Thursday, 22 September 2016

Max Brand's Höllenmaschine

Some men are fossils from the day they are born,  but not Max Brand (1896-1980).  Here he is, in his 80's demonstrating his synthesizer, which he built in his 60's to create music out of abstract electronic sound, for which he wrote several abstract, electronic pieces,starting in his 60's.  The machine  was assembled and exhibited in Vienna, where it still exists, and is still played.  Electronic music would have come naturally to Brand, given his fascination with modernity and mechanical processes. His best-known work, the opera Maschinist Hopkins (1927), of which I'll write more later, typifies the spirit of the age, influenced by Futurism, jazz, film and experimental art.

Brand didn't invent electronic music, though, as it was well in gestation even in the 1920's with Edgard Varèse who was experimenting with new sounds  in the 1920's and whose Poème électronique was the sensation of the World Fair in 1958, influencing Xenakis, Ligeti, Stockhausen  and a host of composers since.  Below a clip from a 2009 performance of Brand's Ilian IV (1974) played on Brand's own machine.

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