The Future Sound Of Pop Music

Research Symposium         University of the Arts         Bern, Switzerland

30 November - 2 December 2017



Many thanks

Many thanks to all contributors for a gorgeous conference. We hope you enjoyed your stay in Bern, the papers, workshops, and discussions. For some impressions see on our Facebook site.


The significance of individual sounds – their origins, their development and their future – has until now rarely been an object of research in popular music. This symposium will discuss how the sound aesthetic of popular music has changed over the past decades. It will debate how sounds have been created, how they are employed, and how they are constantly being renewed and replaced by new sounds. Last but not least, the symposium will discuss the future of sounds in pop music by addressing the following questions:

·       How are sounds modified, manipulated and transformed today, and how will this be done in the future?
·       What role do new interfaces and controllers play in the development of new sounds?
·       What do current sound generators offer?
·       What new sound generators might we expect in the future?
·       How will pop music sound, 10 or 20 years from now?

The following keynote speakers have been invited:

  • John Chowning (San Francisco)
  • Lippold Haken (Illinois)
  • Edmund Eagan (Ottawa)
  • Wayne Marshall (Boston)
  • Bruno Spoerri (Zurich)
  • Annie Goh (London)
  • Marie Thompson (Lincoln)
  • Katia Isakoff (London)


This symposium is part of the HKB research project “Cult sounds” of Immanuel Brockhaus and Thomas Burkhalter (Norient), which is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. For more information, see or


Further papers have been chosen from call for abstracts in the following subject fields:

1.    Technological aspects
The development of new synthesis procedures, editors, controllers and management software for auditory events seems to have reached a point at which the possible fields of application in music have been optimised and are both highly developed and user-friendly. Music technologies are future-oriented, but also process and transform past accomplishments. We wish to determine what virtual settings can offer, both within DAW systems and outside them. More and more developers and users are turning to physical systems (especially modular systems) that offer a great degree of openness and haptic characteristics. We aim to discuss this field of development.

2.    Socio-cultural aspects
Innovations in music technology and the renewal and expansion of sounds have often taken place in experimental settings or through unconventional approaches adopted by those involved. We can often observe that new sounds develop in subcultures and are later adopted by the mainstream. What is the approach of those who develop, use and consume these sounds? What networks exist and emerge around the idea of a new sound? Do small teams of developers determine what happens? In what environments do sonic innovations occur? And what are the impact and significance of specific sounds in different social and cultural contexts?

3.    Sound aesthetic aspects
Innovative sounds that are used excessively in the mainstream for aesthetic or commercial reasons can divide the production and listening communities. Current preferences such as auto-tune, filtering, sidechain compression, stutter effects and bandstop effects are omnipresent but are not necessarily new, nor even genuine pop sounds.
How are “new” sounds perceived and evaluated? How do individual sounds change the overall aesthetic of pop songs?





Immanuel Brockhaus and Thomas Burkhalter, HKB (lead)
Assistants: Sabine Jud and Daniel Allenbach

This symposium is part of the HKB research project “Cult sounds” of Immanuel Brockhaus and Thomas Burkhalter, which is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.




University Bern



The German-speaking branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music






Supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation


Thursday, 11/30

12.00 – 13.00 Registration
13.00 Welcome
Panel 1 – Sounds I (Chair: Immanuel Brockhaus/Thomas Burkhalter)
13.15 Bruno Spoerri (Zurich): Keynote: The Promised Land of New Sounds – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
14.00 Peter Kraut (Bern): Sounds und Standards – ein schwieriges Verhältnis
14.30 Michael Harenberg/Daniel Weissberg (Bern): «Are sounds just sounds or are they Beethoven?»
15.00 Coffee Break
Panel 2 – Sounds II (Chair: Immanuel Brockhaus/Thomas Burkhalter)
15.30 Katia Isakoff (London): Keynote: Creating a Musical Use for Electricity (A Romance Novel)
16.30 Robert Michler (Bern): Erweiterte Soundästhetik der rhythmischen Elemente im Groove der Popmusik
17.00 Benoît Piccand/Jürgen Strauss/Gaël Martinet (Bern): 3D audio. Pop und Raum – vom Tonstudio bis in die Hosentasche
18.30 Free evening


