1950s electronic music studio in software


Giorgio Sancristoforo has published Berna 3, a first simulation of an autonomous electronic music studio. It has equipment inspired by those used at the RAI Studio di Fonologia in Milan and at the WDR in Cologne. This follows on from the previous version, Berna 2, and benefits from a complete restyle and many new devices. Here are the details directly from Giorgio …


I remember in 2009, when I was working on the first release of Berna, that Berna was above all my love letter to RAI Studio di Fonologia Musicale, the electronic music studios of Italy’s national radio and television, founded in 1954. by composers Bruno Maderna and Luciano Berio.

Studio di Fonologia has been an obsession for me for many years. It was the best-equipped electronic music studios of the 1950s, with many devices created ad hoc by Italian physicist Alfredo Lietti, who literally ransacked RAI warehouses to salvage all electronic parts from broken or unused devices. The Studio was run by Berio and Maderna, first, then by Luigi Nono, and for me these three composers are the sacred trinity of the classical Italian avant-garde. I really like their work and their heritage.

But behind the knobs and the mixing console, there was always the prototype of the modern sound engineer and producer: Marino Zuccheri, the technician in the white coat who assisted composers and very often created the sounds of masterpieces. Italian electronic music. Zuccheri has been a huge inspiration to me, as a sound technician myself, and to his legacy I dedicate this new version of Berna again.


Berna 2 was released in 2013 and there was a substantial improvement in the user interface. Meanwhile, this first electronic music studio simulation has become popular among electronic music schools and institutions, including TUFTS University and the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Berna’s main focus has always been education and always will be.
Berna 3 tries to push the first electronic music studio simulation one step further, with more realism and detail, and a new set of devices. All in all, Berna 3 will be a useful instrument both for students as well as for composers and producers interested in the use of test equipment and historical devices.

At the time of writing, Berna 3 is not yet finished, but we are very close and I work day and night.
I’m hard at work and this time I designed and rendered each piece of equipment and dial in 3D, before coding the audio part.
It adds unprecedented realism to the equipment and I also cared about creating vintage sound.
This time the oscillators and filters don’t sound “digital”, but following many requests from musicians in recent years, I’ve added a warm tone to each device. For example, there are 9 different types of oscillators and each has its own character. Some are cleaner, others more “dirty” and greasy.

Another improvement I made is to separate each device from the main interface. So this time, each oscillator, filter, amplifier, has its own window. This has many advantages. I’ve made the user interface bigger and more detailed, and using separate windows keeps graphics memory and processor at acceptable levels.

Plus, just like Gleetchlab, each device has an ON / OFF switch, which not only looks realistic but once again helps keep your computer away from overheating.

The new test gear that I’m adding to this first electronic music studio simulation has different functions, I can only anticipate a few. For example, there are two pulse generators which will work with two high precision low frequency high / low pass filters, these together with the pulse generators will create a set of two (sort of) generators. envelope (the real envelope generator was yet to be invented).

Filtering a pulse with a high pass filter at very low frequencies creates a pulse with exponential decay, and the decay depends on the cutoff frequency. Using a low pass instead we get a log attack. So even though we can’t use classic ADSR, you’ll get working AR without sacrificing historical accuracy. This was a tip for which I have to thank engineer Marco Bruno from Spin Electronics who is still a huge source of knowledge in vintage measuring instruments and electronics.

Another new feature (there will be quite a few) is something that is deeply linked to my artistic practice and which gave me a lot of pleasure in the design. I thought about adding a random pulse generator, so I added a simulation of a Geiger counter and an x-ray tube driven by a Rumkhorff coil. The Geiger counter alone will give a few sparse clicks that faithfully simulate the background radiation we live in, but if you turn on the Rumkhorff coil and power the x-ray tube, the clicks will get faster and faster. You can use it as a clock source or as a sound and you won’t be irradiated like I sometimes am when I conduct these atomic experiments.

Another device is a simulation of the MESSGENERATOR MG60 used by Stockhausen for Studie II and Kontakte, and the AG-10, again used in Kontakte as well as the RAI studios.


The Berna3 early electronic music studio simulation is only stand-alone. This does not mean that you cannot route the audio to your DAW (using a virtual audio interface), but I am interested in developing alternatives to mass market software.

I think Berna should first and foremost be an EXPERIENCE and not just another plugin to stack on tracks full of other plugins.

I want to give you some time away from your usual way of doing electronic music, of thinking differently, of approaching music in a different way. You will discover new things, you will learn a lot, and you will not be distracted by other things.
Since Berna doesn’t simulate tape splicing, you can (and might be interested in) edit some files on a DAW.

But with a different goal. Not to mix and make a song, but to cut and paste sounds to create new raw materials for Berna’s tape recorders to deal more with his modulators and filters.

Mac: OS X 10.11.6 or later, Intel® Core ™ 2 Duo processor. Intel® Core ™ i5 or faster processor recommended (also works on M1),
4 GB of RAM (8 GB or more recommended).

The Windows: Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10, 64-bit Intel® or AMD multicore processor.
Intel® Core ™ i5 or faster processor recommended and GB of RAM (8 GB or more recommended).

Price and availability:
Mac version: 25.00 €
Windows version available from October 11


Comments are closed.