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Experiments, Experiences and Philosophy
History of Sound
"Now" is, when the Past Touches the Future
While I was putting together the following list of events and inventions and ideas and approaches I became aware of, how intensive science and art and business have always worked on each other causing the development in music, sound and sound design, that we have been priviledged to perceive – and are still perceiving.
My often quite blurred view got clear – suddenly I discovered, how far back the roots of .i.e. granular approaches of processing sound do really reach (far beyond the 1950ies).
I got aware of the dialectical relationship between technical inventions and musical ideas. and how interwoven things appear to be, when looked at in a historical context.
I got aware of all of that. And suddenly I felt happy again, happy about the things I´m doing with sound, happy because I understood: I´m not alone, not alone in my studio, but I´m a part, a very small one, but a part a long history. I am working in the tradition of all of these great people and amazing inventions and artful ideas.
And perhaps artists like Varése or Xenakis or even Stockhausen are hovering in the air behind me looking over my shoulders, smiling and saying: “Well, he has tried again.”
The barrel organs of the 14th century can be seen as the first musical sequencers.
In the 16th century the Dutch scientist Isaac Beeckmann stated, that vibrating sources send “corpuscles” - kind of sonic atoms – into the air. An early way of thinking about sonic grains.
In 1876 Elisha Grey invented the Musical Telegraph, one of the earliest electric musical instruments.
The mechanical phonograph is invented in the late 19th century.
late 19th century
In 1896 Thaddeus Cahill invented the Telharmonium, an electrical organ weighing 200 tons and being driven by 12 steam-powered electromagnetic generators.
In 1906 Lee de Forest invented the amplifying vacuum tube called the Audion tube, on which his Audion Piano of 1915 was based.
Luigi Russolo writes his manifesto “The Art of Noise” in 1913.
In 1919 Leon Theremin constructed his instrument, that was played by moving one´s hands between two antennas. It was used in a lot of horro film sound tracks.
In 1929 Edouard Coupleux and Joseph Givelet build the Couplex-Givelet Synthesizer – first time of using the term “Synthesizer”.
In the 1930 Friedrich Trautwein and Oskar Sala worked on the Trautonium, which was played by pressing a steel wire onto a bar.
In 1934 the Hammond organ, an electronic tonewheel organ, was invented.
In 1935 Yamaha released Magna Organ, a multi-timbral keyboard based on electrically blown reeds with pickups.
The first practical audio tape recorder was unveiled in 1935.
Harald Bode constructed a 4-voice keyboard with formant filters and a dynamic envelope controller called Warbo Formant Organ in 1937.