Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Musikwissenschaft

João Romão

Musical and Technical Negotiations: A History of the WDR Studio for Electronic Music, 1951–2001

Musical and Technical Negotiations: A History of the WDR Studio for Electronic Music, 1951–2001 is a music history of collaborations between heterogeneous actors in electronic music making. Launched from the standpoint of a cultural history that investigates the intersections between music, science, and technology, this is the first full-length study of the studio where Herbert Eimert, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gottfried Michael Koenig, and others pioneered electronic music. Through close readings of new archival material and unique long interviews, I uncover negotiations of expertise and professional identities in the studio, cultures of listening to electronically mediated sounds, and a certain approach to technology that was characteristic of Cold War West Germany. I argue that understanding the terms under which the collaborations in the studio occurred requires us to open its doors and look to neighboring institutions that were responsible for training composers, musicians, scientists, sound engineers, technicians, radio directors, and others. By revealing how these institutions shaped the diverse professional identities of those in the studio, I challenge the paradigmatic visions of twentieth-century music that place the composer at the helm of musical creativity. This new perspective allows the WDR Studio for Electronic Music to serve as the entry point to a vibrant techno-scientific-musical scene in Cold War West Germany.
The study brings together perspectives from historical musicology, media studies, sound studies, oral history and history of science to demonstrate the complex networks of electronic music making. This interdisciplinary approach challenges previous inquiries into the studio's history that celebrate composers and their works. By expanding the scales of analysis and inquiring the diversity of actors collaborating in the studio, I not only offer a nuanced portrait of the studio's history but also show how external institutions permeated the studio's identity and practices. Drawing on hundreds of unpublished documents scattered in six different archives across Germany and a series of exclusive interviews, I provide a unique insight into the studio inner-dynamics and a lucid analysis of this pivotal period of European history. The dissertation thus demonstrates how the relational aspects in the studio resonate with broader structures of knowledge production, earlier music and sonic practices, political agendas of the Cold War, and postwar state's building.



Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BD/11570/2016)