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Hugh Davies

(d France, 1927). French researcher into electronic sound systems and inventor of an early electronic organ, the photoelectric Hugoniot organ. From the end of World War I Hugoniot systematically explored and improved on all the electronic sound-generating and -recording methods known at the time, starting in 1919 with the rotating electromagnetic tone-wheels pioneered in the Telharmonium and known in France from Cahill’s patents, and continuing with electromagnetic steel discs. He also tried out audio and beat-frequency oscillators. The only instrument that he appears to have completed was a photoelectric organ (1921), in which rotating tone-wheels with concentric rings of radial slits interrupted beams of light (there were presumably 12 discs, each producing all the octave registers of a single note); behind the wheels were shaped timbre masks that modified the light beams before they reached photoelectric cells.

Through his patents Hugoniot influenced the design of several electronic instruments developed in France in the late 1920s, including the ondes martenot (...

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Hugh Davies

(b Cropsey, IL, Jan 9, 1886; d Chicago, IL, Sept 14, 1943). American musician and pioneer in the development of the electric guitar. He studied music at Oberlin College and for several years performed professionally on string instruments under management of the Chicago Musical Bureau. From 1911, while performing and composing for the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan, he developed ideas for improving and diversifying mandolin construction. After post-World War I musical studies in Paris he returned to Chicago, where he resumed work for Gibson (as a designer and acoustical engineer from 1919) and in 1921 received a master’s degree in theory and composition from the American Conservatory of Music. Later, Loar taught acoustics at Northwestern University for 13 years and published a number of method books and musical arrangements.

Having failed to convince Gibson of the potential success of an electric guitar based on an electrostatic pickup that he had developed in ...