht (1965–66)
Klaus Gorter (Netherlands) – VG 56 (1965–66)
Berend Giltay (Netherlands) – Polychromie (1965–66)
Zoltán Pongrácz (Hungary) – Phonothese (1965–66)
Ramon Zupko (USA) – Metacycles (1966)
Milan Stibilj (Slovenia) – Rainbow (1967)

Source: International Electronic Music Catalog, compiled by Hugh Davies (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M.I.T. Press, 1968).

1985 – 2020

THE CEM STUDIO MOVES TO HOGESCHOOL VOOR DE KUNSTEN ARNHEM (ARNHEM ACADEMY OF THE ARTS)

In 1985, the CEM studio leaves the Muziekpedagogische Academie Hilversum and moves to Hogeschool Voor De Kunsten Arnhem. A former garage on the Oude Kraan is renovated to welcome two studios where electronic music can be recorded. Electronic and computer music lessons are taught in several classrooms.

IN 2017, THE CEM STUDIO MOVES TO DEN BOSCH, REDESIGNED AS WILLEM TWEE STUDIOS, WITH ARMENO ALBERTS, HANS KULK AND OTHERS.

From left to right: Jaap Vink, Kees Tazelaar & Gottfried Michael Koenig.

The small CEM studio in Bilthoven re-opens on September 5, 2020 as a new residency for artists.

 

Do you want to learn more about the role of CEM during the early years of electronic music in the Netherlands ? 

Read the full article, by Kees Tazelaar.

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