Hello, it has been my great pleasure to edit this presentation of selections and projects of the Harald Bode Archive. In going through Harald Bode’s files, recordings and papers I find myself uplifted, inspired, enriched by his story and his work, and honoured to place myself within this history. At times I find myself mesmerized at the rigor, care and affection Harald gave to the simple act of keeping hand-written journals, or in glee-filled sessions listening to his demo tapes and recordings. It is great to have this opportunity to share these materials, and hopefully this experience with you. Harald was a person who somehow was able to keep an immutable perspective and focus on his life project — new undiscovered sounds and new ways for people, Menschen, to express themselves.
The collection of materials assembled here is intended in brief to demonstrate the works of Harald Bode. Harald’s contributions to the field are complex and span over 45 years, with significant advances in each decade. Harald’s pursuit of new sounds often times left him ahead of the history and girdling institutionalized programs, avant-gardes, mass-produced instruments and popular music of the day. He was not an advocate for dismissing traditional sounds, or any idea of obsolescence, and at the same time was a ceaseless champion for new potentials, new possibilities in sound. That he was an advocate for diversity as a way to expand human potential for expression is clear in the enthusiasm apparent in the lecture he gave in the early 1980s, “History of Electronic Sound Modification.” His 1960 system synthesizer, described in his 1961 article “Sound Synthesizer Creates New Musical Effects,” is a stellar example. Though it was a precursor to and source for the modular design concept used in the later Moog synthesizer, Harald’s modular processor used complex acoustic sound sources and complex modules, including early versions of his ring modulator and of his frequency shifter, or Klangumwandler (Bode’s “Instrument Design Files for the Ussachevsky / Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center Klangumwandlers” are also presented here). For his instrument demonstration, Harald used an electronic organ with all its voice and performance potential as a sound source, which he then processed through a bongo drum trigger gate. Even in this one example, there are any number of complex performance and sound processing possibilities available. The instrument was not imagined as limited or exclusive to any schema but instead could offer practically unlimited possibilities 1[1. Harald Bode, “Letter to Mr. Martin Michel, Director of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation,” 1 April 1960,in Harald Bode Papers (Hornell: Harald Bode Archive).] for new sounds without the necessity of a large institutionally supported sound studio. In this way he imagined the world of today with laptop digital audio workstations, programmable sound processing software, sequencers and the like.
Peer Bode, Harald’s youngest son, and himself an accomplished video artist and educator, directs the Harald Bode Archive. “A Harald Bode Video Documentary (1972)” offers some of the footage filmed by Harald’s oldest son and aspiring cinematographer, Ralf Bode. (2[2. Ralf would later be known for his work on such films as Gorky Park and Coal Miner’s Daughter.] After Harald’s passing in 1987, Ralf packed all of Harald Bode’s studio and papers. The entire collection has since been in the possession of Peer Bode, Harald’s youngest son (himself an accomplished video artist and educator), who directs the Harald Bode Archive. The collection includes papers, correspondences, design and schematic drawings, audio tapes and films, 55 years of journals / notebooks (extracts of which can be consulted in “Harald Bode’s Notebooks”), Harald’s workshop, and original instruments. The Archive’s directive is to make this collection available to researchers for the purpose of enriched understanding and perspective concerning the contributions Harald Bode made to the electronic global world of today, and to share this wonderful history. “Harald Bode — A Short Biography” provides a summarical overview of his personal and professional history, with extensive photo documentation.
Much of the work of the archive, particularly the important task of continued digitization of materials, has been a joint project of the Institute for Electronic Arts (IEA), School of Art and Design, NYSCC at Alfred University and the Harald Bode Archive. Devin Henry currently heads the digitization project, with assistance from Christopher McDaniel. Digital transfers of Harald Bode’s audio tapes — an extensive project — have been possible by the generous committed efforts of Andrew Deutsch; some of these are featured in “The Compositions of Harald Bode”. The archive is most appreciative to the Department of Music of Concordia University in Montréal, Kevin Austin, Dr. Mark Corwin and Alex Matheson for digital transfers of Harald Bode’s eight-track recordings. The Archive also acknowledges the long-term support received from the Experimental Television Center, Owego NY, Ralph Hocking, Sherry Miller Hocking and David Jones, and thanks them for their commitment to making media history available, in particular information on Harald Bode, and for serving as a starting point and an inspired example for the Harald Bode Archive project. And of course, much gratitude to all involved with eContact! for making this edition possible, the largest online catalogue of Harald Bode materials yet released, we are so very grateful and excited!
