The RAI Musical Phonology Studio in Milan

By Sforzesco Castle

Lo Studio di Fonologia di Milano nel 1968Sforzesco Castle

The Studio in 1968
The RAI Musical Phonology Studio in Milan started in June 1955 on the initiative of the musicians Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna; in this Studio the first sound experiments were conducted which gave rise to electronic music in Italy.

Alfredo Lietti ai telai (ante1968)Sforzesco Castle

The Studio was designed by the physicist Alfredo Lietti and was composed of a set of equipment that allowed to generate electronic sounds, modify and combine the sounds generated, record and reproduce the compositions of those sounds.

Il trasloco delle apparecchiature presso il Museo degli Strumenti Musicali nel 2008 (2008)Sforzesco Castle

The Studio remained open until 1983. The devices were kept at the Rai until 2008 when, in order to make them visible to the public, it was decided to transfer them to the Museum of Musical Instruments, emphasizing the historical and musical value, even more than technological.

Il trasloco delle apparecchiature presso il Museo degli Strumenti Musicali nel 2008 (2008)Sforzesco Castle

L’allestimento attuale dello Studio in una delle sale del Museo degli Strumenti Musicali di Milano. (2008)Sforzesco Castle

The recomposition of the Studio in the Museum of Musical Instruments was made on the basis of photographs and films after 1968 ; the original furnishings designed by Gio Ponti were also used for the set-up.

Secondo telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

Frames containing the main equipment of the Phonology Studio

Primo telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

Most machines for the production of electronic sounds (sine wave generators, square wave generators, pulse generator, white noise generator, or a sound that contains almost all audible frequencies) and equipment to modify and combine the sounds (modulators, speed and duration variators, frequency shifters, different types of filters and echoes, multi-channel mixers) are contained in metal frames.In the first frame there is a selector panel with bushings.

Secondo telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

The number and arrangement of these appliances have changed several times over the years.
The current reconstruction recreates the structure after 1968 and includes, among other things, a tone burst generator, a white noise generator and nine sinusoidal oscillators.
All the sounds we commonly hear are complex sounds, they result from the sum of several elementary sounds. Sinusoids are these elementary components of sound, made up of only one frequency.

The oscillators of the Studio, each of which produced a different frequency, could also be used simultaneously, making available to composers a palette of elementary sounds to be combined and superimposed.

The second frame contains the following equipment:

- Brüel & Kjær 1011 beat oscillator
- 6 Wavetek 110 oscillators
- 2 Wavetek 115 oscillators
- Heathkit AG 10 oscillator
- Tone burst generator General Radio 1398-A

Terzo telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

The third frame contains the following equipment:

- Brüel & Kjær 1402 white noise generator
- SIAE 431A oscilloscope
- Elit MOD 201 / D amplifier millivoltmeter
- Mixer with nine inputs (made by Rai)
- Comparator (produced by Rai)
- 2 Appel 311 continuous loop cassette players

Quarto telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

The fourth frame contains the following equipment:

_2 Ring modulators (made by Rai)
_1 Amplitude modulator (made by Rai)
_2 Ring modulators for the frequency transposer (made by Rai)
_1 Electronic diverter (made by Rai)
_1 Empty drawer
_Dynamic modulator (made by Rai)
_Amplitude selector (made by Rai)
_Frequency transposer

Quinto telaio- Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

The fifth frame contains the following equipment:

_1 Auso Siemens ELA 75-01 amplifier for the 8 input mixer
_5 Empty drawers
_1 Auso Siemens ELA 23-03 power supply
_Hewlett-Packard 3591 selective voltmeter
_Hewlett-Packard 3594 frequency counter oscillator
_Bushing disconnector panel (made by Rai) _Eight input mixer (made by Rai)
_Variable band-pass filter Krohn-Hite 310-A
_Variable band-pass filter Krohn-Hite 310-AB

Sesto telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

The sixth frame contains the following equipment:

_Octave filter bank (made by Rai) _Bank of low-pass filters (made by Rai)
_High-pass filter bank (made by Rai).

