Page  00000444 University of Helsinki Music Research Laboratory and Electronic Music Studio - A Studio Report Kai Lassfolk Department of Musicology P.O.Box 35, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland Abstract In 2001, the University of Helsinki Electronic Music Studio celebrated its 40 years of excistence. Thus, it is the oldest still operational electronic music studios in the Nordic countries. In 1960's and 1970's, the University studio was one of the central facilities for Finnish avan-garde composers. However, since the mid 1980's, the focus of the activities has shifted from electronic music composition to computer-based music research. Hence, the studio is now also called University of Helsinki Music Research Laboratory. A short history University of Helsinki Electronic Music Studio was founded by Erkki Kurenniemi in 1961. In the early 1960's, the equipment consisted of conventional analog recording and synthesis equipment. Kurenniemi also built analog synthesis equipment, for example, for the Finnish avant-garde artist M.A. Numminen. In the late 1960's, Kurenniemi began experimenting with digital electronics. In 1970 he built the DIMI-A, a compact size, all-digital, programmable synthesizer. DIMI-A had two square wave tone generators, two 7-band filter banks, a signal input and a 256-step programmable sequencer holding up to a total of 100 parameter settings including tonal parameters, tempo changes and sequencer jump instruction. Two DIMIA's were manufactured, one for the University studio and the other for the Swedish composer Ralf Lundsten. The first unit, still in operational condition, is currently on display in the Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art, but will be returned to the University studio in 2004. Between 1970 and 1975 Kurenniemi built a range of digital music instruments including the microprocessor-based, machine code programmable, modular synthesizer DIMI 6000, the video-controlled DIMI-O and the digital mixer DIMIX. In 1970's, the studio was maintained by Jukka Ruohomaki, who composed music using both Kurenniemi's instruments and traditional analog equipment. Ruohomiki's interest in computer graphics also made him one of the early pioneers of Finnish digital computer animation. In the early 1980's, the premises of the Department of Musicology were repaired and the studio was moved to a temporary location. The studio was reconstructed by Andrew Bentley and in 1984 the studio was moved to its current location at Vironkatu 1. After a short return of Jukka Ruohomaki in 1984, the studio maintenance was taken over jointly by Pauli Laine and Kai Lassfolk. The latter is the current maintainer. Laine and Lassfolk directed the main activity from electronic music to research. In the 1980's, the computer equipment consisted of Apple IIs and Macintoshes. At the end of the decade, program development shifted from Apple IIs to MSDOS and PC-based Unix systems. In the early 1990's, a system of several NeXT workstations were purchased. Also at the same time, access to the university local area network and broadband Internet access were acquired. The NeXT-based system remained the computing backbone nearly throughout the 1990's. At the end of the decade, Linux was chosen as the primary operating system. The current facilities The studio occupies one of the four floors at to the Department of Musicology. The rooms consist of a recording room, two control rooms, a separate tape music studio, a service room, and an office. The individual rooms a relatively small but their amount is adequate for several concurrent activities including lectures and studio work. The control room is equipped with an Eela Audio mixing console and a small selection of outboard equipment. A PC workstation is available for multitrack recording. The PC is equipped with Steinberg/ RME Audio digital sound card and an 8-channel 96kHz/24-bit ADDA converter. Steinberg Nuendo is used as the primary recording and editing program. The PC can be also used as a Linux workstation, e.g., for running Csound or jMax. The tape music studio provides a historic perspective for electronic music composition and education. The equipment is nearly all-analog including a set of two-track tape recorders, a Putney VCS-3 and a Roland System 100M synthesizer. 444

Page  00000445 The rest of the rooms are equipped with Linux PC wokstations. They act as clients to a Linux file and print server. The old NeXT workstation/server system is still in operation, but used only occasionally. In addition, Macintosh workstations are used for specialized tasks. From the 1960's throughout the 1980's the studio was maintained mainly by part-time or voluntary personnel. In 1995, the first full-time teaching position was received. Currently, the staff consist of one fulltime and one part-time employee. The studio maintains a WWW site at It contains course material (mainly in Finnish) and downloadable software. Research activities Kurenniemi's research in digital synthesis was followed by software development projects by Andrew Bentley, Pauli Laine and Kai Lassfolk, among others. Bentley developed software for hybrid sound synthesis. A joint research project was conducted with prof. Teuvo Kohonen's laboratory at Helsinki University of Techonology. The project involved a musical application of Kohonen's Dynamically Expanding Context system [2]. Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Pauli Laine and Kai Lassfolk wrote a composition toolkit for Apple II and later for MSDOS. The system, called HUMAC, was the starting point of several software development projects including Laine's and Kalev Tiits' AGO for MSDOS and Kervinen's and Lassfolk's Helsinki Music Tools for Unix [1]. In 1994, experiments with Object-oriented programming led to the development of Sound Processing Kit, a signal processing framework first written in Objective-C for NeXT computers [4]. SPKit was rewritten in C++ and ported to other Unix-compatible operating systems. SPKit is distributed under the Gnu Library General Public License. From 1999 to 2001 a research project on musical feedback was carried out. Other research areas include algorithmic composition systems [3], computer-based music notation, and qualitative analysis of musical instrument tones. Educational and musical activities From the early years to the mid 1980's, the teaching concentrated on basic studio technology computer music composition techniques. In the late 1980's, musicological computer applications, such as computer-assisted music analysis, became part of the course repertoire. In 1993, a Master of Arts program in computer-assisted music research was established. The studio also offers courses for musicology students. Also, computer-assisted music research can be stud ied as a minor subject by students of other faculties and universities. As a result, the student base is heterogeneous including people from musicology, computer science, acoustics, etc. The M.A. program includes courses on musical acoustics, recording techniques, electro-acoustic music, musical application programming and seminars on computer-based music research. The students may specialize, for example, in computer-based music analysis, algorithmic composition or audio signal processing. The studio has arranged occasional concerts presenting the works of it's composers. Also, works of other composers have been performed. For example in 1999, Kaija Saariaho's Lonh for soprano and electronics was performed at the Helsinki Musica Nova festival. The next concert, planned for fall 2002, will celebrate the first 40 years of the studio. Recently, the studio has experienced a revival of traditional analog tape music techniques as well as a renewed interest in Kurenniemi's work. However, computer-based research will remain the principal activity of the studio. Conclusion During its existence, The University of Helsinki Electronic Music Studio has experienced the shift from analog to digital equipment but retained some of the now historic devices in active use. The studio has also played an active role in the development of electronic music instruments and computer software. Although the current emphasis of its activities is on education and research, the studio still provides facilities for electronic music composers. References [1] J.-P. Kervinen and K. Lassfolk. Helsinki Music Tools. Proceedings of the 1993 International Computer Music Conference. The International Computer Music Association, Tokyo, Japan, pp. 352-354, 1993. [2] T. Kohonen, P. Laine, K. Tiits, and K. Torkkola. A Nonheuristic Automatic Composition Method. Music and Connectionism, P. Todd and G. Loy (ed.). MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, pp. 227-242, 1991. [3] P. Laine. A Method for Generating Musical Motion Patters. Ph.D. dissertation. The Finnish Musicological Society, Helsinki, 2000. [4] Kai Lassfolk. Sound Processing Kit - An ObjectOriented Signal Processing Framework. Proceedings of the 1999 International Computer Music Conference. The International Computer Music Association, Beijing, China, 1999. 445