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date: 13 November 2019


  • Hugh Davies


A monophonic electronic instrument developed by the radio engineer and organist Ernst Schreiber from about 1959 to 1966 at the (now defunct) Labor für Akustisch-Musikalische Grenzprobleme of the Rundfunk- und Fernsehtechnisches Zentralamt (RFZ) der Deutschen Post in Berlin. Intended primarily for use in electronic music, radio, television, and film studios (it is heard in several science-fiction and cartoon film scores), but also occasionally played in concerts, it is similar in conception to the Mixtur-Trautonium, using subharmonic timbres (mirror-image ‘overtone’ spectra below the fundamental), hence the name. The Subharchord has a 39-note touch-sensitive keyboard, the range of which is transposable within a total compass of just over ten octaves; in addition there are five keys, operated by the left hand, and numerous dials for special functions. The instrument incorporates a ring modulator and a chorus generator, which gives an effect that resembles the sound of unison violins. Glissandos over a range of up to three octaves are possible. Schreiber and his team later made a second model, and from ...

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