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Article

Hugh Davies

[orgue des ondes (Fr.: ‘organ of the waves’)]

Electronic organ designed by the organ builder Edouard Eloi Coupleux of Tourcoing and the radio engineer Joseph Armand Givelet in Paris in 1929–30, and produced under patents of 1934 and 1936. It was the first successful polyphonic instrument based on electronic oscillators (demonstrated already in Givelet’s monophonic piano radioélectrique in 1927) and the first electronic organ to be in regular use. In 1931 Charles Tournemire played the Coupleux-Givelet organ at the church of Villemomble. Up to the mid-1930s at least four were installed in churches in France and Switzerland and one at the Poste Parisien broadcasting station (hence the instrument’s alternative name). The prototype contained only 12 oscillators, the signals from which were routed through frequency doublers; this rather primitive system in which each oscillator signal could be transposed only to other octave positions did not permit the simultaneous sounding of octaves. The finished organs normally had two manuals, with one easily tunable oscillator for each note, necessitating a total of 250 to 700 valves. The Poste Parisien organ (...

Article

Ian Mikyska

An annual festival of contemporary music, multimedia art, experimental film, installation, sound art, and related areas, which takes place in Prague each May. It was started in 2011 by Dan Senn, an American composer and the organizer and co-founder of Roulette Intermedium.

The first four editions took place in the post-industrial Trafačka Aréna; in 2014, the festival moved to the much more cosmopolitan Paralelní Polis. The festival aims to disrupt the usual division of artists into cliques, and to provoke interaction between artists from different backgrounds. The organizers’ outsider position allows them to do so non-institutionally, without an established position on the scene, but still employing collaborations with various other institutions: the Center for Audiovisual Studies at FAMU (the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague), the Agosto Foundation, the 4+4 Days in Motion Festival, and others.

The programming is a mixture of Czech and international performers. International guests have included Jaap Blonk, Phill Niblock and Katherine Liberovskaya, Bob Ostertag, Yves Degoyan, and Joanna Hoffman. Over the years, the festival has gradually mapped several art scenes in the Czech Republic: contemporary composed music (Lucie Vítková, Michal Rataj, David Danel, and the Fama Quartet); sound art (Marek Hlaváč and Michal Cáb); contemporary art (Michal Cimala and Martin Janíček); and experimental video (Martin Blažíček and Michal Kindernay). In addition, the festival organizes open calls for fixed-media and live works from aspiring artists....

Article

Hugh Davies

Electronic organ, several models of which were designed by Leslie (E.A.) Bourn from the early 1930s and manufactured by the John Compton Organ Co. (later Compton Organs Ltd) between the mid-1930s and 1970. In 1926 Bourn approached John Haywood Compton with a proposal for the production of a ‘pipeless’ organ, and was invited to join the staff of Compton’s company. By about 1928 Bourn had abandoned his original electromagnetic tone-wheel system of sound generation and had developed his pioneering electrostatic system. It is based on 12 identical electrostatic tone-wheels, which are rotated at different speeds, by means of a synchronous motor and a set of pulleys, to produce all the semitone intervals in an octave. Each tone-wheel mechanism consists of two discs. A Bakelite stator disc, 12.7 cm (5”) in diameter, has engraved on it a set of concentric sinusoidal waveforms, corresponding to a fundamental pitch and its octaves; these grooves are filled with a metallic conductive material. A rotor disc, containing appropriately positioned electrodes, is rotated at about 1 mm distance from the stator. When an electrical potential is applied to one or more of the waveform rings, a corresponding voltage is induced in the electrodes, the mechanism forming the equivalent of the two plates of a capacitor. Gliding sounds can be produced by a relay that briefly slows down the motor, it can be activated only when all the keys are released....

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Elektronmusikstudion] (Swed.: ‘electronic music studio’)

The Swedish national centre for electronic music and sound art, in Stockholm. It was preceded by a smaller studio run by the Worker’s Society of Education from 1960. EMS was established by Swedish Radio in 1964 under music director and composer Karl Birger Blomdahl (1916–68), who hired the composer and performer Knut Wiggen (b 1927) to take charge of creating the studios. In 1965 an old radio theatre studio called the klangverstan (‘sound workshop’) opened for composers. Construction of a new facility was begun, but after Blomdahl’s death EMS became independent, funded only in small part by Swedish Radio, and otherwise by Fylkingen (a society for experimental music and arts) and the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.

