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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

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

(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

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 ...