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Historically Informed Sound Synthesis

Researching and re-enacting historical sound synthesis instruments from the history of electronic music in Sweden during the 1960's and 70's

The Dataton System 3000, designed by Björn Sandlund 1975-84
The Dataton System 3000, designed by Björn Sandlund 1975-84 (Photo: Derek Holzer)

This project explores vintage sound synthesis technology from the 1960s and 1970s used in Sweden at the Royal College of Music (KMH) and Elektronmusikstudion (EMS), and archived by the Statens Musikverket and the Scenkonstmuseet. 

The first phase of the project involves the identification of suitable instruments from the Musikverket archives for further study, as well as a categorization of the instruments.

The second phase of the project involves a deep analysis of the affordances provided by the instruments under study, and the development of software and hardware instruments inspired by these historical affordances.

The third phase of the project brings these initial software and hardware developments to user studies involving composition students of KMH and the larger public, as part of an iterative design process which will be evaluated through the tools of both artistic research and ethnomusicology. 

The end result of the project will be a collection of historically-informed sound synthesis instruments as well as open source documentation of their programming and construction.

Specific project goals include:

- Developing digital emulations for historic sound synthesizers.
- Developing tangible digital interfaces that are inspired by historic sound synthesizers.
- Investigating novel approaches to instrument exploration.
- Informing design and performance through heritage research, organological studies, and media archaeology.
- Studying and improving emulations, interfaces, and visualizations through collaborative design and design fictions.

Research takes place through a cooperation between the Creative Media Technology (CMT) team of the Division of Media Technology and Interaction design (MID), the Royal College of Music (KMH), and the Statens Musikverket.

Team Members

  • Andre Holzapfel (Principle Investigator, KTH)
  • Derek Holzer (PhD Candidate, KTH)
  • Sandra Pauletto (Co-Supervisor, KTH)
  • Henrik Frisk (Co-Supervisor, Co-PI, KMH)
  • Mischa van Kan (Co-PI, Musikverket)
  • Daniel Araya (EMS)
  • Mats Lindstrom (EMS)


Vetenskapsrådet/Swedish Research Council

Project Duration

2020 - 2024


Instrument collection at the Scenkonstmuseet







  1. Holzer, D., Frisk H., and Holzapfel, A., "Sounds of Futures Passed: Media Archaeology and Design Fiction as NIME Methodologies," in New Interfaces for Musical Expression, Shanghai CN, 2021 [ link ]