Wiggen envisioned EMS as both a place to produce electro-acoustic music and a research institution that would give the composer ‘the possibility of describing sounds in psychological terms’. The studio was equipped accordingly. The sound sculpture ...

Article

(b Luxembourg, Aug 16, 1884; d New York, Aug 19, 1967). American writer, publisher, and inventor. In 1904 he emigrated to America, where in 1908 he founded the first of a series of radio magazines (including Radio-Craft) which he wrote for and edited. He later turned to science fiction magazines (from ...

Article

Hugh Davies

(M.Y. de P. )

(b Rheims, France, 1899; d La Varenne St-Hilaire, St-Maur-des-Fossés, France, Nov 9, 1963). French engineer and physicist. He was one of the pioneers of electronic instruments and especially of the electronic organ in the 1920s and early 1930s; some of his instruments were constructed in collaboration with the organ builder Edouard Eloi Coupleux. In 1917 or 1918, while working in the radio laboratory at the Eiffel Tower in Paris (at the same time as Maurice Martenot and Joseph Béthenod), Givelet first conceived the idea of electronic instruments based on the pitches that could be produced and varied by placing one’s hand near or on certain components in a radio receiver. His idea for a dial-operated instrument (similar to the later Dynaphone and Ondium Péchadre) was not followed up until the mid-1920s, when he returned to studying the possibilities of electronic instruments.

Givelet’s first completed electronic instrument, the monophonic keyboard ...

Article

Hugh Davies

Electronic keyboard instrument developed by Bruno Helberger (b Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 1884; d Vienna, Austria, 1951) from the Hellertion, the result of an earlier collaboration with Peter Lertes. The first version of the Heliophon was completed in Berlin in 1936, but it was destroyed during World War II; a second version was built in Vienna in 1947 (one of the two models is now in D.B.im). Helberger continued to develop and improve the instrument until his death, after which the work was continued in Vienna by Wolfgang Wehrmann. The sounds of the Heliophon are generated by electronic oscillators. Its total range is seven octaves and it has two 58-note, touch-sensitive manuals (staggered as in a ‘spinet’ organ), on each of which up to three pitches (with different timbres) can be played simultaneously; six pedals control individual volume levels and two knee-levers produce vibrato. In front of each manual is a ribbon controller, which is used to create glissandos and timbre changes....

Article

Hugh Davies

Monophonic electronic instrument developed in 1928–9 by Bruno Helberger (b Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 1884; d Vienna, Austria, 1951) and Peter Lertes of Leipzig (from whose names that of the instrument was derived), several variants of which were constructed with the assistance of Schneider-Opel in Frankfurt. Helberger, who had studied the piano with Artur Schnabel, was well known at the time as a pianist; Lertes was an electrical engineer and in 1933 published a survey of electronic instruments. The Hellertion was modified up to the mid-1930s, and a second version, also called the Heliophon, was demonstrated in 1936 and further developed by Helberger in Vienna after World War II.

The Hellertion introduced the fingerboard or ribbon controller that became better known in the trautonium and was reintroduced in the mid-1960s in the Moog synthesizer. When the flat, leather-covered metallic ribbon is depressed it makes contact with a resistance strip; depression at different points along the ribbon alters the resistance and produces different frequencies from an audio oscillator, while the degree of pressure affects the loudness. The pitch range of the Hellertion is approximately five octaves, and special markings aid pitch orientation and alignment. The instrument was sometimes used in conjunction with a piano (in the manner of the somewhat later piano attachment), the melody line being played on the Hellertion and the accompaniment on the piano. More ribbons were added to make at first two, then four (by the end of ...

Article

Leonidas Economou

(b Trikala, Greece, April 7, 1922; d Athens, Greece, April 8, 1990). Greek composer and lyricist. He was of middle-class origin and finished high school in 1941. He became fascinated with rebetiko and the music of the refugees from Asia Minor, and he was also influenced by religious Byzantine and folk music. From 1941 until 1947 he worked as a bouzouki player in taverns and nightclubs in Trikala and especially Thessaloniki. He was lauded for his first recorded compositions, made in 1947 and including the emblematic laïko song Nychtose choris fengari (‘The Night Fell with No Moon’), which were invested with various social and political meanings as a result of the civil war. In the following years he cooperated with several important laïko creators, and had dozens of hits in the late rebetiko style with singers like Haskil, Tsaousakis, and Bellou, and in grieving or Indian style with singers like Kazantzidis, Gavalas, Angelopoulos, Menidiatis, and Lydia. From ...

