The ‘Aetherwellengeige’ was one of many instruments inspired by Leon Termen’s Theremin using the same heterodyning principle and body capacitance to generate a variable tone from two thryatron vacuum tubes (other instruments were the Sonar (1933) , Neo Violena (1927), Electronde (1927), Emicon (1932) and Croix Sonore (1929) amongst others) . This version was built by the amateur electronic engineer and musician Erich Zitzmann-Zirini in Berlin in 1934 after he had witnessed the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra using Termen’s Theremin in 1927. Zitzmann-Zirini appeared with his instrument in the 1934 Funkausstellung ‘Orchestra of the Future’
Zitzmann-Zirini used his one-off instrument as the centrepiece of his career in vaudeville, circus, radio, and TV shows, he renamed his instrument the ‘musical Sputnik’ after Gagarin’s space flight in the 1960s.
André Ruschkowski ‘Soundscapes’, pp. 23 (1st edition, Berlin 1990)
The Polychord Organ was Harald Bode’s first postwar design commissioned by the Bayerischer Rundfunk, Southern German Radio as an electronic organ for live radio broadcasts and was often heard played by the popular organist Fekko von Ompteda and on occasions by Harald Bode himself. The instrument remained in use at Bayerischer Rundfunk from 1950 until 1973 used for in-house productions such as special effects, music for comedy shows, dance music and religious music.
The Polychord was a simpler, polyphonic version of the rather complex Melochord, re-designed with the professional organist in mind; offering a bank of preset sounds as well as free control of sound synthesis. Bode produced a second version, The Polychord III in 1951, produced and marketed by Apparatwerk Bayern gmbh (ABW) company in Bavaria Germany, and the Bode Organ which became the prototype of the Estey Electronic Organ after his departure to the USA in 1954. The Bayerischer Rundfunk Polychord can be seen (2014) at the Musical Instruments collection at the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik in Munich, Germany.
Bode’s Melodium and Melochord by Thomas L. Rhea. Contemporary Keyboard magazine (January 1980)
The Baldwin organ was an electronic organ, many models of which have been manufactured by the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. since 1946. The original models were designed by Dr Winston E. Kock who became the company’s director of electronic research after his return from his studies at the Heinrich-Hertz-Institute, Berlin, in 1936. The organ was a development of Kock’s Berlin research with the GrosstonOrgel using the same neon-gas discharge tubes to create a stable, affordable polyphonic instrument. The Baldwin Organ were based on an early type of subtractive synthesis; the neon discharge tubes generating a rough sawtooth wave rich in harmonics which was then modified by formant filters to the desired tone.
Another innovative aspect of the Baldwin Organ was the touch sensitive keyboard designed to create a realistic variable note attack similar to a pipe organ. As the key was depressed, a curved metal strip progressively shorted out a carbon resistance element to provide a gradual rather than sudden attack (and decay) to the sound. This feature was unique at that time, and it endowed the Baldwin instrument with an unusually elegant sound which captivated many musicians of the day.
“How did it sound? I have played Baldwin organs at a time when they were still marketed and in my opinion, for what it is worth, they were pretty good in relative terms. That is to say, they sounded significantly better on the whole than the general run of analogue organs by other manufacturers, and they were only beaten by a few custom built instruments in which cost was not a factor. It would not be true to say they sounded as good as a good digital organ today, but they compared favourably with the early Allen digitals in the 1970’s. Nor, of course, did they sound indistinguishable from a pipe organ, but that is true for all pipeless organs. To my ears they also sounded much better and more natural than the cloying tone of the more expensive Compton Electrone which, like the Hammond, also relied on attempts at additive synthesis with insufficient numbers of harmonics.”
From ‘Winston Kock and the Baldwin Organ; by Colin Pykett
Kock’s 1938 Patent of the Baldwin organ
Winston E. Kock Biographical Details:
Winston Kock was born into a German-American family in 1909 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Despite being a gifted musician he decided to study electrical engineering at Cincinnati university and in his 20’s designed a highly innovative, fully electronic organ for his master’s degree.
