120 Years of Electronic Music
The "Warbo Formant Orgel" (1937)
The "Melodium: (1938)
The "Melochord" (1947-9)
Bode Sound Co (1963 -)
The Warbo Formant Orgel (1937)
Harald Bode (born Hamburg 19 Oct 1909)is one of the unsung pioneers of electronic musical instrument design. Bode's career spans from the 1930's until the late seventies when he was the chief engineer and inspiration at the Moog synthesiser company. Many of bode's Bode's ideas and designs became archetypal for later instruments for the next fifty years. Bode's first commercial design was the wonderfully named " Warbo Formant Orgel" built while at the Heinrich-Hertz Institut für Schwingungsforschung at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin. The Warbo Formant Orgel
was designed and built in collaboration with C. Warnke (hence 'War- Bo' Warnke/Bode)and eventually
went into commercial production by at a factory in Dachau. As with many
other instruments designed by Bode the 'Warbo Formant Orgel' pioneered
aspects of electronics that became standard in later instruments.
The Warbo Formant Orgel was a partially polyphonic four-voice
keyboard instrument with 2 filters and key assigned dynamic envelope
wave shaping, features that were later used on the postwar 'Melochord'.
The "Melodium" (1938)
Bode's second instrument, previewed in 1938 was a monophonic touch
sensitive keyboard instrument, the 'Melodium', developed with
the assistance of Oskar Vierling
, inventor of the 'Grosstonorgel'. The instrument was used extensively for film music and 'light music' during the 1940's.
Harald Bode at the Melochord c1948
The "Melochord" (1947-9)
Harald Bode built the electronic Melochord a monophonic keyboard
instrument based on vacuum tube technology in 1947 . The keyboard
used pitches derived from the traditional equal-tempered 12 note
scale with switches extending the 37 note range from three octaves
to seven. A foot pedal allowed overall control of the volume and
a novel electronically operated envelope shaper could be triggered
for each key. A later version incorporated two keyboards the second
keyboard being able to control the timbre of the other, a technique
used in later modular type synthesizers.
The Melochord was used extensively in the early days of the electronic
studio at Bonn University by Dr Werner Meyer-Eppler and was later
installed at North West German Radio studios in Köln (alongside
a Monochord and a simple oscillator and filter system) where it was used by
the Elektronische Musik group throughout the 1950's. Artists who
used the Melochord and Monochord at the studio included Herbert
Eimert, Robert Beyer, Karel Goeyvarts, György Ligeti, Henri Posseur,
Karlheinz Stockhausen and others.
Despite the instruments technical drawbacks, the Melochord was
destined to play a historic role in the future of electronic music,
Meyer-Eppler's visionary and influential work "Klangmodelle" and
lectures at Darmstadt New Music School were all based on the Melochord
and in 1961 Harald Bode, recognizing the significance of transistor
based technology over valve based synthesis, wrote a paper that
was to revolutionise electronic musical instruments. Bode's ideas
of modular and miniature self contained transistor based machines
was taken up and developed in the early 1960's by Robert Moog, Donald Buchla and others.
Sound Files of the Melochord
.Herbert Eimert and Robert Beyer "Klangstudie 1". Recorded at
the WDR Studio in 1951 using the Melochord, single oscillators
and tape manipulation.
Audio File. György Ligeti "Glissandi".Recorded at the WDR Studio
in 1957 using the Melochord, oscillators and tape manipulation.
The Bode Frequency Shifter c1972
The Bode Sound Company
From 1950 onwards Harald Bode designed several conventional electronic
instruments for Apparatewerk Bayern Germany and Estey Organ Co,
USA , beginning with the 'Polychord'
(1950), The 'Bode Organ'
(1951) - this being the basis for the Polychord III, the 'Cembaphon'
(1951) - an amplified harpsichord with electrostatic pickups,
(1953) and the concert 'Clavioline'
(1953). In 1954 Bode emigrated to the USA where he developed
a new model of the Wurlitzer Electric Piano
The Bode model 7702 Vocoder
From 1964, when he worked at the micro circuitry dept of Bell
Aerospace laboratories, until his retirement in 1974, Bode pursued
privately his own research. Bode developed a modular signal processor
incorporating a ring modular and elements of voltage control.
In 1963 he developed a frequency shifter and ring modulator under
licence to R.A.Moog Co
. Bode has more recently developed various sound processing devices
such as a Vocoder and an 'infinite phaser' marketed by his own
company Bode Sound Co.
The Bode Phaser
During the 1970's Harald Bode composed electronic scores for television
commercials and film as well as for live concerts.
H. Bode: 'Bekannte und neue Klänge durch elektrische Musik-Instrumente'
(1940) no.5, p67
H. Bode: 'European electronic Music Instrument Design' , journal of the audio engineering society, ix (1961),267
Bode's design credits on the inside of a Tuttivox
© 120 Years Of Electronic Music 2005