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Hohner Multimonica

electrophone

The museum owns a multimonica I and II (no. 2006.015 and 2019.016 respectively). The multimonica I was donated to the museum in 2006 by Mr. and Mrs. Palmans-Bonné from Kessel. The instrument was used as a display model in the music shop 'De Lier' in Lier in the 1950s, of which the father of Mrs. Palmans-Bonné was the manager. The instrument is no longer playable today.

The mim bought the multimonica II from Daniel Kitzig in 2019. He himself restored the instrument, which is now playable and which sounds perfect.

The "Hohner multimonica" was commercialized after the Second World War. At that time it was one of the few synthesizers manufactured on a large scale. The first design of a multimonica, the mutimonica I, dates back to 1940. It was the work of Siegfried Mager (the son of German electronic music pioneer Jörg Mager) and was known as the "Mager-Straube-Kleinorgel". The electronic switches were designed by Harald Bode, who would play a significant role in the development of electronic music in the second half of the 20th century.

The war put a stop to this work and the Hohner firm returned to its core business: the manufacture of accordions and harmonicas. The latter in particular were massively distributed to the German troops as moral support.

The model that came onto the market after the war was the multimonica II, which was a great success at the 1954 Frankfurter Frühjahrsmesse. Connoisseurs and amateurs alike were delighted by its many sound possibilities. It was able to imitate the timbre of any string or wind instrument and was suited for ensemble play as well as for intimate play at home.    

However, its sound possibilities remained quite limited, compared to the clavioline and ondioline. These were real synthesizers (no combinations of instruments) and their sound possibilities were abundant. Not only was the number of imitable acoustic instruments greater, but the limitless possibilities for creating new sounds made them much more interesting instruments for musicians.

The multimonica has two keyboards. It consists of a polyphone reed organ (lower keyboard) and a monophone synthesizer (sawtooth wave). Under the keyboard are two knee pads that allow the volume of both keyboards to be adjusted separately. The biggest differences between models I and II are the control panel (the upper part) and the fact that the multimonica I also has an integrated radio.

The control panel of the multimonica I consists of five rotary knobs and nine switches. The rotary knobs are used (from left to right) to search for radio frequencies, to turn on the volume of the radio, to select radio/instruments, to switch the organ function on and off, and to tune the synthesizer (the smallest knob). Above the smallest knob there is an indicator lamp, which is lit when the instrument is switched on. 

The nine switches are divided (from left to right) into four switches for adjusting the timbres (tone colors) of the synthesizer (filtering), four switches for the different amplifiers, and one switch for the vibrato.

In the multimonica II, the radio has disappeared and only an integrated amplifier remains. The possibilities of timbres are more important. This was necessary because of the rivalry of the instrument with other synthesizers such as the clavioline and ondioline. The control panel is set up as follows (from left to right): the turning on and volume control knob, six switches with programmed synthesizer sounds, the synthesizer tuning knob (with a pilot light above), two switches for filtering, three for vibrato adjustment and one for amplitude.  The last switch starts the bellows for the organ function.

The range of the mutimonica I and II is F-A'', but the buttons under the keyboard allow transposing. The reed organ of the multimonica II plays in its basic chord (F-A'') once the first (outermost) button has been pressed. Buttons 2 and 3 are used to transpose one octave higher each time. Buttons 4 to 7 are a mix of the first three buttons. All these buttons are only related to the organ function, because the synthesizer is not transposing.

The multimonica I has thirteen buttons in the lower part, of which buttons 1 to 6 and 8 to 13 are identical. Knob 7 (in the middle) is the combination of the three chords. Since our copy is no longer playable, we do not know whether buttons 1 to 6 and 8 to 13 are exclusively dedicated to the organ (and duplicated for ease of play), or whether these two sets of buttons are linked one to the organ and the other to the synthesizer.

Media
Images: 
Multimonica, Harald Bode, Trossingen (Germany), 1940, 2006.015
Multimonica (control panel), Harald Bode, Trossingen, 1940, 2006.015
Multimonica (control panel), Harald Bode, Trossingen, 1940, 2006.015
Multimonica, restored by Daniel Kitzig, 1954, 2019.016
Multimonica, restored by Daniel Kitzig, 1954, 2019.016
Multimonica, restored by Daniel Kitzig, 1954, 2019.016
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