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Hugh Davies and Andrei Smirnov

Electronic percussion instrument constructed for the composer Henry Cowell by Lev Termen (Leon Theremin) in 1931; two examples were built. It was the earliest electronic rhythm machine. A series of rotating wheels interrupted beams of light to produce very complex rhythms with precision. The polyphonic keyboard had 17 keys, each of which, except the 17th, produced a single note repeated in a periodic rhythm for as long as it was held down; the 17th key inserted an extra beat in the middle of each bar. Each of the 16 rhythms could be produced individually or in combination, requiring 455 days, 2 hours, and 30 minutes to play all possible combinations, assuming a duration of 10 seconds for each....