A Brief History of Optical Synthesis

Derek Holzer is a Berlin and Helsinki-based sound artist who has been investigating DIY analogue electronics and “the meeting points of electroacoustic, noise, improv and extreme music” for the last fifteen years. Given his widely performed TONEWHEELS project it is not at all surprising that the artist is an authority on optical synthesis (synthesizing sound from light); he shows off this breadth of this knowledge – sixteenth century treatises on vibration, the Soviet avant-garde, Xenakis – in a presentation he made a few years ago (that we just discovered) that introduces key research and precedents. Early in the deck, he outlines his thinking for what a contemporary consideration of old media should entail:

A media archaeological approach to optical synthesis would not simply fetishize it's "oldness", but could also propose how aspects of this largely-abandoned, pre-War technology might address both the utopias and dystopias faced by practitioners and audiences of electronic music today.

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