Sound Inventur: Music of the Time, 1954


Thursday, April 5, 2018, 8:00pm


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street

This listening session will examine the evolution of the Studio for Electronic Music following the early experiments by Eimert, Robert Beyer, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and others.


Presented by: Harvard Art Museums

Admission: Free admission, but limited seating is available. Tickets will be distributed beginning at 7:30pm at the Broadway entrance. One ticket per person.  

More Information


In 1954, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR Radio), in Cologne, Germany, broadcast Musik der Zeit (Music of Our Time), a series of works produced at the Studio for Electronic Music, an influential music studio founded at WDR in 1951 under the direction of composer Herbert Eimert.

Stockhausen—who became director of the studio in 1963—created works in the 1950s conceived entirely for electronic tape, free of voice or instrument. The first half of this program consists of a series of works created at WDR in 1953 and 1954 under the influence of serialism, a compositional movement that sought to regularize and rigorously organize not only the pitches, but also the durations, dynamics, and even timbres of sounds.

Neglecting the keyboard instruments the studio had acquired at considerable expense, Stockhausen used a sine wave generator to produce individual tones. He recorded them onto multichannel magnetic tapes, utilizing multitrack recording equipment to painstakingly combine the individual tones into complex sounds.

The program will also include a multichannel performance of Gesang der Jünglinge (Song of the Youths), composed by Stockhausen in 1956. Originally created for five-channel audio and later reduced by Stockhausen to four channels, the piece pioneered a technique of having different sets of speakers play different parts of the composition, making the dimensionality of the room an integral part of the performance. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55, Sound Inventur highlights pioneering techniques and innovations in electronic and experimental music alongside the creative influence of avant-garde music by French and American composers that took hold in West Germany in the immediate postwar years. This program is part of a series of Sound Experiments at the Harvard Art Museums, which takes advantage of the surround sound system in Menschel Hall to consider nonvisual creative practice.

This program will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway. Doors will open at 7pm. From 7 to 8pm, guests are invited to view the Inventur exhibition on Level 3. Free admission, but limited seating is available.

Tickets will be distributed beginning at 7:30pm at the Broadway entrance. One ticket per person.

Complimentary parking available in the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton Street, Cambridge.

Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. The Harvard Art Museums are deeply grateful to the German Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum (Verein der Freunde des Busch-Reisinger Museums) for making the exhibition catalogue possible and for providing additional funding for the exhibition. Major support for the exhibition and related programming comes from endowed funds, including the Daimler Curatorship of the Busch-Reisinger Museum Fund, the M. Victor Leventritt Fund, and the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. In addition, modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.