The Archive extends special thanks to Dr. Thomas Rhea for his early and continuing research and writing on Harald Bode. These early texts, especially those articles published in his “Electronic Perspectives” column in Contemporary Keyboard — Harald Bode’s Four-Voice Assignment Keyboard (1937),” “Bode’s Melodium and Melochord” and “Harald Bode’s Frequency Shifters and Vocoders” — were very meaningful and important to Harald at the time and are the significant initial texts on Harald’s accomplishments. The Archive and in particular Peer Bode express their gratitude and excitement regarding the work of Caspar Abocab. His research and writing bring new compelling perspective on Harald, his concerns and philosophies, the historical periods Harald lived in and their effect on our time. The breadth of Caspar’s research includes all Harald’s 55 years of notebooks, extensive research in source German and US archives, interviews and the archive’s continuing document and correspondence scans. The rich complexity of Harald and his work is being uncovered through Caspar’s dedicated and inspired research. Caspar wrote the radio feature documentary “Ein Leben für den Klang: Der Erfinder Harald Bode und die elektronische Musik” [“Living for Sound: The Inventor Harald Bode and the Evolution of Electronic Music”], which was broadcast on Bayerischer Rundfunk and WDR Cologne. In addition to providing an edited version of the original transcript with an English foreword for this issue, he has written an overview of the many instruments Bode developed over the years in “Harald Bode, A Lifetime for Sound.” Caspar is currently working on a forthcoming book on Harald Bode. A personal thanks to Jim Finch, for his contribution; it is a real pleasure to make available his great “Interview with Harald Bode,” it has always been a personal favourite. As well, thanks to Dr. Jon Welstead, for his assistance in making contact with Kevin Austin.
A very special thanks to Georg Steinmeyer, a colleague and a long-time family friend to Harald. Georg is Exhibition Director of the ongoing exhibition in the Estey Organ Museum (Brattleboro VT), “A Lifetime for Sound: A Retrospective of physicist Harald Bode,” which served as source for much of the current material presented. Georg is from a renowned family of Pipe organ builders, he and Harald were new transplants from Germany hired by the Estey Organ Company in the early 1950s, Georg directed pipe organ building, and Harald, electronic organs. Both these men loved, respected and were / are committed to sound and its power and influence in our lives.
Additional thanks to: The New York State Council on the Arts, Karen Helmerson, Debbie Silverstein, Woody and Steina Vasulka, Gerald O’Grady, Les Nicholas, Hanne Steinmeyer, John Levin, Estey Organ Museum, Joseph Scheer, Gerar Edizel, Mark Klingensmith, Don Weinhart, Lara Odel, Joo Mee Paik, Steven Pedersen, Joseph Lewis III, Dr. David Pye, Leslie Bellavance, Linda Jones, NYSCC at Alfred University, Pauline Oliveros, Steven Vitiello, Joel Chadabe, Tom Erb, Peter Weibel, Peter Donhauser, Siegfried Zielinsky. For Caspar Abocab’s German Archive Research and German Radio programs, special thanks go to Helga Montag, Angelika Vetter-Wagner, Elisabeth Thiele and Renate Winkler (Bayerischer Rundfunk), Silke Berdux (Deutsches Museum München), Goethe Schiller Archive Weimar (Germany), Frau Harting (Bundesarchiv [German State Archive]), Herrn Fritsche and Herrn Rieden (Bonn University), Stephan Kühmayer (WAST), Hans-Joachim Maempel (Technical University, Berlin), Gisela Simons (Sound Archive at Bayerischer Rundfunk), Elena Ungeheuer (Technical University, Berlin) and Soundarchive WDR Cologne.
20 June 2011