About SPR

Sound Practice Research (SPR) is a research group that integrates and advances the innovative activities of EMS composers and researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London. It functions as a nexus for a diverse range of creative and theoretical research linked by a common commitment to rigorous, thoughtful and convincing practice. This is enabled by expertise at the forefront of music computing and audio technologies, field studies and reflection on pressing social, cultural, commercial and environmental issues; and inspired by investigation into and archiving of historical precedents.

The Goldsmiths Electronic Music Studios (EMS) has been a leading centre for electronic music and the sonic arts since its founding in 1968 by Hugh Davies.

Fields and concerns include, but are not limited to:
  • Phonography, soundscape studies and field recording
  • Improvisation and live algorithmic music
  • Interactive audiovisual performance
  • Acousmatic composition, including multi-channel 
  • Utterance, including sound poetry and text sound composition
  • Site-specific and gallery based sound installation
To support its commitment to innovative practice, SPR will engage in apposite activity in the following areas:
  • Foster musicological and analytical research
  • Promote knowledge transfer and collaborative and interdisciplinary ventures
  • Instigate outreach and open access pedagogic activities
  • Maintain and enhance audiovisual archives, including the Daphne Oram Collection

About the Goldsmiths EMS
The Stanley Glasser Electronic Music Studios were established in 1968 by composer, instrument maker and musicologist Hugh Davies and comprise a suite of working areas for undergraduate & postgraduate students wishing to explore the creative potential of studio equipment & audio software in relation to composition, live electronics, interactive performance, sound-art, acoustic ecology and sonic research.

EMS Timeline
The Electronic Music Studios at Goldsmiths came into being thanks to the inspiration and effort of two pioneers of British experimental electronic music – Daphne Oram and Hugh Davies – alongside the influence of composer and academic Stanley Glasser.

1925 — Daphne Blake Oram born December 31st in Devizes, Wiltshire.

1942 — Daphne Oram declines the offer of a place at the Royal College of Music to work as a Junior Studio Engineer and ‘Music Balancer’ at the BBC.

1943 — Hugh Seymour Davies born April 23rd in Exmouth, Devon.

1950 — Daphne Oram composes the (still, as yet) unperformed 30-minute orchestral work Still Point, arguably the first composition to utilise the real-time electronic manipulation of pre-recorded and live sound.1958 — BBC Radiophonic Workshop is founded in Maida Vale, London. Daphne Oram becomes its first director.

1959 — Daphne Oram resigns from the BBC and sets up her Oramics Studios for Electronic Composition at ‘Tower Folly’ in Fairseat, near Wrotham, Kent.

1961 — Hugh Davies attends a lecture of Daphne Oram’s at the Mermaid Theatre, London. He subsequently works in her studio, learning about electronic music and sound recording. They correspond until her death in 2003.

1962 — Daphne is awarded a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation to support the research of her “Oramics” drawn sound technique.

1966 — Daphne Oram visits Goldsmiths to give a talk about electronic music; a subsequent letter of thanks from J.A. Gulland (then Head of the Adult Studies Department) concluded: “I am not quite sure what we as a College do next about electronic music but you have certainly stimulated very great interest that may, in time, develop into a serious study of the subject here”.

1967 — following two years working as assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen in Germany, Hugh Davies returns to England. He approaches Stanley Glasser, Head of Music for the Adult Studies Department (later Head of the Music Department), with a view to establishing a studio at Goldsmiths, something which Glasser had been keen on doing for many years. At that time there were fewer than a dozen permanent studios in operation across Great Britain, aside from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in Maida Vale and Daphne Oram’s ‘Tower Folly’ studio in Kent, and the period from 1967 to 1970 saw a sudden development of studios in the UK university sector.

1967 — by December, initial equipment included three Revox tape recorders, a stereo mixer, one air mic, a stereo amplifier and loudspeakers.

1968 — in January the Electronic Music Workshop begins evening classes in electronic music at Goldsmiths, the first such regular class in an academic institution in Britain.

1976 — studio equipment has expanded to include two VCS3 synthesizers, numerous Revox A77 tape recorders, a custom-made mixer, a range of ring-modulators, phase-shifters, wave-shapers, reverberation units etc.

1979 — the studio purchases a Roland 100M modular synthesizer (still in use today), followed in the next few years by Syntauri alphaSyntauri, Roland SH101, EDP Wasp, Roland Juno-106 and Yamaha DX7 synthesizers.

1981 — the studio purchases one of the first Fairlight CMI series II computer music systems to find its way into the UK, at the time extremely expensive, cutting-edge technology. This attracted a great deal of interest, including new students such as composer Adrian Sutton (of War Horse fame) - “Goldsmiths was a very special place to study music, and for me it was the Electronic Music Studio that attracted me... It was precisely because Goldsmiths had a Fairlight CMI in its studio that Goldsmiths was the only choice I stated on my UCCA form back in 1986!”

1985 — the studio relocates to its current location in the Richard Hoggart Building in Goldsmiths.

EMS timeline text: Ian Stonehouse