The Photona at WCAU
Syntronic Organ was an electro-optical tone generator based instrument engineered by Ivan Eremeef and his supporter and consultant, the world-renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski (who also premiered many of Edgard Varese’s works in the 1920s). The Syntronic Organ was a dual keyboard organ whose sound was optically generated using rotating tone-wheels and was said to be able to produce “one-hour of continuous variation”.
The WCAU Photona
Ivan Eremeef later created the “Photona” electro-optical tone generator instrument, developed with the John Leitch at the engineering department of WCAU broadcasting station in Philadelphia, USA. The Photona had twelve rotating optical discs illuminated by nine hundred six volt lamps. The instrument was played with two six octave manual keyboards and two foot pedals for volume and tremolo.
- Front view of the Photona showing the 12 optical discs.
Photo-cell behind a revolving disc.
The WCAU Photona at the Smithsonian Institution
The driving pulleys for the tone discs and transformers used for lighting and nine hundred six volt lamps
Rear view of the “WCAU Photona”, several drive pulleys for tone discs and tremolo mechanism. The tremolo worked on a rocker arm which varies the pitch of the note.
Eremeef’s patents for a photo-electrical instrument using film strips 1935-6
Eremeef’s patent for an electro-optical instrument using film strips.
Rollin Smith. ‘Stokowski and the Organ’
Nicholas Collins, Margaret Schedel, Scott Wilson. Electronic Music. Cambridge press 2013
Smithsonian Institution Science Services.
“WCAU’s Photona organ,” Electronics, vol. 8, p. 123; April, (1935).
The Computer Music Tutorial. Curtis Roads MIT 1961