The ‘Saraga-Generator’ Wolja Saraga, Germany,1931

Wolja Saraga
Wolja Saraga (Born:3rd September 1908 Berlin; Died 15. February 1980, London)

The Saraga-Generator was developed by the electrical engineer and physicist Wolja Saraga at the Heinrich-Hertz Institut Für Schwingungsforschung in Berlin, Germany around 1931. The Saraga Generator was an unusual theatrical photo-electrical  vacuum tube instrument. The Saraga Generator was designed to be used for theatrical production where the sound would be triggered by movement in front of the instrument.

The instrument consisted of a single photoelectric cell mounted on the white painted inside surface of a box with a small ‘V’ shaped slit cut on one face. A low voltage neon lamp was placed at some distance from the box on a stage and the performers movements interrupting the light beam causing variations in pitch in a tone generated using the well established  heterodyning effect of two vacuum tubes.

Envelope and timbre were controlled by manipulating a hand held switching device, the overall volume being driven by a foot pedal. The Saraga Generator was monophonic with a tonal range of four octaves.

The Saraga Generator was patented in 1932 and demonstrated at the Berlin Radio Exhibition in the same year.

Wolja Saraga: Biographical Notes

Saraga was a German Jewish Physicist, born in Berlin to a Romanian father and a Russian mother.  Saraga studied telecommunications at the Heinrich Hertz Institute (Heinrich-Hertz Institut Für Schwingungsforschung) at the Technical University, Berlin – alongside luminaries such as Oskar VierlingHarald Bode , Winston Kock and Friedrich Trautwein – where he built the Saraga Generator in 1931. Saraga became a research assistant at the institute and later  a lecturer from1929-1933. He also studied physics and mathematics at the Humboldt University of Berlin , where he was awarded a Dr. phil. in physics in 1935.

In 1938 with the rise of National Socialism in Germany, Saraga left Berlin at the age of 29 and settled in the United Kingdom. It was here that he began working for the Telephone Manufacturing Company in St Mary’s Cray, Kent until around 1958. Saraga then joined The Associated Electrical Industries Research Laboratory in Blackheath, London as a Research Scientist and Group Leader where he specialised in telephony filter design. in 1962, that Saraga’s key contributions were recognised by the award of the Fellowship of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, ‘for contributions to network theory and its application in communications’. In 1972, Saraga moved full time to Imperial College, London where he became a postgraduate lecturer and researcher in network theory and mathematics.

Saraga wrote numerous books and filed several patents on network theory and telephony.


Sources

Archives of the Heinrich Hertz Institute/Heinrich-Hertz Institut Für Schwingungsforschung, Berlin, Germany

CIRCUIT THEORY AND APPLICATIONS, VOL. 8, 341 (1980) Obituary of Wolja Saraga by J. 0. SCANLAN

Saraga, W. “Elektrische Klangfarbenerzeugung, in FUNK-Bastler” 1932, Heft 38, S. 594, zit. nach STANGE-ELBE 1993a, S. 15( “Electrical Timbre generation, into radio hobbyist” )

[Wolja] Saraga: Die “tönende Handschrift”, in: Funktechnische Monatshefte 1933, H. 10, S. 403-406, hier S. 406

W. [Wolja] Saraga: An Electronic Musical Instrument with a Photo-Electric Cell as Playing Manual, in: Electronic Engineering 17 (1945), Juli, S. 601-603

Obituary: IEEPROC, Vol. 128, Pt. G, No. 4, AUGUST 1981

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