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date: 19 November 2019

Superpiano (Ger.: Lichtelektrisches Klavier)locked

  • Hugh Davies
  • , revised by Peter Donhauser


(Ger.: Lichtelektrisches Klavier)

An Electric piano developed by the Viennese architect Emerich Moses Spielmann (b 23 June 1873; d New York, after 1954), and most likely built by the Klavierfabrik Carl Hofmann (owner of the Continental Musikwerke) in Vienna in 1927. It had a seven-octave keyboard and its sounds were generated by means of 12 rotating photoelectric tone-wheels, which were plastic discs carrying concentric rings of transparent sound patterns etched on a blackened background, and each of which produced all the octave registers of a single note (described in the Austrian patent 109,233).

The Superpiano had a touch-sensitive keyboard and offered a wide range of timbres. Two sets of 12 tone-wheels generated timbres that were rougher (tapered radial slits of different lengths) or smoother (concentric rings of small lemon-shaped holes), and these were selected or combined by means of a knee lever. An additional tone-wheel, containing drawings that reproduced timpani strokes, was operated by a special pedal. The instrument (which was about the size of a large upright piano) had a further pedal for controlling volume and two for sustain; the last brought into operation an electromagnetic system beneath the keys, by means of which notes could be sustained for as long as required after the keys had been released. The instrument was also capable of automatic transposition. Using headphones instead of loudspeakers, the player alone could hear its sound. The keyboard could be detached from the rear section of the console, which contained the sound-generating mechanisms, and, for example, placed in front of a normal piano keyboard, so that the performer could play on both manuals simultaneously. In ...

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