80 MIN

Elektronmusikstudion (EMS)


Produced by André Chêdas, after two marathonian interview sessions by Sam Roig and Anna Ramos

Formerly an engineer in the electronics industry, Mats Lindström is a composer and musician whose intermedia work has been presented in concerts, theatre and dance productions as well as in the form of radio-art and sound installations. Mats has also been involved with the artistic community of the Fylkingen Society since the 1980s and is currently the director of the Elektronmusikstudion (EMS), the center for Swedish electroacoustic music and sound art in Stockholm.

Founded in 1964, the EMS has since become one of the most important studios for research and radical art and music in Europe. Karl Birger Blomdahl, composer and the first music director of the Swedish Radio, had an electronic music studio built in 1965 as a central hub for the EMS. ‘The Sound Workshop’ opened its doors to composers on the site of an old radio theater studio and was directed by Knut Wigen, a radical Norwegian composer and electronic music pioneer. He envisioned an EMS that was not to be just an electroacoustic studio, but should also operate as a research institution of international reach. His understanding of the role the EMS should play eventually led to the investment in an advanced computer music studio in 1970.

It could be argued that the somewhat divergent visions behind each of these studios and workstations came to embody some of the conflicting approaches within the EMS. The futuristic research-based approach fostered by Wigen was far from consensual, as some composers believed the EMS should allow for empirical, hands-on experimentation. And yet, it was also this very pluralism that provided scope for the EMS to both contribute decisively to the advancement of electronic music and to play a pivotal role in the emergence of the ‘text-sound’ movement in the sixties.

An intermedia genre combining electro-acoustic elements and sound poetry, text-sound drew from earlier efforts in poésie concrete, as well as from other movements with an interest in the use of human speech free from conventional values such as Fluxus and Lettrism. In 1953, after attending the first Swedish Radio and Fylkingen Society electronic music concert with Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer, Swedish artist Öyvind Fahlström wrote a manifesto for concrete poetry. More than a decade later, the Swedish Radio broadcasted his pioneer radio piece “Fåglar I Sverige (Birds in Sweden)”. Ilmar Laaban, Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Åke Hodell and Bengt Emil Johnson would soon follow in his footsteps and become references within the text-sound tradition.

Throughout the decades, the complexity and scope of production values around EMS made it a hub for artists such as Rune Lindblad, Ákos Rózmann, Henri Chopin, Sonja Åkesson and Sten Hanson. It also laid the groundwork for the more permeable and diverse environment that can be found today at EMS: an open studio for sound art, live electronics, media, conservatories and art school programs housing around 300 producers and composers each year.

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