Friday, 12/1

Panel 3 – Aesthetics (Chair: Anja Brunner)
9.30 John Chowning (San Francisco): Keynote: FM Synthesis – Fifty Years
10.30 Heiko Wandler (Karlsruhe): Der Einfluss der Synthesizer auf die Ästhetik der elektronischen Klubmusik
11.00 Coffee break
11.30 Christofer Jost (Freiburg/Basel): Weite, Fülle, Präzision. Über die Klangästhetik des Gitarren-Delays und dessen Bedeutung in gegenwärtiger Popmusik
12.00 Christina M. Heinen (Oldenburg): "Music of Black Holes and Sounds from Space". LIGO Sonification and its Creative Side-Effects
12.30 Christophe Fellay (Sion/London): Rhythm and Noise
13.00 Lunch Break
Panel 4 – Technology (Chair: Immanuel Brockhaus/Thomas Burkhalter)
14:30 Jan Herbst (Bielefeld): Old Sounds with New Technologies? Examining the Creative Potential of Guitar "Profiling" Technology from a Production Perspective
15.00 Jack Davenport (Lancashire): Playful Musical Interfaces. Introducing the "Sound of Colour"
15.30 Werner Jauk (Graz): Forward Back ... Sound-Gesture-Technologies. The Im-Mediate Bodily Shaping of Immaterial Sound & Sonic Pop-Culture
16.00 Coffee Break
16.30 Fereydoun Pelarek (Sydney): Sound Design Techniques of the Live Looping Performance Artist
17.00 Lippold Haken (Illinois)/Edmund Eagan (Ottawa): Keynote: Finger Control of Timbre throughout Each Note. Challenges for New Controllers and New Sound Generators
18.30 Dinner
20.00 Haken Continuum – Workshop Lippold Haken/Edmund Eagan: A New Paradigm for Timbre Control. Finger-Influenced Patching in the EaganMatrix


Saturday, 12/2

Panel 5 – Philosophy & Sociology (Chair: Britta Sweers)
9.30 Wayne Marshall (Boston): Keynote: From Breakbeats to Fruity Loops. Small Sounds and Scenes in the Age of the DAW
10.30 Robin James (Charlotte): Novelty, Speculation, Wake. How Pop Music Conceives of "the Future" (1983–2017)
11.00 Coffee Break
11.30 Georgi Tomov Georgiev (Berlin): The Future of Techno
12.00 Marie Thompson (Lincoln): Keynote: Uterine Soundsystems, Foetal “Listening” and the Auditory Politics of the Future
13.00 Lunch Break
Panel 6 – Reception & Sociology (Chair: Britta Sweers)
14.30 Hannes Liechti (Bern): Rattling Chains and Cackling Chickens. Non-Musical Sampling in Experimental Electronic Pop
15.00 Holger Lund (Ravensburg): The Master’s Master? Neue Soundästhetiken durch post-produktives Mastering und Vinylcut
15.30 Coffee Break
Panel 7 – Virtuality (Chair: Immanuel Brockhaus/Thomas Burkhalter)
16.00 Annie Goh (London): Keynote: Sounding Cyber*feminist Futures. Speculations on Sonic Unknowns
17.00 Ruben Brockhaus/Studygroup HTW Berlin (Berlin): V-Age, Alterungsprozesse bei virtuellen Instrumenten
17.30 Marie-Kristin Meier (Berlin): Immersion als ästhetische Strategie in Virtual Reality Experiences und elektronischer Musik

19.00 Concert Bruno Spoerri: CAJ (Computer-assisted Jazz)

End of the Symposium

Programme Draft (pdf, subject to change)


John Chowning

FM Synthesis – Fifty Years

Its’ discovery in 1967 led to increasing interest in producing music by computers within the academic world because of its efficiency and the breadth of possible sounds. The development of the technique then led to interest from the music industry of which only one company understood the implications of the sampling theorem and also supported a research environment to exploit FM synthesis – Yamaha. With the introduction of the all-digital and programmable DX7 in 1983, computer music was democratized, no longer confined to large institutional computers. The collaboration between Yamaha and Stanford University was preceded by collaboration between disciplines within Stanford and the formation of CCRMA in 1974 where broad applications of computer technology to acoustics and music were pursued.

This paper shall give insights into the discovery and development of FM and shed new light on the actual projects at Stanford concerning sound studies and technology and the role of the institution in connection to other important researchers.


John Chowning studied music at Wittenberg University and composition in Paris for three years with Nadia Boulanger. In 1966 he received the doctorate in composition from Stanford University, later he discovered the frequency modulation (FM) algorithm in which both the carrier frequency and the modulating frequency are within the audio band. This breakthrough in the synthesis of timbres allowed a very simple yet elegant way of creating and controlling time-varying spectra. Beginning in 1966 Chowning taught computer-sound synthesis and composition at Stanford University's Department of Music and was the founding director in 1974 of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), one of the leading centers for computer music and related research. For his work he received numerous awards.

