In 2007, Frank Bretschneider was invited to compose music for the Subharchord, a unique electronic instrument developed during the 1960’s at the RFZ, the technical center for radio and television of the East German postal service. Built in a limited edition of eight machines total, only three Subharcords (in Vienna, Trondheim and Berlin) are believed to survive to this day. The Subharchord is, broadly defined, a subharmonic sound generator, comparable soundwise to the Mixturtrautonium. It’s suggested main purpose was to be the central “special effects” machine at film or broadcast studios.
Bretschneider’s aim was to combine an almost forgotten technology with the music and production methods of today. After two weeks of exploring the instrument and excited by the beautiful and extremely powerful sound, he decided to use mainly the extraordinarily narrow-band “Mel”-filter and the built in “Rhythmisierungseinrichtung” (rhythmization installation). For additional modulation, Bretschneider used a Clavia Micro Modular, generating alternating sinewaves on the ring modulator input of the instrument.
The first performance took place in June 2007 in Berlin, Germany, as part of the TESLA-Werkstatt Klangapparate project, followed by a second concert in November the same year at Wien Modern festival in Vienna, Austria. Eventually in 2011, on the occasion of SoundExchange, a series of concerts initiated to discover the experimental music scene in Eastern Europe during cold war times, Bretschneider was asked to re-visit the Subharchord project once again. Slightly editing the original live recording and adding new overdubs from sounds that remained from the 2007 recording sessions, Bretschneider has created a compelling and flowing 37 minute version for this release.
released May 1, 2012
Frank Bretschneider: Subharchord and Clavia Micro Modular synthesizers
Cover image by Frank Bretschneider, taken from the live visualization of Kippschwingungen.
Thanks to Carsten Seiffarth for encouraging and initiating the project, Georg Geike for technical support, and Richard Chartier for the chance to release this work.