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Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Line of MIDI-based reproducing player pianos introduced by Yamaha Corporation in 1982 (1986 in North America). The Disklavier system combines an acoustic piano with an electromechanical player-piano system. As in other such systems, fibre-optic sensors register the movement of keys, hammers, and pedals during performance, while the digital controller operates a bank of solenoids installed under the piano’s key bed; one solenoid is positioned under the tail of each key, with additional solenoids connected to the pedal rods. Performance information is stored digitally on CD-ROM, floppy discs (still used for many accompaniments for instructional piano material), or a hard drive. Disklavier systems can be connected to sequencers, tone modules, and computers via MIDI and Ethernet. A built-in speaker system attached to the case under the soundboard is used to play back optional digital piano sound and especially for playback of accompanying orchestral or vocal tracks.

Unlike other electronic player systems, the Disklavier is only installed in new Yamaha pianos and only at the factory. It cannot be installed in older Yamahas or other brands of pianos. Compared with other systems, the Disklavier’s recording capability is generally regarded to be of the highest quality and sophistication. Of the Disklavier models available in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

(b Bermuda, July 10, 1957). American audio engineer, musician, and owner of Keith McMillen Instruments, based in Berkeley, California. He received his BS in acoustics from the University of Illinois, where he also studied classical guitar and composition. In 1979 he founded Zeta Music, which designed and sold electric and electronic violins and basses. In 1992 he organized a research laboratory for Gibson Guitars. He developed a computerized composition, notation, and performance system, and also helped devise ZIPI, a MIDI-like music control language. At the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at the University of California, Berkeley, he researched audio networking, synthesizers, and string instruments. In 1996 he became director of engineering for the audio processing and distributed music networks division of Harmon Kardon. In 1999 he founded Octiv, Inc., an Internet audio signal processing company, which produced the ‘Volume Logic’ plug-in for iTunes that allows digital audio remastering to improve the sound produced by computers and MP3 players....

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

Hugh Davies

Electromechanical keyboard instrument developed by Frederick M. Sammis at RCA in Hollywood about 1936 and designed for use in film studios. Each of the ten (or perhaps more) keys on the keyboard controlled a separate strip of pre-recorded film soundtrack, which was played back when the key was depressed. The soundtracks could contain recordings of music, speech, or sound effects. The mechanism of the instrument included a device that silently returned each film strip to its beginning as soon as the key was released. The principle of the ‘singing keyboard’ is the same as that found in several patents in the 1920s for instruments based on sounds pre-recorded on magnetized discs and wires, and in the Mellotron (1963), which uses magnetic tapes. About 1933 Sammis collaborated with Arnold Lesti on the Polytone.

F.M. Sammis: ‘The Singing Keyboard’, Radio-Craft (1936), no.7, 588, 617 T. Rhea: ‘Electronic Perspectives: Photoelectric Acoustic-Sound Instruments’, ...

Article

Sonovox  

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

Sound-effects device developed by the fiction writer and radio operator Gilbert M. Wright in Los Angeles in 1939 and manufactured by Wright-Sonovox, which was affiliated with the radio station representatives Free & Peters in Chicago. A sound is transmitted to the larynx of a trained ‘articulator’ through two earphone-sized loudspeakers that are placed against the throat; the sound is modified by movements of the tongue and lips to produce speech-like articulations. The Sonovox was much used for radio drama and films, including Walt Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and Leith Stevens’s score for the film Destination Moon (1950). The voice of Casey the Train in Walt Disney’s Dumbo (1941) was created using the Sonovox. It was very popular for radio station identifications and advertising jingles. The rock band The Who used the Sonovox on their song ‘Radio London’ (1967), in which guitar chords seem to speak the days of the week. Later it was replaced by the more versatile vocoder....