“Space is music’s medium of transformation.” Gottfried Michael Koenig, Bilthoven Course 1961/62.
The sonologist moves in the field of electroacoustic music, computer music and sound art. Instead of composing with sounds, as is generally the case in instrumental music, in sonology the sound itself is composed in such a way that it gives expression to musical form. This can take place on the basis of the physical principles of sound, on the basis of perception or on the basis of purely compositional ideas.
Past – Present
The electronic music production at the studio of Philips Research Laboratories (1956–1960) and the teaching programmes at the studios of Delft University of Technology (1957–1960) and CEM in Bilthoven were integrated in 1964, when Gottfried Michael Koenig (1926–2021) assumed the post of artistic director of the Studio for Electronic Music (STEM) at Utrecht University. Koenig then added an important third element: research. On the basis of this trinity, in three years STEM evolved into the Institute of Sonology, which was housed in Utrecht until 1986 and then moved to the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. Koenig’s integration of education, production and research still constitutes the Institute of Sonology’s identity.
In addition to the one-year course in sonology that was launched in 1967, there is now also a four-year bachelor’s and a two-year master’s degree programme, the latter being rated as ‘excellent’ on all of the criteria by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). From 2014, a double degree master’s programme in Audio Communication & Sonology is also being offered in partnership with the Technische Universität Berlin.
In recent years, guest lectures, master classes and workshops have been given by Trevor Wishart, Daniel Teruggi, Nic Collins, Cathy van Eck, Alvin Lucier, Stefan Weinzierl, Gottfried Michael Koenig †, Konrad Boehmer †, Sara Pinheiro, Arne Deforce, Francisco Lopez, Kaija Saariaho, Larry Polansky, Barry Truax, Matthew Ostrowski, Folkmar Hein, Sarah Nicolls, Richard Cavell, Veniero Rizzardi, Douglas Kahn, Peter Evans, Hillel Schwartz, Ramón Gonzalez-Arroyo, Roberto Doati, Evan Parker, Sergio Luque, Horacio Vaggione, Peter Ablinger, Kaffe Matthews and Stefano Bassanese among many others.
The Institute of Sonology adopts a clear stance in terms of the use of technology in music: technology is not merely an adjunct to the existing music practice, but should be used primarily to explore new forms of composition and public presentation of music and art. At the same time, sonology is not bound by any stylistic dogmas.
The traditional areas covered in sonology such as studio composition, computer programming, sound research, digital signal processing, algorithmic composition and the theory of electronic music are still strongly represented in the syllabus, but relatively new subjects such as live electronics, improvisation, sound art, field recording and the spatial aspects of sound have become at least as important.
The Institute of Sonology regularly collaborates with the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in Paris, the Netherlands Music Institute (NMI), Studio LOOS, Willem Twee Studios, Het Hem, WEST Den Haag, the Technische Universität Berlin and The Game of Life Foundation.
Students have access to five production studios equipped with high-quality multichannel sound systems. One also contains a Wave Field Synthesis system for spatial sound projection, and another is one of the most extensive voltage-controlled (analogue) studios currently in operation.
Sonology avails itself of the Conservatoire’s excellent concert hall for its regular concert presentations, featuring works by students, faculty members, guest artists and classics from the electroacoustic music repertoire, as well as performances by the Sonology Electroacoustic Ensemble, an improvisation group that combines acoustic and electronic instruments with live sound processing. Every year the students perform their final presentations at a small festival in June.
Sonology also organises special projects. One example was a three-day festival in the spring of 2012 in which almost all of the electroacoustic music of Xenakis was performed, interspersed with instrumental pieces and accompanied by lectures, workshops and master classes on Xenakis’s music.
Another was the Composing Spaces: Spatial Music from Gabrieli to the 21st Century symposium and festival in April 2013, which featured the GRM Acousmonium, the Game of Life’s Wave Field Synthesis system and other sound spatialisation technologies.
In November 2014, the festival 50 Years of Electronic and Computer Music Education was organised, in which 17 international educational institutions were represented with lectures, curriculum presentations and concert performances.
The Historically Informed Performance Practice of Electroacoustic Music symposium and festival took place in December 2016, comprising lectures, masterclasses and concerts organised in collaboration with the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste.
The symposium Transformations of the Audible took place in May 2019 at the occasion of the presence of the fourth Konrad Boehmer Visiting Professor Peter Ablinger in The Hague, in partnership with Leiden University’s Academy of Creative and Performing Arts and arts organisation WEST Den Haag. The event gathered international experts in the field of music, the arts and the scholarly field of sound studies with practitioners from the local scene in lectures, panel discussions and artistic presentations.
The Institute of Sonology maintains a close relationship with students who have graduated. A number of them supplement their studies at the institute as research associates, and others continue to present the progress of their research, perhaps as part of a PhD programme elsewhere, on a regular basis. Former students are occasionally invited to give presentations at research seminars or colloquia or to present their work during the concerts. Alumni are active in multimedia art as composers, performers, sound designers, computer programmers and educators, or in various combinations of these professions. Links to former students’ websites can be found at the Alumni pages.
The Sonology master’s programme serves as an excellent preparation for doctoral research – graduates have continued their studies in PhD programmes at universities such as Stanford University (Björn Erlach, Mauricio Rodriquez), Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona (Ángel Faraldo), Queen’s University, Belfast (Miguel Negraõ, Henry Vega), University of Washington, Seattle (Stelios Manousakis, Hector Bravo Bernard), University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz (Luc Döbereiner), University of Huddersfield (Barbara Ellison), University of Birmingham (Sergio Luque, Yota Morimoto, Jan Trützschler von Falkenstein), University of Sheffield (Amy Beeston), Leiden University (Juan Parra Cancino, Babis Giannakopoulos, Siamak Anvari, Marie Guilleray, Gabriel Paiuk), Erasmus University, Rotterdam (Stuart Griffin), University of Salamanca (Ángel Arranz), University of Porto (Filipe Lopes), California Institute of the Arts (Andrea Young), Brunel University, London (Hugo Morales Murguía), University of Victoria (Jakob Leben), Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media, Dublin (Martijn Tellinga), Oxford University (Patrick Valiquet), McGill University (Eddy Kazazis, Takuto Fukuda), Queen Mary University of London (Giacomo Lepri), Bangor University (Sara Pinheiro), Tokyo University of the Arts (Takayuki Hamano) and University of Amsterdam (Fani Konstantinidou).