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date: 14 November 2019

Hanert Electrical Orchestra [Apparatus for Automatic Production of Music]locked

  • Hugh Davies


[Apparatus for Automatic Production of Music]

A synthesizer and graphic composition machine developed in 1944–5 by John Marshall Hanert (b Milwaukee, 1909; d Illinois, 1962), head of research at the Hammond Organ Co. in Chicago, but not manufactured. A scanning unit on wheels is driven by an electric motor along rails above rows of paper cards (approximately 28 by 30 cm) laid out on a table 18 metres long. On the underside of the moving unit, brushes touch electrically conductive erasable graphite marks on the cards, which control the frequency, intensity, growth, duration, decay, portamento, timbre, and vibrato of the tones produced by electronic vacuum-tube oscillators. A random frequency generator produces ‘white noise’ for percussion effects. Three keyboards, each with a range of about five and a half octaves, are connected to the machine. Acceleration and deceleration of the music can be controlled by changing the speed of the scanning unit.

Although Hanert’s idea was to reverse the procedure used in ‘reading’ punched paper tape, as in the contemporary RCA synthesizer, the programming of his machine might be more accurately related to the principle of graphic sound. Hanert’s objective was to free composers from the limitations of conventional instruments and give them more control over sound. Hanert also assisted in the development of the Hammond organ from ...

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