Article

Claire Levy

(b Yambol, 30 March 1933; d Plovdiv, 12 April 2014). Bulgarian composer and music educator, famous for his work in different genres but mostly for his distinctive contribution to the field of film music. He graduated from the Bulgarian State Conservatory in 1961 under Pancho Vladigerov (composition) and Assen Dimitrov (conducting). Author of the music for over 120 cartoons and more than 40 feature films, Karadimchev also wrote songs for rock bands, marked usually by laconic yet highly attractive melodic lines. His lyrical Byala tishina (‘White Silence’), performed by Georgi Minchev and The Shturtzite, made a particular breakthrough for Bulgarian rock music on the national level by winning the first prize at The Golden Orpheus Pop Music Festival in 1967. And his close collaboration with The Tangra in the early 1980s developed ‘the melodic style of rock’ in songs such as Bogatstvo (‘Fortune’) and Nashiat grad (‘Our Town’). Some of his title songs written for movies such as the ...

Article

Ian Mikyska

(b Olomouc, 3 May 1967). Czech violinist. Raised in a musical family, she studied at the People’s School of Art in Opava with Marcela Kuvíková, then at the Ostrava Conservatory with Vítězslav Kuzník and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (AMU) with the professors Jiří Vlach, Jiří Novák, and Ivan Štraus. She also took part in master classes with Josef Gingold in Greensboro, NC and with Wolfgang Marschner in Weimar. In 1990 she received a scholarship to the International Menuhin Music Academy in Gstaad, Switzerland, where she studied with Alberto Lysy.

In 1997, she became a laureate of the Prague Spring International Violin Competition. She has also received the Gideon Klein Prize, the Bärenreiter Prize, the Supraphon Prize, the Prize of the City of Prague, and the Prague Spring Foundation Prize. In 2005 she represented the Czech Republic at the World Exhibition in Aichi, Japan, together with the Prague Philharmonic....

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Multipurpose musician-machine interface and gesture transducer for electro-acoustic music and multimedia use, developed by the French musician and sound engineer Serge de Laubier (coordinator/designer), Yvon Alopeau (designer), Jean Loup Dierstein (electronics), and Dominque Brégeard (mechanical design) at the Puce Muse studios/Espace Musical in Rungis, south of Paris. Laubier is also co-inventor of the Space octophonic processor and author of the MIDI Former software distributed by Opcode Systems, Inc. The Meta-Instrument was designed to be portable, MIDI compatible, fun to play and look at, and ergonomic in operation.

The first Meta-Instrument was built in 1989, the second generation completed in October 1995, and the third completed in 2004. Each later instrument is compatible with the previous version. The player interface is connected to an analogue-to-digital interface which is connected to a Mac laptop computer that runs different programs for the many different possible ‘instruments’ that the Meta-Instrument can control. The early versions allowed the manipulation of 32 variables simultaneously and independently, while the third version accommodates up to 54 simultaneous and independent variables. The seated performer’s arms embrace the two symmetric sides of the Meta-Instrument. Ten keys for the performer’s fingers, arranged in two rows of five keys each, measure attack speed and then key position. In the ...

Article

Hugh Davies

(Swed.: ‘Music Machine I’)

Sound sculpture constructed in Stockholm in 1961 by Knut Wiggen and Per-Olof Strömberg, with Öyvind Fahlström. This automated electronic sound machine produced randomized musical structures over 20 loudspeaker channels. It was designed as a prototype for Musikmaskin II, which was the initial, conceptual stage in the development of the Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm....

Article

Ian Mikyska

A biannual festival of new and experimental music held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, since 2001, founded by petr kotík and Renata Spisarová.

The performers include guest ensembles and soloists, as well as a core of both international and Czech soloists specializing in contemporary music, who coalesce into the resident ensemble, Ostravská banda. Since its conception, the festival has established strong relations with other local arts organizations, including Bludný Kámen, the National Moravian-Silesian Theater, the Janáček Philharmonic, the Canticum Ostrava choir, and, more recently, the PLATO art gallery and the multi-arts space Provoz Hlubina. The festival also features dance and opera, as well as performance, multimedia, and installation work.

The 9-day festival at the end of August is the finale of a three-week-long ‘Institute’ for aspiring composers from around the world. Some ten established composers are invited as instructors for master classes, lectures, workshops, and one-to-one lessons at the Institute. The festival then features music by the invited composers, as well as one piece by each of the 35 composer-students....

