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Werner Meyer-Eppler

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Title: Werner Meyer-Eppler  
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Subject: Electronic music, Aleatoric music, Harald Bode, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Acoustics
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Werner Meyer-Eppler

Werner Meyer-Eppler (30 April 1913 – 8 July 1960), was a Belgian-born German physicist, experimental acoustician, phoneticist and information theorist.

Meyer-Eppler was born in Antwerp. He studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry, first at the University of Cologne and then in Bonn, from 1936 until 1939, when he received a doctorate in Physics. From 1942 to 1945 he was a scientific assistant at the Physics Institute of the University of Bonn. From the time of his habilitation on 16 September 1942, he was also Lecturer in Experimental Physics. After the end of the war, Meyer-Eppler turned his attention increasingly to phonetics and speech synthesis. In 1947 he was recruited by Paul Menzerath to the faculty of the Phonetic Institute of the University of Bonn, where he became Scientific Assistant on 1 April 1949. During this time, Meyer-Eppler published essays on synthetic language production and presented American inventions like the Coder, the Vocoder, the Visible Speech Machine. He contributed to the development of the electrolarynx, which is still used today for the speech-impaired (Ungeheuer 1992; Diesterhöft 2003).

In 1949, Meyer-Eppler published a book promoting the idea of producing music by purely electronic means (Meyer-Eppler 1949), and in 1951 joined the sound engineer/composer Robert Beyer and the composer/musicologist/journalist Herbert Eimert in a successful proposal to the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) for the establishment of an electronic-music studio in Cologne. After two years of work, it was officially opened with a broadcast lecture-concert on 26 May 1953, and was to become the most important such studio in Europe.

In 1952, Meyer-Eppler habilitated for the second time, which qualified him for a professorship in phonetics and communication research. At the end of 1957 he was appointed successor to Professor Menzerath, who had died in 1954 (Diesterhöft 2003). During these years he published and lectured frequently on the subject of electronic music, introducing the term “aleatoric” with respect to concepts of statistical shaping of sounds based on his studies of phonology (Meyer-Eppler 1955). Amongst his students at the University of Bonn in 1954–56 was the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who was also working as an assistant in the Cologne electronic music studio, and whose compositions did the most to propagate Meyer-Eppler’s ideas.

In 1959, Meyer-Eppler published his most important work, Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informationstheorie ("Basic Principles and Applications of Communication Theory"). He died suddenly in Bonn of a kidney ailment from which he had been suffering for many years.

See also


  • Diesterhöft, Sonja. 2003. "Meyer-Eppler und der Vocoder" at the Wayback Machine (archived March 5, 2008). (archived on 2008-03-05 from original)
  • Grant, M[orag]. J[osephine]. 2001. Serial Music, Serial Aesthetics: Compositional Theory in Post-War Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80458-2.
  • Meyer-Eppler, Werner. 1949. Elektronische Klangerzeugung: Elektronische Musik und synthetische Sprache. Bonn: Ferdinand Dümmlers.
  • Meyer-Eppler, Werner. 1955. “Statistische und psychologische Klangprobleme”. Die Reihe 1 (“Elektronische Musik”). English edition, as “Statistic and Psychologic Problems of Sound” 1958.
  • Meyer-Eppler, Werner. 1959. Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informationstheorie. Kommunikation und Kybernetik in Einzeldarstellungen, Band 1. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Second edition, ed. Georg Heike und K. Löhn. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer, 1969.
  • Morawska-Büngeler, Marietta. 1988. Schwingende Elektronen: Eine Dokumentation über das Studio für Elektronische Musik des Westdeutschen Rundfunks in Köln 1951–1986. Cologne-Rodenkirchen: P. J. Tonger Verlag.
  • Ungeheuer, Elena. 1992. Wie die elektronische Musik ‘erfunden’ wurde …: Quellenstudie zu Werner Meyer-Epplers musikalischem Entwurf zwischen 1949 und 1953. Mainz: Schott. ISBN 3-7957-1891-0.

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