Electronic Music Studios

Hugh Davies - Electronic Music Studios in Britain:
Goldsmiths, University of London

Contact issue #15 (Winter 1976/77). Reproduced by permission.

The first equipment for what was originally called the Electronic Music Workshop was purchased or ordered in December 1967. In January 1968 an evening class (plus occasional sessions for small groups of music students) was started. This appears to have been the first such regular class given in any academic institution in Britain, although others followed fairly rapidly. From the start the evening class has attracted a wide variety of people: composers and musicians with some training or experience, people with some training or experience on the technical side, and people who are just interested.

The studio spent its first two terms 'camping out' in a physics laboratory, having to be replaced in cupboards on the two days a week that it was used.By autumn 1968 it had a room of its own, the main downstairs room in one of the semi-detached houses bought up by the College on its perimeter. The creation of the studio was due to the composer Stanley Glasser, then Head of Music for the Adult Studies Department (and shortly to take over the same position for the full-time Music Department), and then Principal of the Adult Studies Department, the late Ian Gulland, with full support from the then Professor of Music at London University, the late Thurston Dart. Stanley Glasser had hoped to start a studio at Goldsmiths for some time, and when I contacted him in the autumn of 1967 he quickly arranged for me to be engaged to give an evening class in electronic music. From then on some subterfuge - not uncommon with studios! - was necessary: instead of asking Goldsmiths outright to provide a studio, the evening class was first agreed on, followed by insistence on the importance of practical work for which 'of course' equipment would be needed, which in turn would 'obviously' require a room in which to be permanently installed.

The initial equipment consisted of three Revox tape recorders, a stereo mixer, one air and a couple of contact microphones, a stereo amplifier and loudspeakers, followed a few weeks later by a sine/square-wave generator built from a kit as a project undertaken by two people from the evening class. I planned the studio so that it would also function equally well for live electronic performance; however, once other people began to work in the studio apart from in my own classes, a central patchboard became necessary and equipment could no longer be removed for external use. The studio quickly made appearances in the 'outside world': a photograph in a book on sound, a BBC TV programme on modern music and a performance at a London concert. More recently the BBC has broadcast three of our productions. Due to lack of funds we have not been able to expand substantially, and the same restriction has prevented any full-time appointment of personnel; this is primarily because of the considerable expansion and upgrading of the whole of the music department under Stanley Glasser's direction, from being primarily concerned with teacher training to becoming exclusively a university music department by 1978, and necessitating a greater proportion of Goldsmiths total budget to be given for music than had been hitherto.

The considerable number of people who have been associated with the studio is a reflection of the fact that all work there is paid by the hour, and that better-paid or more permanent jobs have attracted several people away from Goldsmiths. A list of names is perhaps the most appropriate way of presenting this. Teaching staff: Hugh Davies (1968-), George Newson (1970-72), George Brown (1972-), Lawrence Casserley (1972-75), David Burnard (1975-76). Technical staff: Adam Skeaping (1970-73), Per Hartman (1973-75), Robert Ahern (1975), Richard Guy (1975-); additionally most of the teaching staff have helped with maintenance. Finally the Heads of Music of the Adult Studies Department, who have all been involved in the studio to some extent: Stanley Glasser (1968), Don Banks (1968-71), Anthony Gilbert (1971-73), Malcolm Barry (1973-).

The initially sporadic tuition for selected students was replaced in 1970 by some regular classes. More than 200 music students now attend classes in the studio for at least part of their time at Goldsmiths. Last year for the first time an introductory one-term evening class was added to the original three-term one. Additionally, classes have been given for students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama since 1971, and occasionally from Kings' College, London which has close links with Goldsmiths. For several years students from Goldsmiths School of Art have worked in the studio under the guidance of their tutors, the kinetic sculptors Philip Hodgetts and now Peter Logan. Many groups from local schools and musicians from all over the world have visited the studio, and short courses have been given for various student groups from the USA.

There is little to be said about the installation that is in any way unusual. The room in which it is housed had to double as composition studio and lecture/demonstration room. We plan to convert a small room next door to the studio into an editing room in which the equipment would be mounted on a trolley for easy removal back to the main studio for any large-scale project. Similarly we are not in a position to promote any substantial research. The main emphasis has always been on the teaching aspect of the studio, and much of the weekly schedule is taken up in this way. Indeed it is only possible for undergraduate students to produce short studies, because individual tuition is of necessity rare. Thus of the works listed here none were composed by undergraduates, and only two by postgraduates. Staff members can use the studio for themselves provided that it is not required for teaching purposes; those named above, plus Bob Cobbing (poet in residence) and William Fitzwater (film department) make up about one-third of the composeres in the list. Most of us have worked mainly with privately-owned equipment.

Since 1971 the SPNM has bought a limited amount of studio time for outside composers to work in the studio, assisted by a member of staff. (Goldsmiths College also hosted the 1971 SPNM Composers' Weekend, at which George Newson was responsible for all the studio work.) This money has financed the production of nearly two-thirds of the works listed here, divided fairly equally between musicians attending our evening classes in electronic music or composition, and composeres from outside.

Current Personnel (all part-time)

Director: Hugh Davies
Lecturer: George Brown
Technician: Richard Guy

A selection of works composed in the studio

  • Don Banks *Intersections (1969; orchestra and tape; partly composed in private studio)
  • Richard Bernas Tuning a Cymbal (1975; published on cassette by Audio Arts)
  • Graham Bradshaw Tribute to a Dancing Lady (1975-76; partly composed at Morley College)
  • Alan Bullard Study on Db (1971)
  • David Burnard Constellations (1976; large ensemble and tape)
  • Roger Butler Stigma (1971)
  • Jonathan Clifford Work for piano, slides and tape (1973)
  • Bob Cobbing with Lawrence Casserley 15 Shakespeare Kaku (1973-74; completed at SMS, London)
  • Hugh Davies Interfaces (1968; six performers, amplified objects, two stereo tapes and live elctronics / two performers, two stereo tapes and live electronics; tapes are identical in both versions)
  • William Fitzwater with Hugh Davies Metropolis (1975; two-hour soundtrack for BBC2 TV showing of 1926 silent film; edited and mixed with percussion and sound effects in film and TV studios)
  • Martin Gellhorn Mandala (1974; completed at University of East Anglia, 1975; four track tape)
  • Anthony Gilbert *The Scene Machine (1971; passage for opera)
  • Anthony Gilbert *A Treatment of Silence (1973; violin and tape)
  • Stanley Glasser with Hugh Davies Coromantee, sequences for chorus and tape (1970-71)
  • Stanley Glasser Serenade for piano, ten instruments and synthesizer (1974)
  • Lily Greenham Traffic; lingual music (1975; four track tape)
  • Stephen Peter Lawson Radio Music II (1972)
  • Anna Lockwood Tiger Balm (1970; reduced version for disc, Source 9; partly composed at Tangent studio, London)
  • John Metcalf Notturno (1971; chamber orchestra and tape)
  • George Newson Ballet Scene (1972)
  • Laura Owens Omen (1973-74; choir and four track tape)
  • Tom Puckey George Jackson Texts (1971-72; two speaking voices and tape)
  • Howard Rees . . . The Cat's Paw Among the SIlence of Midnight Goldfish (1969; trombone, six instruments and tape)
  • Howard Rees Doug's New Flute Thing (1969; amplified flute, tape and live electronics)
  • David Rowland Masques (1973; oboe/cor anglais, percussion and two stereo tapes)
  • James Siddons Guy Fawkes (1970; actors, musicians and tape)
  • Andrew Wilson Childhood's End (1971)
  • Margaret Lucy Wilkins SCI-FI (1972)

List of main studio equipment as at September 1976:

  • Custom-built 10-in 4-out mixer
  • Lux and Quad amplifiers
  • Tannoy and Goodmans speakers
  • Two VCS3 synthesizers
  • Keyboard (prototype for above)
  • EMS pitch to voltage converter
  • Six sine-wave generators (Hewlett-Packard, Leland)
  • Three sine/square-wave generators (Heathkit)
  • Astronic octave filter A1671
  • Amcron dual channel band-pass/reject filter VFX2
  • Two Mullard high-pass filters GFF 001/02
  • Heathkit 10-12U oscilloscope
  • Two Revox G36 stereo tape recorders (one high speed, one low)
  • Two Revox A77 stereo tape recorders (one high speed, one low; each has a different variable speed device)
  • Remote control for one Revox A77 on mixer
  • Two TEAC A3340 four track tape recorders
  • Racal Universal Counter 8935
  • Simple ring-modulators, phase-shifter, wave-shapers, reverberation unit, signal level boosters (own constructions)
  • Various acoustic and contact microphones, headphones, portable mixers, test equipment.


Content last modified: 28 Apr 2009

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