Lippold Haken/Edmund Eagan

Finger Control of Timbre throughout Each Note. Challenges for New Controllers and New Sound Generators

In recent years, the ideas of “Expressive Controllers” and “Expressive Midi” have been popularized, and many devices have hit the market. As a result, there is much confusion about the capabilities of “Expressive Controllers”, and misguided expectations that “Expressive Controllers” are generic and interchangeable in the same way that Midi keyboards are generic and interchangeable. Often “Expressive Controllers” are based on inexpensive sensing technologies and conventional synthesis methods, and end up being little more than traditional Midi keyboards with a new way to pitch bend. Lippold Haken has been developing the Continuum Fingerboard since the 1980s, culminating in the Continuum Fingerboard with Light Action six years ago. This talk will discuss five key features of a Continuum Fingerboard with Light Action that set it apart from other “Expressive Controllers”: temporal resolution, pressure sensitivity, attack (onset) fine structure, pitch sensitivity, and nontrivial mapping of finger actions to novel synthesis algorithms. Edmund Eagan will play live examples that highlight the issues presented.


Workshop: A New Paradigm for Timbre Control. Finger-Influenced Patching in the EaganMatrix

The EaganMatrix is the modular digital synthesizer internal to the Continuum Fingerboard. It provides finely crafted presets and complete custom programmability. The EaganMatrix is inspired by classic modular matrix patching synthesizers; it extends the classical approach to create a sophisticated finger-influenced matrix patching system. This workshop will introduce the basic concepts of the EaganMatrix and show how placing versatile formulas inside matrix patch points can create a detailed relationship between fingers on the Continuum Fingerboard surface and the flow of sound from patch point source to destination. Each three-dimensional performance direction of the Continuum playing surface can influence the final result of every single patch point. The workshop will include live demonstrations of patching and performance techniques, and encourage audience participation in sound design.


Edmund Eagan is an audio manipulator extraordinaire, bringing over 30 years of professional experience to his work. This is backed by five years of university study in music composition at Ottawa and Toronto, Canada. During his career he has explored many varied musical genres, resulting in numerous award winning productions. As well as doing original music and sound design work, Edmund has participated in numerous audio recordings both as performer and producer, and has been extensively involved in the design and operation of a new innovative musical instrument, the Continuum Fingerboard, manufactured by Haken Audio.


Lippold Haken received a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois and teaches nowadays at the University’s ECE department. Lippold started working on the Continuum Fingerboard in the early 1980s when he was a student at the University of Illinois. He tried many different designs and many different finger detection technologies. It is challenging to polyphonically track the small finger movements involved in expressive playing, and at the same time have a good surface feel. The last decade has been especially exciting; he has been working with Canadian sound designer Edmund Eagan to develop built-in sounds that are specifically designed for the Continuum’s three-dimensional playing surface.

Bruno Spoerri


The Promised Land of New Sounds – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

In 1967 a demonstration record for the first Moog synthesizers promised: “With suitable control devices virtually any sound can be produced”. Has this promise been fulfilled? Can we really produce all sounds we need? And furthermore: Do we really have the suitable control devices to achieve this? Today we seem to have more technical possibilities than ever – but do we really use them to produce outstanding music?


Bruno Spoerri (*1935) began his career as a saxophone player in various amateur jazz groups. After studies in Psychology he made the music his profession, composing music for advertisement, documentaries and other movies, television jingles and radioplays. Since 1965 he works by the means of the electronic music, being one of the co-founders of the Swiss Centre for electronic music in 1985. His main interests are in improvisation with electronics. In 2005 he published his book Jazz in der Schweiz, in 2010 Musik aus dem Nichts. Die Geschichte der elektroakustischen Musik in der Schweiz.

Wayne Marshall

From Breakbeats to Fruity Loops. Small Sounds and Scenes in the Age of the DAW

In contrast to the aesthetics fostered by turntable practice in the 1970s and by the first generation of digital samplers in the 80s – both oriented toward vinyl-based repertories and familiar grooves – a more atomized approach to sample-based music has emerged over the last decade in the wake of widespread access to music software and broadband access to a global musical archive. The advent of the digital audio workstation (DAW), especially the virtual step-sequencer known as FL Studio (or Fruity Loops), has served to extend and intensify the sample-based practices of previous generations. This is especially audible in the establishment of new canons of cherished, iconic samples among certain circles of producers and of listening, dancing publics. A genre or musical public may now be based as much around a small set of samples – and their distinctive timbres – as, say, conventions of rhythm, tempo, harmony, or form. Notably, such samples can be surprisingly small as they speak volumes.

