Godfried-Willem Raes

Resident archivist Jack Dangers takes a look at the  1980 album by the Belgian robot-building sound artist Godfried-Willem Raes

Bellenorgel’ by Godfried-Willem Raes, was recorded in 1979 and released in 1980 on Belgian art label, Igloo. There were only 100 made, and each sleeve was individually screen-printed. I discovered this after I’d bought it, I had no idea that it was so rare.

You could say it’s in the same genre as ‘Crackle’ by Michel Waisvisz, which I wrote about last month, in that it’s another European guy making weird music with electronic instruments they designed and built themselves. One of the instruments on this album is a “VCS2000”, which was intended as a parody of the EMS VCS 3, with digitally controlled electronic circuits, an iron rod, steel wires, a hair brush and contact microphones. There’s also a “Transformationeel Regeneratieve Synthesizer”, a “Synthelog” made with components from electronic games and gambling machines, and the “Dudafoon”, which incorporates a bicycle wheel.

Raes is a professor of experimental music composition at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent, a performance artist and a copyright activist – all his work is copyright-free. He was born in 1952, and studied musicology and philosophy in the late 60s at the Ghent State University, followed by composition at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent.

He started the Logos Group (now known as the Logos Foundation) in 1968. It’s an umbrella organisation for the promotion of new music and audio-related arts, and since 1990 it’s been based at the Logos Tetrahedron, a 150-capacity venue in Ghent designed by Raes. It’s an amazing looking place, clad in aluminium with a huge glass frontage in the shape of an inverted triangle.

Raes has been building music-making robots since the early 1970s, including one for Aphex Twin in 2009. These became part of the Man And Machine ensemble, sometimes known as the M&M Robot Orchestra, which consists of Raes and his various music-making machines. There are videos online of his performances with the Robotorkest at the Logos Tetrahedron. ‘Herbtregen’, from 2004, is a good example of the orchestra in action, with a naked dancer wrapped in transparent plastic.

Copies of ‘Bellenorgel’ sell for around £150, but Sub Rosa have just released a deluxe book and vinyl retrospective called ‘50 Years Of Logos, 50 Years Of Experiment’. The album features the work of various artists who have composed pieces at Logos over the years. There’s an excerpt from ‘Bellenorgel’ on it. You can find copies online at the moment for around £35.

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