Sunday, 1 March 2009

Folkmar Hein & the TU Berlin Electronic Music Studio

A Tour of the Technical University of Berlin's Electronic Music Studio Storeroom.

After 35 years as the head of the Berlin Technical University's Electronic Studio, Folkmar Hein went into retirement this February. He's composed more than 100 pieces of electro-acoustic music, was a co-founder of the 'Interventionen' festival and DegeM association and has been a promoter of electronic and new music events around the world.

Since 1985 Folkmar Hein has curated an electro-acoustic music listening session on Thursday nights at the TU - a forum for composers, artists, students and those interested in EA music to perform, hear and discuss. Last Thursday was the last session under his stewardship and those who attended were treated to beer, pretzels and a rare glimpse into the studio's storeroom.

Folkmar Hein at the Hochschul-Universal-Mischpult für Experimentierzwecke, an experimental mixing desk built at the TU in 1959.

Close-up of a Telefunken M5 tape recorder. These machines played an integral role in composition right up to the 1980s. As Folkmar Hein commented: "Zeit gab es nicht, sondern Meter" (Back then, there was no time, only meters).

Albiswerk graphic EQ. A studio standard offering 60dB of cut or boost.

The Tempophon or 'Springermaschine", late 50s. Used in conjunction with a modified M5, this device was a forerunner of the time stretching and pitch transposition functions found in modern samplers. Out of sight, to the right of this machine, was another M5 which was modified to run at 1.5 cm/ s. Originally designed for use as an earthquake monitor, it could also be used to record DC signals.

The Event Recorder. The Studio's first sampler, fully expanded with six 2k cards giving a total of 12k memory, it offered a third of a second sampling time.

The Bewegungssimulator. Used for Doppler effects.

Wall 'o' Scopes.

Various measuring devices.

The SynLab Spree System modular synthesizer, located in the main studio. More information on the SynLab here.

The storeroom tour was a fascinating trip through the history of music technology. It wasn't all as old as I thought: amongst the Bakelite and VU meters were several pieces of more recent techno junk: Atari 1040STs, Commodore floppy drives, early ProTools rigs and unused Lexicons all lay gathering dust, testimony to the studio's 56 year history.

You can read more about the TU studio here or in the book "Musik..., verwandelt" (Wolke Verlag, 1996). The EA music archive is here. Myspace is here.

Thank you Folkmar and all the best!


Pete Shambler said...

Those are some of the most beautiful machines I have ever seen. Gotta love German engineering!!

elgauchoandres said...

Since long time I wanted to visit the Studio and talk with Mr. Hein about the past time of the Studio and composers. I think is impossible now because he is in well deserved retirement, but thanks for all this years at the front of the Studio and promoting EM activities. Hope someone continues the labor of Mr. Hein and keeps the historical value of the Studio.

Navs said...

Pete: the sad thing is these gems are gathering dust in the store-room and, now that Folkmar has retired, their and the studio's future is uncertain.

Andres: I saw your Köln videos - great work! Here's hoping both these studios find someone to look after them for many years to come!