Incredible footage of “the king of techno,” Bruce Haack demonstrating his homemade computers for some kids on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood in 1968, with the help of his longtime creative partner, Ester Nelson.
Nelson was a choreographer and together, she and Haack collaborated on eleven fairly avant-garde records for kids (released on their own Dimension 5 label) that combined electronic music, storytelling and a (drugless?) psychedelic outlook. Some of them weren’t that far-off from “Hokey Pokey” or “musical chairs” type activity songs, but others were weirder… like asking kids to pretend to be their own shadows or a grandfather clock.
The liner notes to Haack and Nelson’s 1963 Dance Sing and Listen Again album read:
THIS RECORDING IS A TOTAL EXPERIENCE. It exposes your child to controlled body movement, provides a stimulus for imagination and creativity, and presents a range of thought, music and sound from things medieval through today’s electronics. NOTHING LIKE IT HAS EXISTED BEFORE!
That’s a pretty big claim for a kids album, but it’s probably accurate, too.
I can’t fathom the notion that they thought they were providing a psychedelic experience of sorts, for kids! Here’s what they had to say in the liner notes to their 1968 album The Way Out Record for Children (which must be a reference to Perrey and Kingsley’s The In Sound From Way Out!):
This Wild and wonderful record offers another “Way Out” for children from typical recordings. Our first three recordings prove that our simple philosophy of love and reverse-psychedelics works. We do fill the senses with an almost infinite range of concepts, abstracts, words, sounds, advice and a contract with order and form. But we know that kids compute—so we ask them to use our basics and stretch to the sky. They do—because kids are turned on.
In this Wild and Wonderful time we hereby take the slogan “Drop Out”—turn it around—and print our own button for children …“Drop in—We love you.”
You follow that? Was the idea of “psychedelics” somehow not yet threatening to Middle American parents?
In the video below (which reminds me a bit of Synthesizer Patel’s appearance on Look Around You) Haack and Miss Nelson explain their zany non-LSD gestalt to Mr. Rogers and the kids. Although the clips are labeled parts two and three, part one isn’t on YouTube, but nothing of Haack’s appearance seems to be missing.