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Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[BCMI]

Technology that allows a person to control a music-related output with commands expressed by brain signals. The output signal can control physical and virtual instruments and composition systems. Therapeutic applications include allowing severely physically disabled persons to participate actively in music-making. A number of methods of detecting and measuring brain activity have been tried; electroencephalography (EEG) has proved to be the most practical. Neural activity generates electric fields that can be detected by EEG electrodes placed on the scalp. The electrodes are placed in an array that allows mapping of neural activity over time. The signals are very weak and must be amplified and broken into frequency bands commonly labeled from low to high as Theta, Delta, Alpha, low Beta, medium Beta, and Gamma.

Three approaches are used for making music with BCMI. The most common approach, ‘direct sonification’, translates the EEG signal directly into sound; ‘musification’ translates the EEG signal by generating musical sequences based on the EEG behavior; ‘control’ detects specific EEG patterns produced by the subject to control music software. Alvin Lucier made the first known efforts at music performance with the EEG in the 1960s with his piece ‘Solo Performer’. He amplified the signals picked up from electrodes on his scalp, relaying them through loudspeakers directly coupled to percussion instruments including gongs, cymbals, tympani, and drums. David Rosenboom systematically studied the detection of human musical experience in EEG signals in the 1970s. A BCMI piano developed by Eduardo Miranda in ...

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

Laurence Libin

(b Napier, New Zealand, May 14, 1946). Intermedia artist whose transdisciplinary practice includes video/sound work and installations, experimental instruments, graphic scores, and improvisation. He studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (DipFA Hons, 1971) and the University of West Sydney, Nepean (MA Hons, 2000). Since the early 1970s his sound-based artworks have involved newly invented instruments. A member of the original Scratch Orchestra in London (1968–9), Dadson founded Scratch Orchestra (NZ) in 1970 and later From Scratch (1974–2004). A key part of From Scratch’s development was instrument invention, from using found objects to making unique, custom-designed devices. Tunings evolved from randomly pitched sounds to 12-note and microtonal tunings, and just intonation. Central to this development were tuned percussion stations composed of rack-supported, four-tiered assemblies of PVC pipes, tuned-tongue bamboos and bells (in which parallel slots cut in the materials produce a vibrating tongue matching the resonant frequency of the open or closed tubes), and roto-tom drums, combined with special methods of playing. These percussion stations, along with other novel struck and spun acoustic instruments, produced the characteristic From Scratch sound. More recent instruments include the Zitherum (long-stringed instruments that are drummed and bowed), the metal-pronged Nundrum, the stroked RodBaschet, the gong tree, Foley-trays, the Water Cooler Drumkit, water bells, the Gloop-spring-string-drum family, the Sprong family, and other fanciful types....

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

Duo-Art  

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

Gnome  

Hugh Davies

Electronic keyboard instrument developed by Ivan Eremeeff in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1932; it was the smaller and better known of two instruments based on the same principles that Eremeeff built in that year. Rotating electromagnetic tone wheels generated the sounds. The keyboard (three and a half octaves) and the bench on which the player sat formed part of an electrical circuit; when one of the stationary, touch-plate keys was fingered, an electrical contact was made through the performer’s body with the metal top of the bench. In addition to pedals governing volume and tremolo there was also a decay control. The Gnome was designed for home use and could be connected to the amplifier and loudspeaker of a domestic radio set....

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

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

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

Hugh Davies

Environmental sound sculpture devised in 1973 by the American pianist and composer David Tudor. It was based on the concept of the ‘instrumental loudspeaker’, which Tudor developed in 1966 and used in all four works in the Rainforest series, starting in 1968. The first instrumental loudspeakers consisted of containers into one end of which electronic or other sounds were fed through small loudspeakers. The sounds were picked up by microphones at the other end and passed to a conventional sound system. The containers in these early examples were metal boxes into which various materials were introduced to filter the signals acoustically as they passed between loudspeaker and microphone. In Rainforest IV the boxes are replaced by a great variety of objects, many of them in everyday use or scrap materials, to which loudspeaker-like transducers are attached; together these create an elaborate sound environment, which is operated by members of the group Composers Inside Electronics (founded by Tudor)....

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

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....