Settimo telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

Empty frame designed for future plant expansions

Ottavo telaio - Studio di Fonologia di Milano (1968)Sforzesco Castle

The eighth frame contains the following equipment:

_5 OSAE P20 T amplifiers
_Bushing disconnector panel
_2 OSAE P20 T amplifiers.

Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Tempophon (1955-1956) by Eltro AutomationSforzesco Castle

Other tools

Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Banco di filtri a terza d’ottava (Ante 1958)Sforzesco Castle

Additional sound modifiers are located outside the frames.

A sound rich in frequencies can be "modeled" through filters: just as the sculptor creates a figure by subtracting material from a block of marble, so a particular timbre can be generated by subtracting frequencies from a richer sound, such as white noise.

The signals could also be processed with echo effects.

Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Sintetizzatore Sinket (1968)Sforzesco Castle

Sinket synthesizer: included three sounds combiners, an octave filter, a triple modulator, a white sound generator, a power supply, a volume pedal, a triple keyboard.

Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Tempophon (1955-1956) by Eltro AutomationSforzesco Castle

Tempophon: device with rotating heads that allowed you to vary the duration of the reproduction time of a previously recorded sound, while maintaining its height unchanged. Eltro Automation manufacturer.

Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Magnetofoni a 4 piste Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Magnetofoni a 4 piste (1968)Sforzesco Castle

The sounds thus generated and modified were recorded on 1 "magnetic tapes.

The Studio was equipped for this purpose with two Studer model J37 4-track tape recorders for 1 "magnetic tapes.

Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Magnetofoni a 4 piste Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Magnetofoni a 4 piste (1968)Sforzesco Castle

Particolare di alcuni accessori dello Studio di FonologiaSforzesco Castle

Often the musicians cut the different tapes recorded in clips which then reached each other in a different way giving rise to a composition. This technique was also part of the creative process.

Luciano Berio, Marino Zuccheri e Lucio Cavallarin (ante1968)Sforzesco Castle

Composers and sound technicians

For the musical productions the collaboration of sound technicians was fundamental. In particular the contribution of Marino Zuccheri who helped the composers to explore the countless possibilities that the Studio's equipment offered.

Luciano Berio (ante1968)Sforzesco Castle

Maderna, Notturno
00:00

"Among the first compositions created on these machines we mention "Mutations" and "Perspectives" by Luciano Berio and "Continuo" and "Notturno" by Bruno Madera."

Bruno Maderna (ante1968)Sforzesco Castle

Luigi Nono ai telai (ante1968)Sforzesco Castle

Among the musicians who worked at the Studio, in addition to Berio and Maderna, we remember Luigi Nono, John Cage, Henri Pousseur, Nicolò Castiglioni, Luiciano Chailly, Aldo Clementi, Franco Donatoni, Armando Gentilucci, Giacomo Manzoni, Gino Marinuzzi Jr., Angelo Paccagnini, Salvatore Sciarrino, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Camillo Togni, Roman Vlad.

Leggio musicale della Rai (ante1968)Sforzesco Castle

The Studio was also used by Rai to create sounds and soundtracks for radio and television broadcasts

Studio di Fonologia di Milano - Schedario (1968 (?))Sforzesco Castle

The archive

Studio di Fonologia di Milano – Mensola per bobine (1968 (?))Sforzesco Castle

Rai di Milano deposited 391 original analog tapes and 270 digitally acquired copies of magnetic tapes on which the compositions were recorded at the Museo del Castello Sforzesco, for a total of over 200 hours of music.

Studio di Fonologia di Milano - Schedario (1968 (?))Sforzesco Castle

The Studio's archive also includes a heterogeneous set of paper documents: correspondence, documents relating to Firm's administration, rubrics, a register of recorded passages, photographs, room programs, handwritten scores, magazines, system design schemes.

Credits: Story

Thanks to:

_Rai Teche for the granting of images, videos and audio files.
_Maddalena Novati, president of NoMus and former Rai music consultant, for scientific support.
_The Rai Production Center in Milan, as owners of the equipment as evidence of Rai's historic ability to develop technology at the service of culture.
_The photographers Lelli & Masotti.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps