The name Syntom identifies a project of hybrid computer music system (analog and digital) developed at Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) in Paris under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer in collaboration with the Stockholm Studio EMS. Syntom was inspired to the Groove by Max Mathews.

Brief history – In 1970 at the conference in Stockholm, on technology and music, Pierre Schaeffer got to know the results achieved by some important members of the computer music community like Max Mathews and Jean-Claude Risset. Although they were researchers of great importance, Schaeffer was still very skeptical to use computer for musical goals. Looking at the alpha-numeric approach of software such as Music V, Schaeffer was very impressed because he believed that, like serialism, the computer became the expression of a predetermined approach to musical composition, which excluded, in fact, hearing control to the sound material.[1] It was a point of view, moreover, shared by many other concretists.

The model of the Coupigny synthesizer – This does not prevent him from leaving a glimmer of hope. Faced to the Schaffer skepticism they created two trends: one look at the Music V by Max Mathews; another, supported by the same Schaeffer, look to Francis Coupigny synthesizer that was developed for the concretists in the sixties. It was an analog machine can work in real time and that was already considered very satisfactory. The real-time was a feature that no one wanted to give up. For this reason, and because the impossibility for the computers of those years to working in real time, they opted for a hybrid system that is equipped with analog and digital, similar to the Groove system by Max Mathews.[1]

The collaboration with Knut Wiggen – The idea of this project was shared with Knut Wiggen of the Stockholm Elektronmusikstudion (EMS). He was convinced of the need to develop a system that is oriented towards the concrete music. From this encounter (between GRM and EMS) was born the project of Syntom (SYNthèse Traité des Objets Musicaux which may be expressed as a synthesis based on the processing of musical objects). The acronym Syntom refers to some concepts expressed by Pierre Schaeffer in his Traité des objets musicaux which referred to issues related to the morphology and the perception of sounds. Able to parameterize, for computer use, perception and morphological aspects of sound was not very easy.3 It was an approach, indeed, had already been attempted with the Coupigny synthesizer, from which, therefore, the Syntom would be differentiated for greater control accuracy and ease of use.

Conclusions – Although there were solid starting points, the develop of Syntom never starts. This increased the skepticism of Pierre Schaeffer, who decided to abandon the project and the dissolution of the working group. In 1972, therefore, the Syntom project was officially closed. Research work continued around the use of the Music V and, in later years, ushered in other research, which would lead to the development of Syter, before, and the Studio 123 package, after.


For this topic I’ve read:

[1] Daniel Teruggi, Technology and musique concrète: the technical developments of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales and their implication in musical composition, Organised Sound, Vol. 12 [3], 2007.

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