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date: 25 October 2020

Denis d'or [goldene Dionys]locked

  • Hugh Davies

Extract

[goldene Dionys]

A keyboard instrument developed by Prokop Diviš (b Senftenberg, 1 Aug 1696; d Prendnitz, 21 Dec 1765), a Bohemian priest, in Prendnitz, near Znaim (now Znojmo), between about 1730 and 1762. His researches into static electricity led to the invention of a lightning conductor in 1754 (contemporaneously with Benjamin Franklin). The Denis d'or, called after the French (and German) equivalents of its inventor's name, was described as an ‘orchestrion’ because of its ability to imitate the sounds of most wind and string instruments. Measuring about 150 by 90 cm, it had 790 strings and was capable of 130 gradations of timbre; conflicting descriptions attribute to it a single pedal and an organ-like pedal-board. It was the first musical instrument to involve electricity, though this was probably not an essential part of its action: the performer could be given an electric shock ‘as often as the inventor wished’.

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F.-J. Fétis: Biographie universelle des musiciens
G. Schilling: Encyclopädie der gesammten musikalischen Wissenschaften, oder Universal-Lexicon der Tonkunst