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The early years of STEIM. Ambiguities of "Electro-Instrumental" music

Otto, Andi (2016) The early years of STEIM. Ambiguities of "Electro-Instrumental" music. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

The making of new musical instruments can be seen as a central strategy of musical innovation in the 20th century. One institution where ideas of novel electronic instruments have been especially fostered is STEIM in Amsterdam. Countless projects and artistic residencies have been commissioned at the 'Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music' for the past 40 years, with a main focus on the performing player and the dialogues of the body with electronic or digital setups. A significant difference to the research conducted at the major institutions for electronic music after 1970 is STEIM's leaning towards improvisation, both musical and structural. The studio has been run by Michel Waisvisz as artistic director for 25 years who can be seen as one of the often neglected origins of musical cultures such as glitch and circuit bending. However, he had the support of technicians at his hands, but the necessity to open and bend the black boxes provided by the instrument industry was a STEIM dogma which has even been tagged on the workshop wall in the 70s: „If you can't open it, you don't own it.“ Instruments like Waisvisz' cracklebox or his sensor-interface "The Hands" are unique configurations of technology to improvise with electronic sound, and they inspired a whole scene of international artists to work on their individual instruments at STEIM. Many excellent projects yielding from the residencies (e.g. Laetitia Sonami, Nicolas Collins, Jon Rose), as well as countless other instruments which do not float on the surface of an archiving process but are still tremendously significant for the writing of STEIM's story. The role of STEIM in the histories of electronic music has not yet been discussed in apt detail. Since 2009 the author of this abstract has dedicated his hours to building up the STEIM archive, especially the archive of the former director Michel Waisvisz in collaboration with Kristina Andersen. The big picture of a STEIM history which shall be presented at the AHEM conference reveals an aesthetic attitude where big ideas for the new often don't demand big budgets (sometimes yes) but definitely no high-tech. To capture the standpoint from which STEIM has worked its influence on electronic music of the 20th century, we have to look back to the origins in the 60s. The founding story of STEIM shows strong links to the Dutch Jazz scene, to the serialism of the school of Kees van Baaren, and to political activism and the notion that renewal in music and society are unseparable. In the autumn of 1967 a few of the Netherlands' most prominent and progressive composers Peter Schat, Jan van Vlijmen, Misha Mengelberg, Louis Andriessen, Reinbert de Leeuw, Dick Raaymakers and Konrad Boehmer established a workgroup to create a research laboratory and development workplace for live electronic music. Two years later in 1969 the foundation STEIM was initiated as an 'instrument pool' following the completion of their opera 'Reconstructie'. How the work group managed to receive government fundings from the system they opposed is a wondrous story in its own from today's perspective. Dutch music theatre (often with a peculiar humour), improvised jazz and political discussions were the common ground for the diverse group of composers who set up STEIM. Whereas 'electro-instrumental' later on means to play a particular individual electronic instrument (as we mainly understand it today), the term at first pointed at the mere extension of 'traditional' live practice in jazz with electronic means. This contribution aims at telling a selection of stories sampled in the STEIM archive which share an understanding of the interface between body and electronic sound as a vital key to new music.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:31



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