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The Cosmic Vision and Telepathic Following of Bruce Haack

Price, Peter (2016) The Cosmic Vision and Telepathic Following of Bruce Haack. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

Few recently rediscovered pioneers of electronic music are as colorful and unlikely as Bruce Haack (1931-1988) Bruce Haack was born in a tiny mining community in rural Alberta, Canada, an unlikely time and place to produce a future electro-mystic whose absolutely individual work has destabilized received histories of electronic music. Despite being rejected by the University of Alberta’s music program on the basis of his poor notational skills, he was invited to study with Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School. Not surprisingly, on the evidence of his later musical output, Haack found the curriculum at Juilliard restrictive and did not complete his studies. But two consequences of his failed conservatory education would have lasting significance: his relocation from rural Canada to 1950s Manhattan and befriending fellow Juilliard student, pianist Ted Pandel, who became a lifelong promoter of Haack’s odd genius and protector of his fragile personality. From the beginning of his compositional output Haack pursued his interest in experimental electronic music technologies and ignored established genre boundaries. His work in the late 1950s involved scoring ‘serious’ music for dance and theater productions and writing commodity music for labels like Dot and Coral. His electronic scores – such as Les Etapes from 1955 – freely mixed electronically synthesized sounds (with circuits of his own design) with musique concrète at a time when this was rarely done. Another persistent trope of electronic music – the visionary inventor/artist reduced to a carnival barker pandering to the public’s on-again/off-again interest in odd and futuristic electronic instruments played itself out in Haack’s TV appearances on “I’ve Got a Secret” and “TheTonight Show” with Johnny Carson playing his Dermatron, an instrument that requires skin-to-skin contact by two people to complete the electronic circuit and produce sound. A major part of Haack’s spotty employment was as a piano accompanist for dance classes. Through this activity he was to meet children’s creative movement teacher Esther Nelson. With Nelson and Pandel, Haack started Dimension Five Records to release albums of the bizarrely original children’s music he developed for Nelson’s movement pedagogy. An early example of an absolutely DIY enterprise, Haack recorded the music in his bedroom studio and even designed many of the memorably bizarre album covers. In 1968 Haack began working in his own idiom of psychedelic rock, and by 1970, managed to secure a release on Columbia Records of "The Electric Lucifer, perhaps one of the strangest and most accomplished albums intended for a rock listenership to come from a major label. Mythologies about Haack have filled the void of more systematic research until now. For the past 4 years I have been interviewing Ted Pandel and working through all that remains of Haack’s tapes, correspondance and working notes. As interest in Haack’s life and output continues to rise I intend to prepare the groundwork for future Haack studies. Haack’s musical interests were so varied yet idiosyncratic that researchers from a number of fields will find interest in his mostly unknown output.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:13



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