Åke Hodell - about the text-sound compositions

Åke Hodell (1919-2000)

General Bussig (General Buddy-Buddy, 1963)

During the fifties, a new psychological model was utilized within the Swedish military. Prussian drilling was abandoned, and in its place came a new strategy whereby officers would win the trust of the recruits as a "buddy", thereby creating obedient soldiers. General Bussig is the story of how a recruit, personified by the letter "i", is brainwashed by the friendly general. The first performance was at the Z-room at the ABF house on March 6, 1963. This recording were made by Åke Hodell for the EP Verbal Brainwash released in 1965 on the Kerberos label. Produced at Europafilm AB.

igevär (Presentarms, 1963)

A stage version of this piece for 6 performers, including Åke Hodell, was premiered at the Z-room of the ABF-house on March 6, 1963. An English score of this piece would look like: "Preeeeeeeeeee..." 3 minutes of "e", followed by a one-second transition to "sent" and 7 minutes of "aaaaaaa", followed by a final "rms". This tape version was made in 1965 for the Verbal Brainwash EP. Technical realization: Åke Hodell. Produced at Europafilm AB.

Strukturer III (Structures III, 1967)

This is the sound of the great wars. All weapon sounds are chosen with the greatest care in order to present an authentic acoustic progression through the great wars of the 20th century. First performance April 26, 1967 at a Fylkingen concert at the Modern Museum, Stockholm with a live broadcast by SR. Produced at SR/EMS (The Electroacoustic Music Studio). Technical realization: Lars-Gunnar Bodin.

USS Pacific Ocean (1968)

A thriller from the cold war involving a nuclear submarine running amok, dangerous suspense and a fatal order. First performance April 26, 1968 at a Fylkingen concert at the Modern Museum, Stockholm with a live broadcast by SR. Produced at SR/EMS. Technical realization: Göte Nilsson.

Where is Eldridge Cleaver? (1969)

Black Panthers and the death penalty in Ronald Reagan´s California. Composed after the disappearance of Eldridge Cleaver who was information minister for the Black Panthers and the leading ideologist for the black freedom movement in the US. He was the Peace and Freedom Party´s presidential candidate in 1968 before he disappeared in November 1968. First performance April 21, 1969 at a Fylkingen concert at the Modern Museum, Stockholm with a live broadcast by SR. Produced at SR/EMS. Technical realization: Sylve Sjöberg.

Law & Order Inc (1970)

Originally released as a disc in the book Mr Nixon´s Dreams (Rabén och Sjögren EP. RM 5264). Technical realization: Åke Hodell.

Mr Smith in Rhodesia (1970)

Introduction to Mr Smith in Rhodesia by the composer, in conjunction with the lifting in 1985 of a 15-year radio ban of the piece.

‚My composition Mr Smith in Rhodesia was written during the late fall of 1969 and was recorded in the beginning of March 1970, at EMS (Electroacoustic Music Studio) and at the Swedish Radio. We needed five black children around 11-12 years of age for the recording, but this turned out to be impossible. Therefore, we contacted the English school in Stockholm and found five white children of the same age group. They were to read some simple texts in genuine Oxford English; this was important because black children in English-speaking African schools were indoctrinated through the use of Oxford English and its built-in political values, not least in relation to the colonial belief in the justification of the apartheid system.

The children came to the Swedish Radio one afternoon. Under the guidance of an Englishman, they recorded the texts on tape. So that they wouldn´t be bored in the studio, we gave them lemonade and biscuits. They were of course also paid for their work. Imagine our surprise a few weeks later when we found out about the scandal caused by this recording. When they returned home, the children told their unknowing parents that they had been a part of a composition which was directed against Prime Minister Ian Smith´s white dictatorship in Rhodesia. The parents were shocked, turning first to the British Embassy in Stockholm, then to English newspapers and the BBC.

The Daily Telegraph put the news on its front page, where a creative reporter was allowed to write the article. The five children, whose age had now sunk to 6-7 years old, were bribed by candy and later tricked into appearing in an anti-American opera at the Modern Museum in Stockholm. At the end of the opera, they were placed in front of a wall and forced to say, "Mr Smith is a murderer." The reporter neglected to mention that the children also said, "Mr Smith is our friend and father", "Mr Smith gives us food and clothing" etc.

The Swedish tabloids reported the scandal in large headlines. The British Embassy protested to the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (SR), after which SR´s program director at the time, Nils-Olof Franzén, explained in an interview that the recording would be destroyed, which it was. Fylkingen, which was co-producer of the recording, was not satisfied, and financed a new recording in England involving children whose parents were quite positive towards the political content of the piece. This is the version which was presented at Fylkingen´s and the Swedish Radio´s festival at the Modern Museum in April 1970. In spite of this new recording, the piece had since then been banned from transmission on the Swedish Radio, but from this performance on, the ban was lifted.

