ISM: A Brief History

In 2013, the initial members of the ISM organization conducted research in Berlin. This highlighted a large percentage of residents and visitors whose primary interests include sound, audiovisual, and electronic music culture. The research also indicated, outside the timeframe of evenings and weekends, limited options exist to explore each discipline, their context and relevance to the city, and to the community as a whole.

“Berlin Museum of Sound” became the working title for the initiative, to reflect sound as the enduring medium over genre specifics – and being as relevant of a topic today as it will be for generations to come. The use of this title led the team to UK artist and composer, Matthew Herbert, whose “Museum of Sound” initiative had already existed online for several years. Matthew Herbert opened the door to a discussion, future collaboration, and ultimately joining in the effort to help define the organization as the, “Berlin Institute for Sound and Music.”



Several encouraging conversations began with key individuals in the Berlin sound and electronic music community. In parallel, the strategy to realize a project of this scale began to unfold. In early 2015, the team settled on a crowdsourced support initiative through a Kickstarter Campaign. This process was abandoned, but also demonstrated that while the community will play an instrumental role, broader support will be required to build an institution.

The team shifted to an incremental strategy toward the long term goal of the Berlin ISM. This begins with a preview exhibition series to introduce the core principles of the initiative to the public: Sound, Immersive Art, and Electronic Music. At this point, several new members joined the administration team helping to further define the initiative, while expanding the ISM network to a great extent. 

By 2016, the effort was underway to secure cultural funding grants as a means to finance the first of the exhibitions series. Several attempts were made on a Berlin city level. In the process, a partnership was formed with Berliner Festspiele, and ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, focused on sound technologies for an exhibition. Also at this time, a partnership began with Berlin-based Pfadfinderei on the visual application of these technologies.


Museum of Sound
Image Credit: Michael Tan


ISM Brochure Planning
Image Credit: ISM 2016

The organization hosted its first annual Members Meeting in August, 2016. In January, 2017, the Institute for Sound and Music e.V. was registered as an official non-profit eingetragene verein, under German law. Shortly after registration, the first exhibition in the preview series was awarded funding from both the Berlin Kofinanzierungsfonds and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Cultural Fund.) 

The substantial award of financial support from two distinguished local and national funds has allowed the ISM to begin coordination and planning for a world class immersive exhibition and concert series, premiering at Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin, March 2018. 


ISM Hexadome Artist Selection

Brian Eno​ • Tarik Barri​ & Thom Yorke • Holly Herndon​ & Mathew Dryhurst • Frank Bretschneider​ & Pierce Warnecke​ • Lara Sarkissian​ & Jemma Woolmore • Ben Frost​ & MFO​ • Peter Van Hoesen​ & Heleen Blanken​ • CAO & Michael Tan​ • Pfadfinderei​ & René Löwe


The Future of ISM

The ISM will produce three contemporary exhibitions beginning in 2018. Each exhibition will showcase sound, immersive art, and electronic music culture respectively, curated in collaboration with partner artists, members and organizations from our shared community.