The resonant snares of reggaeton, the tamborzao toolkit of Brazilian funk, the “Ha” stab of the ballroom/vogue scene, the “Ice Rink” clink percolating through UK club music and beyond – and let's not forget the myriad emulations of practically every drum machine Roland produced in the 1980s – all of these serve as potent cultural dogwhistles, addressing musical publics and shared among private and public networks of producers. Today, musical publics gathered around all manner of popular (and obscure) electronic dance music are more likely to be hailed by a set of brief sonic signifiers than by looping breakbeats or well-worn melodies; the new instrument of choice, the DAW, looms as large over this ascendant approach as the turntable or the guitar did in their own heydays.

This atomized, “timbral” turn in musical production would thus seem to reiterate the familiar story of how profoundly an instrument can shape the sound of music through its particular affordances and constraints – even an instrument so seemingly “neutral” as an “empty” DAW. At the same time, we also bear witness to the ways musicians (and the listening/dancing publics implicated by their productions) inevitably use instruments according to particular cultural logics, political economies, and social contexts. This lecture will explore and examine some of these scenes and sounds, probing the implications for creativity and authorship, ownership and participation, repertory and community. 


Wayne Marshall is an assistant professor of music history at Berklee College of Music and a visiting professor at Harvard University. An ethnomusicologist by training, his research examines the interplay between sound reproduction technologies, media regimes, and musical publics, with a focus on hip-hop's and reggae's intertwined, global histories. Published in a variety of scholarly journals reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of his work, Marshall co-edited Reggaeton (Duke 2009) and complements his academic work by sharing mashups and mixes online and writing for press outlets such as Wax Poetics and The Wire as well as on his critically acclaimed blog, wayneandwax.

Annie Goh


Sounding Cyber*feminist Futures. Speculations on Sonic Unknowns

What can the legacies of cyber*feminism offer towards thinking about sonic futures? Cyber*feminist thought and action since the 1990s has demanded that the intersections of gender, race, class and ability be included in the often all-encompassing enthusiasm which dominates debates around technology. Crypton Future Media’s hugely successful virtual pop star Hatsune Miku’s character name translates literally as “the first sound from the future.” Taking Miku as an example, I will examine what tropes of its history as a vocaloid software combined with successful marketing strategies have led to its huge popularity. Miku as a vacant feminized technologized vessel in which the voice plays a central role has a history which can be traced back at least to the sexist science fiction of August Villiers de L'Isle-Adam’s 1886 novel “The Future Eve”.

Undeniably, technological innovations shape pop musical aesthetics, however my lecture aims to explore from a cyber*feminist position which tropes have transformed and which have, according to history, unfortunately remained the same in the larger ecologies of popular music. In line with a tradition of feminist speculative thought, I suggest that greater attention to the inequitable politics and economics of music technology production today will be vital in challenging notions of music technology in the future.


Annie Goh is an artist and researcher working primarily with sound, space, electronic media and generative processes within their social and cultural contexts. She holds an MA in Sound Studies, MFA in Generative Art and a BA (Hons) German & European Studies. She has recently published in MAP – Media | Archive | Performance, n.paradoxa. feminist art journal, Flusseriana. An Intellectual Toolbox & Unsound/Undead (forthcoming 2017). She has co-curated the discourse program of CTM Festival since 2013 and has lectured at Berlin University of Arts (Art and Media) and Humboldt University (Media Theory). She is currently undertaking a PhD at Goldsmiths University of London, Department of Media and Communications as a Stuart Hall PhD fellow and funded by CHASE/AHRC.

Marie Thompson

Uterine soundsystems, foetal ‘listening’ and the auditory politics of the future

In December 2015, the Spanish company Babypod, in collaboration with the singer and former Eurovision entryist Soraya Arnelas held the first ‘concert for foetuses’. Attended by 10 future parents, the show consisted largely of acoustic pop covers of Christmas songs and carols, transmitted to foetuses using the ‘Babypod’ vaginal speaker. With the tagline ‘music is life’, Babypod claims to stimulate vocalization of babies before birth, helping to develop their communication skills in the womb.

This talk addresses the sonic and gender politics of contemporary pre-natal speaker technologies. It will ask what kind of futures, temporalities and ‘listeners’ these devices seek to produce via (certain forms of) music. Through considering the hierarchical relations between production and reproduction, I will suggest that these seemingly new uterine sound technologies are shaped by longstanding notions of feminized mediation, audiophilia and fidelity.


Marie Thompson is a lecturer in Media, Sound and Culture at the University of Lincoln. Her research examines the affective, material and gendered dimensions of sound, noise and music. She obtained her PhD in Musicology at Newcastle University and is the author of Beyond Unwanted Sound. Noise, Affect and Aesthetic Moralism (Bloomsbury, 2017) and the co-editor of Sound, Music, Affect. Theorizing Sonic Experience (Bloomsbury, 2013).


Katia Isakoff

Creating a Musical Use for Electricity (A Romance Novel)

In 2016, Katia performed at Electri_City Conference (Dusseldorf) alongside John Foxx, Steve D’Agostino and Karborn, adding her newly adopted Moog Theremini to the sonic architecture of their audio/graphic novel Evidence of time Travel; previously premiered at the British Film Institute, Southbank (UK) and Sonic Acts Festival (Amsterdam). In the lead-up to this performance, she had cause to abandon her original instrument of choice – the Etherwave Theremin – and to reconsider her choice of sound and its placement within the live mix. Moreover, to consider what the audience’s expectation might be having heard there was to be a guest thereminist.

“But instruments do not make music: people do.” (Max Rudolph, 1992)

By tracing the history and development of the space-controlled ether-wave Theremin, and examining Moog’s latest model - the Theremini; this talk seeks to explore the ways in which musicians inform and influence the development, reception and adoption of new and existing instruments, therefore, sounds.


Katia Isakoff is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, music producer (Mute Records, EMI, Universal and Metamatic Records) and studio owner. She holds two NFP roles: co-chair of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production and founder of Women Produce Music (WPM). Current activities include: co-editing a book for Routledge, The Art of Record Production, Volume 2: Creative Practice in the Studio and a WPM project (supported by Moog Music Inc. amongst others).


Immanuel Brockhaus


Die prägendsten Klänge der Popmusik 1960-2014 / Release: July 2017

Einzelsounds prägen die Geschichte der Popmusik. Der Clap Sound, der Synthesizer-Bass, der Klang eines DX 7 E-Pianos oder Auto-Tune sind genuine Popsounds und stehen in hohem Maße für die Identifizierung von Stilen.
Immanuel Brockhaus analysiert erstmals umfassend prägende Einzelsounds in ihrem Entstehungs- und Entwicklungskontext und liefert damit Einblicke in Technologie, Anwendungspraxis und Ästhetik von Kultsounds sowie den damit verbundenen Netzwerken.
Interviews mit Roger Linn, Boris Blank, And.Ypsilon und vielen anderen bekannten Akteuren ergänzen die Studie und verdeutlichen die Popularität und Komplexität von Sounds und Soundeffekten.


Immanuel Brockhaus

Research Departement University of the Arts, Bern

Conference Organisation and web development

Dr. Immanuel Brockhaus [*1960]  is a jazz pianist, keyboardist, composer, producer, teacher and author. He published several books about piano and band playing. His latest publication is a research project about digital editing techniques in popular music (Inside The Cut, Transcript 2010) and an article about the early sound of ECM productions. He is researcher in sound studies at The University Bern and the University of the Arts Bern. His project Cult Sounds is supported by the SNF (Swiss National Fond). Immanuel Brockhaus lives in Bern and Berlin.


Thomas Burkhalter

Research Departement University of the Arts

Conference Organisation

Dr. Thomas Burkhalter [*1973] is an ethnomusicologist, music journalist and cultural producer from Bern (Switzerland). He is the founder and editor-in-chief of He is working as a research associate and project leader at the Academy of Arts Berne and the University of Basel (Seminary of Cultural Studies and European Ethnology). He published the book Local Music Scenes and Globalization: Transnational Platforms in Beirut (Routledge), and co-edited book The Arab Avant Garde: Musical Innovation in the Middle East (Wesleyan University Press), Seismographic Sounds – Visions of a New World (Norient Books) and Out of the Absurdity of Life – Global Music (Norient/Traversion).



Sabine Jud, Martin Skamletz, Daniel Allenbach

Sabine Jud.png

The Team Research Area Interpretation – Sabine Jud, Martin Skamletz, Daniel Allenbach – is experienced in hosting conferences and enabling research in all musical fields. The Research Area Interpretation at the Bern University of the Arts includes projects on historically informed performance of the 19th and 20th century, historical music instruments, music theory, but also performance and sound studies. More information on projects, events and publications may be found on


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You can reach the conference building by bus No. 10 from main station (direction Ostermundigen) The bus is stop is Schosshaldenfriedhof.

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