Article

Hugh Davies

[rumorarmonium, russolofono, psofarmonio]

Series of four keyboard instruments, based on the principle of the hurdy-gurdy, developed by Luigi Russolo in Thiene and Milan from about 1921 and continued in Paris in 1928–9. They incorporated many of the basic principles and sound qualities of his intonarumori (and probably some of their mechanisms), combining the equivalent of several separate instruments in a single console. The consoles resembled harmoniums; the fourth (and possibly the third) was somewhat larger, about the size of a small chamber organ. The first two were constructed in parallel between about 1921 and 1924 in Thiene, the third, about which no detailed information is available, in 1925–6, and the fourth in 1927–9. Between 1928 or 1929 and 1931 the final rumorarmonio was installed at Studio 28 in Paris, where it was used for accompanying silent films and at other events. A plan to manufacture this version of the instrument commercially came to nothing, and the only surviving ...

Article

Hugh Davies

Electronic composition machine (not a synthesizer in the current sense of the word), developed by Helmut Klein and W. Schaaf at Siemens & Halske in Munich between 1956 and 1959. It was designed for and was the chief component of the Studio für Elektronische Musik in Munich, which Siemens began planning in 1955, initially to produce the soundtrack for a one-hour publicity film; it was linked to all the other equipment in the studio. A second model was installed in 1964. The director of the studio and the composer most closely involved with the Siemens Synthesizer was Josef Anton Riedl; others who used the machine included the composers Mauricio Kagel, Bengt Hambraeus, Milko Kelemen, and Ernst Krenek, and the sound poet Ferdinand Kriwet. The studio was taken over by a foundation in 1963, and its equipment was moved to Ulm in 1967; it was later acquired by the Deutsches Museum in Munich....

Article

Concert venue and gallery, focusing at first on visual art, but soon becoming one of the key locations in the Czech Republic for contemporary and improvised music, sound art, and intermedia work.

Housed in the courtyard of an 1888 neo-Renaissance building in the centre of Prague, the former galvanizing workshop was reconstructed in 1999 by the Linhart Foundation and opened to the public in 2000.

The gallery has offered a regular programme of two monthly concerts, always featuring a local act opening for a foreign guest. Performers have included Thomas Lehn, Franz Hautzinger, Dieb13, and Jim Denley, as well as most musicians on the Czech improvised music scene, and many composer-performers, including Peter Graham, Lucie Vítková, and Miro Tóth[1]. Artists working with sound at the gallery in an installation context have included Jacob Kirkegaard, Phill Niblock, Peter Cusack, and John Grzinich.

Apart from regular exhibitions and concerts, the gallery has also organized long-term residencies for artists, artistic workshops, and discussions. Since ...

Article

Karel Steinmetz

[Plekancová-Vondráčková, Lucie]

(b Prague, 8 March 1980). Czech pop singer and actress. Her family was one of musicians (her father, Jiří Vondráček, is an actor and singer, her mother, Hana Sorrosová-Vondráčková, writes lyrics, and her aunt, Helena Vondráčková, is also a singer). Lucie was trained in music and drama at the Prague Conservatory and later obtained the doctorate in the Arts Faculty at Prague University (2006). From early childhood she appeared in films and TV serials for children; in 1992 she became a presenter of children’s programmes on TV, and in 1993 she issued her first record album. There have been more than 10 of these, and all have been enthusiastically received by her public in sales; she regularly features as one of the most popular Czech singers. As an actress, she often plays major roles in Czech films, stage plays, and musicals.

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Andrei Smirnov

[ Junost] (Russ.: ‘youth’)

Transistor-based analogue electronic organ. It was developed in 1965 in a special laboratory (established in 1964 by Vyacheslav Mescherin, founder of the Moscow Orchestra of Electro-musical Instruments) at the military factory for radio-electronic devices in Murom, central Russia. The Yunost’ was one of the electronic instruments that made up the V. Mescherin Band, which played dance music on Radio Moscow.

The first version, weighing about 25 kg, had a five-octave keyboard, six-octave pitch range, vibrato capability, four registers (16, 8, 4, 2), a tone-correction button, and a volume control pedal. It was based on 12 analogue top-octave oscillators with related octave dividers, covering the whole frequency range. These oscillators could be adjusted by means of 12 controls located at the rear of the instrument. Since the oscillators were unstable and always slightly out of tune, and the octave dividers produced only the square waveform, it had an easily recognizable sound. The second version (YUNOST-70), produced in ...