A short history of the Institute of Sonology

In 1956 the Philips Natural Sciences (Natuurkundig) Laboratory opened a studio for electronic music within the walls of the acoustics department. This acoustics department already had a long tradition as pionieer in the areas of resonance and echo testing, concert multiplication, electronic music instruments, loudspeaker and microphone design, synthetic sound, perception recearch and stereophonics.


Philips decided in 1960 that it could no longer provide housing for an electronics studio in the Natural Sciences Laboratory, which was becoming more a workshop for composers and less a location providing a service in the interests of the business. After the possibility of the survival of the studio being the subject of consultation with all kinds of organisations, this was in the end transferred to the Rijksuniversiteit in Utrecht. Housing was found in a small part of the "Atlanta" building on the Plompetorengracht. The influence of Philips originally remained large, and there where no clear artistic aims.


This artistic path would be set by Gottfried Michael Koenig. Koenig had already been a speaker in The Netherlands during the annual Gaudeamus music week in Bilthoven since 1961, where he also started a course for electronic music in a very small studio in the garden house of the Walter Maashuis. In 1964 Koenig became artistic director of STEM, and Frank de Vries the business leader. Under their leadership STEM quickly grew into a studio complex that took over the entire Atlanta building, and which earned an international reputation as a production, education and research institute. In 1967 an annual international course in electronic music was set up which is still in existence. A year later STEM was renamed the “Institute of Sonology”. In 1986 the Institute of Sonology moved to the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. A more detailed description of this history can be found on the website www.sonology.org.


Alongside the one year course there is now also a four year conservatoire principal study (Bachelor) course and a two year Master. Central aspects of the educational programme remain: electronic music production, digital sound synthesis, algoritmic composition, voltage control techniques and music theory. With the rise of live electronic music there is now an important additional branch, whereby as much attention is paid to the compositional models as to the technical aspects of software and hardware. Interfaces are designed and built in the electronics workshop at the Royal Conservatoire.