It’s not often that Hewlett-Packard crop up as a hardware provider in electronic music. As with so many American tech stories, Hewlett-Packard’s first successful product was conceived in a Palo Alto garage. It was here, in 1939, that Bill Hewlett and David Packard produced the HP200A. the first low cost piece of equipment to measure audio frequencies. Disney bought eight of these for use in the production of Fantasia and HP went on to produce many types of audio precision instruments from oscilloscopes to sine wave generators.
Perhaps the largest collection of these now resides in the De Toonzaal Studio, an “Analog Studio for Electronic Music” in Den Bosch, Holland. De Toonzaal is part of the Willem-Twee Studios, curated through life long research by composer / technician Hans Kulk and recently featured in Albert van Abbe’s ‘Against the Clock‘ on FACT.
“Zimní Král“, by Italian composer Andrea Taeggi (of Gondwana and Lumisokea), is the first official release to emerge from these studios and makes extensive use of the De Toonzaal collection, in particular a Hitachi 240 analogue computer. As Andrea explains:
“The Analog Computer offers types of applications never really implemented within the modern analogue modular systems; it still stands as a unique and powerful instrument…its original application was flight simulations and its vast territory is as yet largely uncharted.”
For anyone remotely interested in sound synthesis, the studio itself is a goldmine:
“The equipment available at Willem-Twee is particularly rare and its setup was inspired by the iconic Studio di Fonologia RAI. Much of it was not originally intended as music instruments, but for measuring/testing purposed by civil engineers and even the army during the Cold War. One can find bulky, old units — unknown to the most — such as function generators, wave analyzers, frequency counters, scopes, voltmeters, lock-in amps, word generators and variable phase oscillators — to name a few. Key features of this equipment are stability, precision, wide frequency range.”
“I found it remarkable that Hans decided to give public access to his own cherished collection of instruments, instead of keeping it for himself at home (as is unfortunately the case in many other instances).”
Exploring “cyclical, minimal and hypnotic” structures, Andrea coaxes a sparse mechanoid funk from these old devices. Perhaps the most striking aspect is the richness of the tones, in particular the sub bass frequencies which balloon with a delicious weight. With much of the percussion coming from the Hitachi analogue computer, these metallic, rattling sounds in combination with the machines’ hum and hiss have a history you can almost taste.
We’re delighted to offer you a premiere of the track “Blazar” taken from “Zimní Král” – high quality headphones or speakers are a must for the full experience.
“Zimní Král” is scheduled for release 1st September 2018 via SM-LL. Order a copy from Bandcamp.
A1 / 1. Dinergy
A2 / 2. Zeitlupe
A3 / 3. Gylany
B1 / 4. Qubit
B2 / 5. Hygieia
B3 / 6. Blazar