The Archiphone was essentially a portable electronic version of the giant ‘Fokker Organ’ – a thirty one tone microtonal pipe organ designed by the Dutch Physicist Adriaan Fokker in 1950.
The new electronic instrument was designed and built by Herman van der Horst of the firm Neonvox (based in Wilp, Gelderland, Netherlands) at the request of the organist, microtonal composer and Fokker-Organ virtuoso, Anton De Beer. Only four finished versions of the instrument are known to have been built they are located at: (1&2) Huygens-Fokker Foundation, Amsterdam NL (3) William Bromhead Coates, 140 Station Street Blackheath NSW 2785 Australia, (4) Webster College St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
The unique aspect of the Archiphone was it’s microtonal keyboard design. The instrument was played on an unusual five octave, 333 note black (sharps), white (naturals), blue (semi-sharps), dark grey (flats) and grey(semi-flats) keyboard based on Huygens’s microtonal scale of 5th-tones (Christiaan Huygens, who, in 1661 rejected well-tempered tuning and first posited the 31-tone system). The sound was generated by transistor oscillators mount on removable printed circuit boards and controlled in the usual organ stop method; combinable Pipe Organ, Piano, Woodwind, Flute, Trumpet, Strings and a series of mixable filters, vibrato and Bass/Treble settings controlled by manual sliders.
The Archiphone was housed in a 116 × 40 × 15 cm wooden lacquered box, Which, with an external 50 watt amplifier and speaker boxes allowed a certain amount of portability.
A number of microtonal compositions have been written for the archiphone by artists such as Adriaan Fokker, Henk Badings, Anton de Beer, and Joel Mandelbaum. An instruction manual was written by Anton de Beer: ‘Guide for the use of the Archiphone’ (1976).
Adriaan Daniel Fokker. Born; Buitenzorg (now Bogor), Java, Indonesia 1887 Died; Haarlem NL 1972
Adriaan Fokker, cousin of the famous aviation pioneer Anthony Fokker, was educated in the Netherlands initially as a mining engineer at the Delft University of Technology, and later as a physicist at Leiden University. In Leiden he earned his doctorate in 1913. Fokker’s name is best known for the Fokker-Planck equation– a partial differential equation of second order, which describes the time evolution of the probability distribution of a physical variable subjected to a stochastic force, in addition to friction and possibly other driving forces (a prototypical example being Brownian motion). The Fokker-Planck equation was contained in Fokker’s thesis, and was independently derived by Max Planck.
During 1913-14 Fokker worked in Zürich as Albert Einstein’s assistant, and published an article in general relativity with Einstein as co-author. In 1923 Fokker was appointed professor of physics at Delft University of Technology.
In 1940 The Netherlands was invaded by the German Army. To avoid having his skills as a physicist being used by the occupying Germans, Fokker turned to music theory – and in particular, tuning practice, microtonality and issues related to just intonation and the compromises embodied in equal temperament. His chief interests were the theories of Euler and Huygens. During the war, he constructed and had built a 12-key pipe organ with mean-tone tuning according to the principles of Euler’s ‘Generibus musicis’. Later, he had a 31-key organ built that realised an approximate pure tuned scale, based on Huygens’s microtonal scale of 5th-tones. Concerts involving the Fokker organ were given regularly since 1951. At the end of his life, an electronic version, the ‘Archiphone’ was produced in 1970.
Anton De Beer. Born: 27 October 1924, Haarlem NL. Died: Haarlem, NL. 1 February 2000
Anton de Beer studied piano with Johannes Rontgen and Paul Frenckel, harpsichord with Richard Boer, and composition with Ernest W. Mulder. In 1951 he worked directly with Fokker and premiered 31-tone organ works by Badings, Kox, Joel Mandelbaum, Alan Ridout, and Wyschnegradsky. In 1970 at De Beers with Herman van der Horst of the firm “Neonvox” manufactured the Archiphone, an electronic portable version of Fokker’s larger pipe organ