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Frances Morgan

PhD Work

Systems in time: A history of Electronic Music Studios, London

My project is a critical investigation into the history of Electronic Music Studios, a London-based studio and electronic instrument company founded in 1969. EMS was set up during a period of significant activity in electronic composition, intermedia art and the development of music technology. It was unique in being both a working studio in which composers, including Harrison Birtwistle and Hans Werner Henze, could realise new music, and a manufacturer of commercial synthesisers. During the early 1970s, the hybrid digital/analogue system developed at EMS was among the most advanced of its time, making the studio an important location in the development of computer music. Drawing on archival research, oral history practice and theoretical readings from the philosophy of technology, my account of EMS situates it in wider musical, cultural, media historical and technological contexts, as well as commenting on its relevance in the present day through synthesizer reconstruction and restoration projects.

This is a Collaborative Doctoral Award in partnership with the Science Museum, London


  • Frances Morgan
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Writing, 2015–

  • Frances Morgan is a writer carrying out PhD research for a Collaborative Doctoral Award with the RCA’s Critical Writing in Art and Design department and the Science Museum. She is researching and writing the history of Electronic Music Studios, a London-based synthesizer company and studio which operated between 1969 and 1979. 

    Her research responds to current debates about how histories of electronic music can be written, and considers a number of positions including sound studies, oral history practice, material culture and media theory.

    Frances is the former deputy editor and current contributing editor of The Wire magazine, and a writer for publications including Sight & Sound and Frieze

  • Degrees

  • MA Music (Contemporary Music Studies), Goldsmiths University of London, 2014; BA Media Studies, University of Westminster, 1998
  • Experience

  • Deputy Editor, The Wire magazine, London, 2012-15
  • Conferences

  • 'The problem with pioneers: how media narratives of exceptional women distort the history of female involvement in electronic music', at Alternative Histories of Electronic Music, Science Museum, 2016; 'Excavating MUSYS: A media-archaeological investigation into early computer music', at Sound Thought, University of Glasgow, 2016; ‘The EMS Synthi 100: dialogues between invention, preservation and restoration’, Documenta 14, Athens, April 2017; ‘Using archives in electronic music research’, Using Archives CDP student workshop, National Archives., April 2017; ‘Traces of Cyberfeminism in Histories of Electronic Music and Sound’ (keynote), Sonic Cyberfeminism, University of Lincoln, May 2017; Input/Output: Questions of Authorship in Early Computer Music’, Music and Philosophy Study Group, Kings College London, July 2017
  • Publications

  • 'Pioneer spirits: new media representations of women in electronic music history', in Organised Sound, Cambridge University Press. September 2017. pp237-249; ‘Delian modes: Listening for Delia Derbyshire in histories of electronic dance music’ in Dancecult (Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture), Vol 9, No 1, 2017. pp 9-27; 'The EMS Synthi 100: dialogues between invention, preservation and restoration’, Fylkingen Tongues, July 2017.