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date: 12 April 2021

Singing keyboardlocked

  • 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’, ...

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