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STEIM (the STudio for Electro-Instrumental Music) is an independent electronic music centre in Amsterdam unique in its dedication to live performance. The foundation’s artistic and technical departments support an international community of performers, musicians, and visual artists, to develop unique instruments for their work. STEIM maintains a residency program whereby artists are provided with an artistic and technical environment in which concepts can be given concrete form.

STEIM has formed ongoing partnerships locally with the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, the Conservatory of Amsterdam, TU/Eindhoven, and the Royal Conservatory in the Hague through the Instruments & Interfaces masters program.

Early years[edit]

STEIM started as a "modest initiative of a handful of Dutch composers. Out of a kind of political and cultural rebellion, a workgroup was established in the autumn of 1967 by a few of the Netherlands' most prominent and progressive composers: Peter Schat, Konrad Boehmer, Jan van Vlijmen, Misha Mengelberg, Louis Andriessen, Reinbert de Leeuw, and Dick Raaymakers. STEIM was created out of a dissatisfaction amongst composers and orchestral musicians with the fact that the products of the 'isolated' electronic music studio could only be heard in the concert hall via the static combination of magnetic tape and loudspeakers. What the group had in mind was an electro-instrumental musical practice based on real-time processes. STEIM was created as a research laboratory and development workplace for live electronic music.

The opera Reconstructie [Reconstruction] by Andriessen, Mengelberg, De Leeuw, Schat, and Van Vlijmen, together with the librettists Harry Mulisch and Hugo Claus, provided a minor revolution. This became the impetus for STEIM's foundation. Though STEIM initially played a supporting role as a bastion where the political relevance and significance of electro-instrumental music were discussed, the group managed to acquire an independent position via technological innovation. They constructed metal consoles with removable units that could be used both centrally as well as decentrally, together with a large mixing board that allowed for the quick patching of studio equipment. These developments resulted in an extensive modular system, also known as the 'black box system', in which the principles of voltage-control were applied as fully as possible.

Despite STEIM's contribution to many concerts and manifestations, it was only with the arrival of Michel Waisvisz in 1973 that the emphasis came to focus on STEIM as a laboratory/workplace in addition to its functions of research and education. Waisvisz introduced a completely new musical-electronic principle: the Cracklebox. He made use of a property of electronic circuits that was usually considered undesirable: instability. This phenomenon is typically combated against, but Waisvisz instead wanted to advance it by connecting the appropriate points in an electronic circuit with touchable surfaces. This principle formed the basis of many of the instruments and objects he designed and built in collaboration with STEIM technicians until 1980, and which he's used in countless concerts and music theater productions. This technique was also used for a number of art exhibitions. The 'crackle' instruments were different than the usual set of instruments because of the directness and sensitivity with which they could be played (for example, the use of many different presets meant that there was no time delay). They were also able to create complex sounds with relatively few actions." (Spekle & Waisvisz)

Selected STEIM instruments[edit]


  • Black Box System (Zwarte Dozen), by Rob van de Poel (1972)
  • Eemnes Machines, by Victor Wentink (1975–79)
  • Crackle Box (Kraakdoos), Crackle Synth, by Michel Waisvisz, Geert Hamelberg, Peter Beyls and Nico Bes (1975)
  • The Hands, by Michel Waisvisz (since 1984). One of the world's first gestural MIDI controllers. Two wooden frames for the hands with switches, potentiometers, tilt sensors, and ultrasound.
  • Hyperstring Project, by Jon Rose. Extending a Violin Bow with Sensors. (since 1985)
  • STEIM Sensor-Lab. Portable Mini-Computer which translates analogue Sensor data into MIDI Code. (1989)
  • The Web, by Michel Waisvisz (1990)
  • The Sweatstick, by Ray Edgar (1990)
  • The Lady's Glove, by Laetitia Sonami (1991)
  • Nic Collins: Midi Concertina (1992)
  • Chromasome, by Walter Fabeck (1994)
  • Mutantrumpet, by Ben Neill (2008)


  • Lick Machine, by Frank Baldé (1989-1995). MIDI Macro-Controlling Software
  • LiSa, by Michel Waisvisz and Frank Baldé. Realtime software instrument for live sampling and realtime audio manipulation (since 1995)
  • Big Eye, by Tom Demeyer. Video to MIDI converter (1995-2001)
  • Image/ine, by Steina Vasulka and Tom Demeyer. Software instrument for realtime video manipulation (1996-2001)
  • MIDI Joy, by Frank Baldé. Mapping game controllers to MIDI Code (1997-2002)
  • JunXion, by Michel Waisvisz and Frank Baldé. Mapping game controllers, audio, video and sensor data to MIDI and OSC (since 2003)

Structure and people[edit]

STEIM is a foundation, financially supported by the Dutch ministry of Culture. It invites international artists in residence of different musical and artistic styles and scenes. Aside from offering support in theoretic and practical development of contemporary musical instruments, STEIM also hosts in-house concerts, exhibitions and workshops. The work in progress of supported artists is presented in open studio events.

Artistic/managing directors[edit]

  • Peter Schat, 1971-1973
  • Peter Bennink, 1973-?
  • Misha Mengelberg
  • Michel Waisvisz, 1981-2008
  • Dick Rijken, since 2009

Artistic guest directors[edit]

Artistic residency[edit]

  • Dominic Alldis, 1988
  • Tom Cora, 1992
  • Peter Cusack, 1996
  • Benton C Bainbridge, 1999
  • John Richards, 2007
  • Henry Vega, 2009/10
  • Mark Trayle, 2010
  • Kasia Glowicka, 2011