Cult Sounds

Origins, practical applications and effects of dominant individual sounds in popular music between 1960 and 2013

It remains largely unexplained to this day just what individual sounds moulded pop and rock music, how they emerged and how they developed.
This project will sift, collect, categorise and investigate the character and form of such individual sounds according to their tone colour, application, development and dissemination in multi-local contexts. We have two hypotheses here: 1. There exist dominant sounds that stand in direct connection with technological change through processes of electrification, digitisation and virtualisation; 2. Such sounds arise significantly more often through the «improper», extreme or chance use of instruments and technologies.
Subsequently, future scenarios will be revealed in relation to new sounds, instruments and playing techniques in popular music. The project website will document the ongoing research results.




Photo: the synthesizer DX7 from 1983 generates a dominant individual sound (Photo: IB)



Project head
Immanuel Brockhaus, doctoral student



Roman Brotbeck, HKB, supervisor
Thomas Burkhalter

Britta Sweers, University of Bern, supervisor


Financed by
Swiss National Science Foundation 



TU Braunschweig
Universität Paderborn
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
GFM Lüneburg