History lecture TALK: house of Subharchords, made in the GDR, by Dipl.-Ing. G. Steinke

The Subharchord and its history

by Gerhard Steinke, Audio Consultant, Berlin.

Abstract of the pptx presentation in Studio Hall 1, Funkhaus Berlin, April, 2, 2016

The history of the electro acoustical music and music instruments begins in St. Petersburg with the invention of Theremin about 1920. His instrument „Thermenvox“ can be handled up to-day only by a few special artists, and it needed a long time up to 2005 when firstly a printed “Theremin School” was published by the great thereminist Carolina Eyck.

Much further international developments followed, the most well-known was the „Trautonium” by Trautwein, with his virtuous player Oskar Sala.


This instrument inspired to our own development of the Hybrid-Synthesizer "SUBHARCHORD", an electronic sound and noise generator, in the period 1959 – 1966 within the former RFZ (Research Centre of Broadcasting and TV, German Post, Berlin East), especially designed for the application in studios of electro-acoustical music as well as at Broadcasting, Film and TV.


With the „Subharchord“ beside a melody voice up to four subharmonic sounds could be generated which all can be summarized to a multi voice mixture and processed in various manners by special formant and MEL-filter banks. The subharmonic frequencies can be combined in dividing ratios from
½ up to 1/29, allowing multifold sound structures. The invention of a new type of subharmonic dividers by developing engineer Ernst Schreiber was the basis of this new instrument and of the protected trade mark „Subharchord“.


In our own experimental studio in Berlin-Adlershof in the years 1960 through 1970 more than 20 composers realized numerous autonomous works and also sound illustrations for Moving Pictures and TV, up to the time when the special music political situation in the former GDR did not allow to continue the development with electronic sounds.

Beside the prototype, saved by the composer Georg Katzer and installed again after restoration in 2005 in the EM Studio of the Academy of Art, six series instruments of type SUBHARCHORD II in the years of 1966 -1968 have been produced in the RFZ. Three instruments could be found and restored. These are existing now in the Museums of Technology in Berlin, in Vienna and in Trondheim. They are available for composers and can be demonstrated at special events.


( see more in: http://www.rundfunkschaetze.de/radio-musikinstrumente-fuer-klangkunst/ subharchord)


Evening Program

In Hall 2, from 7pm - 11pm, every hour on the hour in 30 minute clips, the passing public will be presented with a mixture of colored concerts, installations,
live and complex arranged applications from our in part, prominent and experienced customers and artists.

In Hall 1, starting at 8:30pm and at 9:30pm, panels and discussions to different themes will be presented. Invited guests are requested to play an instrument prior to it's explanation and provide commenting. The short appearances and performances will be moderated.

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