There are alternative versions of this story. The piece was given by Åke Hodell to representatives of the freedom movements ZANU and ZAPU during a journey to Africa in 1977, and was broadcast by underground radio stations. First performance April 16, 1970 at a Fylkingen concert at the Modern Museum, Stockholm. Produced at SR/EMS. Technical realization: Sylve Sjöberg.

The Road to Nepal (1971) Electronic Purgatory II

First performance April 21, 1971: Fylkingen concert at the Modern Museum, Stockholm with a live broadcast by SR. Produced at SR/EMS. Technical realization: Hans Evers.

220 Volt Buddha (1971) Electronic Purgatory I

Originally a stage work for performance artists with ape masks, a Buddha figure (ÅH) and slide projections. The abridged version for slides and tape was made for a festival in 1980. An early version was premiered on November 28, 1970 in Copenhagen. Commissioned by Fylkingen. First performance November 17, 1971 at Fylkingen at Östgötagatan, Stockholm. First performance of the abridged version April 11, 1980 New York. Produced at Fylkingen/SR/EMS. Technical realization: Martin Holm.

Numro Ba Besch (1972)

General Buddy-Buddy in version for tape. Composed 1970 for Henri Chopin for a production on Ou Revue Disc. Here we hear the recruit's voice from General Bussig. The transposition effect comes from a directive that the record was to be engraved at 45 rpm even though it was to be pressed as a 33 rpm record. The techniques and musical elements used here were expanded later in the first purgatory, 220 V Buddha. Technical realization: Åke Hodell.

Djurgårdsfärjan över Styx (The Djurgården Ferry across the Styx, 1972) Electronic Purgatory III

A trip with Caron down the river of forgetfulness. The poem in the first part is read by Åke Hodell: "The heavens darken, Kra Kra, from exhaust-blue crows, Kra Kra. Exhaust-blue crows. Caron´s crows. Forgetfulness´ crows. Sleep´s crows. Death´s crows." First performance as a live broadcast on the SR: March 2, 1972. First performance in concert: October 2, 1974 at Fylkingen. Technical realization: Sylve Sjöberg.

Kerberos, helveteshunden (Cerberus, the Hellhound, 1972) Electronic Purgatory IV

Cerberus figures frequently in Åke Hodell´s personal mythology. Here he appears at Fridhemsplan in central Stockholm after a trip on the subway. Kerberos is also the name of a Swedish publisher specializing in avant-garde. First performance: April 19, 1972 at Fylkingen with a live broadcast on the SR. Produced at SR/Fylkingen. Technical realization: Sylve Sjöberg.

General Bonhomme (1972)

French version of General Buddy-Buddy premiered on November 14, 1972 at the Centre Culturel Suedois in Paris. This live recording was made by an unknown French technician.
Missing information in CD-booklet: Translation, Swedish to French, by Stina Orrje.

Présentezarmes (1972)

French tape version of Presentarms. Premiered on November 16, 1972 at the Centre Culturel Suedois in Paris. Produced at SR. Technical realization: Sylve Sjöberg.

Orfiska uppenbarelser (Orpheic Revelations, 1973) Electronic Purgatory V

Composed for a stage work. The introductory poem has been skipped for this production. First performance: April 24, 1973 at Fylkingen with a live broadcast on the SR. Produced at SR/Fylkingen. Technical realization: Ola Kejving.

The Voyage to Labrador (1976)

The piece was composed for and released on Fylkingen LP 1010 in 1976. The work is not to be confused with the radio play with the same title. Produced at SR. Technical realization: Sten Hanson.

Spirit of Ecstasy, Racing Car Opera (1977)

This is the history of the 20th century told through the history of its cars. The car as a status symbol and a sex symbol. The car as a symbol for the entire political, social and economic system which steers Western civilization. Featuring Fiat (Verdi of the Racing Cars), Mercedes (Wagner of the Racing Cars), Bugatti (Mozart of the Racing Cars) and others. First performance: April 25, 1977 with a live broadcast on the SR. Technical realization: Sylve Sjöberg.

The following pieces were commissioned by the Music Department of the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (SR, P2) and were produced for the Text-Sound festivals in collaboration with Fylkingen. All these pieces (and 220 V Buddha) were produced in four-channel concert versions. The planned live broadcast of Mr Smith in Rhodesia was cancelled.

Structures III (1967), USS Pacific Ocean (1968), Where is Eldridge Cleaver? (1969), Mr Smith in Rhodesia (1970), The Road to Nepal (1971), The Djurgården Ferry across the Styx (1972) (was not part of the Text-Sound festival of 1972), Cerberus, the Hellhound (1972), Orpheic Revelations (1973), Spirit of Ecstasy, Racing Car Opera (1977).

Translation: George Kentros
Special thanks to Paul Pignon