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Bruce Haack and his experimental electronic music for Kids

The Canadian composer demonstrates his “musical computer” on a children’s TV program in 1968.
09/12/2015 Santiago Salvador
Fred McFeely Rogers was an upright, God-fearing man. An educator and Presbyterian minister, beginning in 1968 he made a name for himself in the United States as the host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, the longest-running children’s program on public television (PBS), longer even than “Sesame Street”. His program was tender and affable, but included trips into the neighborhood of Make-Believe – a fantasy world inhabited by puppets; the show also dared to tackle subjects that other children’s shows avoided like the plague (anger, divorce, war, death) and Mr. Rogers was fond of having unusual artists as his guests. One fine day he invited the Canadian composer and inventor Bruce Haack and his partner Esther Nelson, the duo responsible for three of the most hallucinogenic children’s records of all times Dance, Sing & Listen (1962), The Way Out Record for Children (1968) and The Electronic Record for Children (1969). Bruce Haack demonstrated his “musical computer”, a home-made analog synthesizer, while Miss Nelson led the children in a series of peculiar modern dance exercises.
 
In the words of Josh Jones, a collaborator with Open Culture, the magnificent website dedicated to cultural and educational dissemination, the videos are “a testament to how much the counterculture influenced early childhood education. Many of the progressive educational experiments of the sixties have since become historical curiosities, replaced by insipid corporate merchandising. What Haack and Nelson’s musical approach tells me is that we’d do well to revisit the educational climate of that day and take a few lessons from its freeform experimentation and openness.”
 
 
 
Bruce Haack’s records weren’t just a treasure for broad-minded parents in the late 1960s. Over time, he became a cult figure in avant-garde circles, in the world of psychedelic rock and in electronic music. In fact, a handful of DJs make appearances in the documentary Haack …The King Of Techno (Philip Anagnos, 2004), praising the otherworldly sounds of this indisputable pioneer of electronic music. In the 1970s, Haack authored the conceptual album The Electric Lucifer (1970), strongly influenced by science fiction and acid rock; he later turned to electronic pop with Together (1971, under the pseudonym Jackpine Savage); and he even let loose with an erotic record, Haackula (1978, though it wasn’t released until 30 years later), that will catapult your libido into outer space (if you don’t believe me, listen to his cosmic “Blow Job”). That same period – characterized by the use of a vocoder he invented himself (beating Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” to the punch by several years), which he called “Farad” – is the focus for the compilation Farad: The Electric Voice, released in 2010 by the label Stones Throw.
 
 
 
 
 
HERE you’ll find more information on Bruce Haack’s life and work.