|Title: On the Threshold of Beauty:
Philips and the Origins of Electronic
Music in the Netherlands, 1925–1965
Author: Kees Tazelaar
Publication date: November 2013
Paperback, 316 pages
230 images, full color
Dimensions: 17 x 24.5 cm
Price: € 27.50
Design: Joke Brouwer
Listen to many music examples on the special website for On the Threshold of Beauty.
The first studio for electronic music in the Netherlands was not a
radio studio -- as in so many other countries -- it was located at the
research laboratory of Philips (also known at NatLab). Since 1930 it had
been part of the electro-acoustic research program which combined
technical, economic, sociologic and musical aspects. The first
compositions realized in the Philips studio were thus test-cases.
Parallel to this research, other departments of Philips, purely focused
at marketing, developed plans for the Philips Pavilion at the World Expo
of 1958 at Brussels. Philips planned a demonstration for the general
public of the possibilities of sound and light, but through the
engagement of Le Corbusier, Iannis Xenakis and Edgar Varèse this project
took a strong turn towards the avant-garde. The result, now considered a
milestone in the history of electronic music, was in many ways more
experimental than the music produced at the Philips research laboratory.
The story of electronic music at the Philips research laboratory and
the Philips Pavilion are the first two main strands of the book On the
Threshold of Beauty, in which Kees Tazelaar for the first time unravels
the course of events, and debunks some of the myths around the Philips
Pavilion. A third historical strand in the book concerns the needs of
composers, who desired to learn how to compose in the new medium. In
1957 Walter Maas and the CEM set up an electronic studio at the
Technical University of Delft for this purpose, which fused with the
Philips studio in 1960, and afterwards moved to the University of Utrecht. Tazelaar writes about the works realized at this studio
(STEM), as well as about the activities of the ground-breaking German
composer Gottfried Michael Koenig who comes to the Netherlands in 1961 and in 1964 takes over the direction of STEM.
'Kees Tazelaar's On the Threshold of Beauty is a wonderfully readable story of a fascinating period in the history of music in the Netherlands. Extensively researched, this impressive work of scholarship is very important to the field of electronic music.' – Curtis Roads (Composer, Professor Media Arts and Technology, author of a.o. The Computer Music Tutorial, Microsound, and Composing Electronic Music: A New Aesthetic).