The ‘Siemens Synthesiser’ H.Klein & W.Schaaf. Germany, 1959

Siemens Studio

Siemens Studio

The Siemens Synthesiser or ‘Siemens Studio For Electronic Music’ was a German development similar to the RCA Synthesiser originally to compose live electronic music for Siemens’s own promotional documentary films. Like the RCA MkII, The Siemens Studio was a modular ‘composition and synthesis system’ that generated musical sequences and synthesised and recorded the results. The Siemens Synthesiser was developed by Helmut Klein and W.Schaaf at Siemens Halske in Munich, Germany in 1959 for the Studio Für Elektronische Musik in Munich. The Siemens system linked and controlled the studio using a similar system to the RCA Synthesiser, a set of four punch paper vari-speed rolls controlling the timbre, envelope, pitch and volume of a bank of 20 oscillators, a white noise generator, a Hohnerola (a hybrid electronically amplified reed instrument marketed by Hohner-similar to the ‘Multimonica‘) and an impulse generator. The synthesiser had a tonal range of seven octaves.

Siemens studio Equipment:

Tone Generation

  1. Hohnerola: “An electronic tongue-instrument of 84 tones from C to H”
  2. An impulse or sawtooth generator with 84 tones
  3. 1 white noise generator
  4. A generator for statistic impulses which are made from white noise with the help of a trigger
  5. 4 sine tone generators [20 - 20'000 Hz]
  6. 20 special sine generators. These generators a 3 frequency spectrum, from 1r5 – 160 Hz, 150 – 1600 Hz and 1500 – 16000 Hz, with the option of continual change from sine to square wave.
  7. A tone generator based on photo-electric principles

Tone Modulators

  1. Analogue reverb
  2. Echo delay
  3. Pitch transformer
  4. Echo frequency transformer
  5. Vocoder
Programming with the 'Semi Automatic Hole-strip Punching Machine' (left: the coding console. right: the hole puncing machine)

Programming with the ‘Semi Automatic Hole-strip Punching Machine’
(left: the coding console. right: the hole puncing machine)

Additional input devices were also developed for the Siemens Synthesiser; a drawn sound technique (photoelectrically generated sounds) allowed the scanning of photographic slides using Siemens’s specially designed ‘Bildabtaster’ technology. The German painter Günter Maas used this device to translate several of his paintings into musical compositions. Later models also had a Siemens Vocoder built in as a sound controller uniquely for its time, allowing the musician to give the sound vocal envelope characteristics.

The machine room at the 'Studio for Electronic Music' (L-R:punch-paper controller, 2 four channel magnetic tape recorders, 'Bildabtaster' picture-scanner.  Foreground:2 Master magnetic tape machines)

The machine room at the ‘Studio for Electronic Music’
(L-R:punch-paper controller, 2 four channel magnetic tape recorders, ‘Bildabtaster’ picture-scanner.
Foreground:2 Master magnetic tape machines)

The development of the Siemens synthesiser continued after the Munich studio had relocated to Ulm and came to an end when the studio was dissolved in 1969. The Siemens system was used by many European experimental composers throughout the 50′s and 60′s including Mauricio Kagel, Bengt Hambreus, Milko Kelemen and the director of the Munich Studio Für Elektronische Musik, Josef Anton Riedl.

The punch-paper strip controller (Lochstreifen-Schnellsender) A synchronous-motor moves the paper strips across the reader. The 4 parallel moving strips are read by removeable steel wire brushes. The system can also be run in reverse.

The punch-paper strip controller (Lochstreifen-Schnellsender)
A synchronous-motor moves the paper strips across the reader. The 4 parallel moving strips are read by removeable steel wire brushes. The system can also be run in reverse.

Diagram explaining the punch-tape coding for the Seimens Studio

Diagram explaining the punch-tape coding for the Seimens Studio

Coding of the Punch-tape reader:

  1. Pitch: The pitch is defined by two strips. One strip chooses the octave, the second the tones within the octave. There are 7 octaves , and 12 tones within those octaves, making 84 tones in total. They can be chosen in fixed tuning with the electronic tuner or in a tuning that can freely be chosen with the impulse generator and sine generators. Combinations allow the choice of several different generators.
  2. Volume: The volume can be defined in 32 steps of 1,5 dB.
  3. Timbre: The colouring (timbre) by a choice of 14 band filters or filter combinations
  4. Duration: The duration of the signal is defined by the number of equal hole combinations in connection with the reading speed of the punch-paper strip. There are three different speed settings of the paper strip, 64, 90 or 128 signals a second. The normal speed is 64 signals per second, i.e. a duration of 16 ms per signal. The duration is a quarter note, played in Mäzel’s Metronome MM = 120, is 0,5 s which equates to 32 equivalent hole combinations, an eighth note is then 16, a sixteenth note 8 hole combination.



Sources:

H.Klein:”Uber ein Apparatur zur Steuerung und Verformung von Klängen”,Nachrichtentechnische Fachberichte,cv(1959),31 Répertoire international des musiques expérimentales (Paris,1962),36.

The Siemens Museum Website

Images and details provided by Siemens Aktiengesellschaft, Siemens Forum, München.

“Klangsynthese und Klanganalyse im elektronischen Studio”, Siemens & Halske Aktiengesellschaft 1962