The major problem of instrument design during the 1920’s and 30’s was the stability and cost of analogue oscillators. Most commercial organ ventures had failed for this reason; a good example being Givelet & Coupleux’s huge valve Organ in 1930. it was this reason that Laurens Hammond (and many others) decided on Tone-Wheel technology for his Hammond Organs despite the inferior audio fidelity.
Kock had decided early on to investigate the possibility of producing a commercially viable instrument that was able to produce the complexity of tone possible from vacuum tubes. With this in mind, Kock hit upon the idea of using much cheaper neon ‘gas discharge’ tubes as oscillators stabilised with resonant circuits. This allowed him to design an affordable, stable and versatile organ.
In the 1930’s Kock, fluent in German, went to Berlin to study On an exchange fellowship (curiously, the exchange was with Sigismund von Braun, Wernher von Braun’s eldest brother –Kock was to collaborate with Wernher twenty five years later at NASA) at the Heinrich Hertz Institute conducting research for a doctorate under Professor K W Wagner. At the time Berlin, and specifically the Heinrich Hertz Institute, was the global centre of electronic music research. Fellow students and professors included; Jörg Mager, Oskar Vierling, Fritz Sennheiser, Bruno Helberger, Harald Bode, Friedrich Trautwein, Oskar Sala and Wolja Saraga amongst others. Kock’s study was based around two areas: – improving the understanding of glow discharge (neon) oscillators, and developing realistic organ tones using specially designed filter circuits.
Kock worked closely with Oskar Vierling for his Phd and co-designed the GrosstonOrgel in 1934 but disillusioned by the appropriation of his work by the newly ascendant Nazi party he decided to leave for India, sponsored by the Baldwin Organ Company arriving at the Indian Institute of Music in Bangalore in 1935.
Returning from India in 1936, Dr Kock became Baldwin’s Director of Research while still in his mid-twenties, and with J F Jordan designed many aspects of their first electronic organ system which was patented in 1941.
When the USA entered the second world war Kock moved to Bell Telephone Laboratories where he was involved on radar research and specifically microwave antennas. In the mid-1950’s he took a senior position in the Bendix Corporation which was active in underwater defence technology. He moved again to become NASA’s first Director of Engineering Research, returning to Bendix in 1966 where he remained until 1971 when he became Acting Director of the Hermann Schneider Laboratory of the University of Cincinatti. Kock Died in Cincinatti in 1982.
Winston Kock was a prolific writer of scientific books but he also wrote fiction novels under the pen name of Wayne Kirk.
Hugh Davies. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
The Westinghouse Organ was a semi-polyphonic multi vacuum tubed electronic organ designed by the research engineer Richard. C. Hitchcock for Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA. The organ was played on a three octave manual keyboard using a foot pedal for volume control. Hitchcock’s instrument allowed control of each note’s timbre by employing multiple vacuum tubes for each note to create adjustable natural harmonics of the fundamental note. The organ also had an electrical motor driven tremolo unit to shape the sound:
“…no previously known musical instruments. of the type to which my invention pertains, were provided with adequate means for tone and volume-control and, consequently, they were incapable of reproducing musical compositions with the same tone-color and nuances of expression that could be obtained with pipe-organs and pianos. In addition, the limitations of previously known electrical musical instruments were such as to preclude their proper tuning and they could not be satisfactorily utilized in orchestras wherein the other instruments were tuned to the tempered scale. It is, accordingly, an object of my invention to provide an electrical musical ‘instrument wherein each note of the scale shall be accompanied by the harmonic frequencies necessary to give it the requisite color.”
R.C.Hitchcock Patent Application 1930
The ‘Electric radio Organ’ was built to test the practicality of broadcasting electronic organ music over the radio rather than recording real pipe organs on-location with with the primitive microphones of the day (similar to the ‘Givelet Coupleaux’ Organ in France). The organ’s debut was at Pittsburgh’s KDKA radio station in 1930.
A New Instrument, Called a Radio Organ, is Demonstrated in Concert by Dr. Heinroth. United Press Staff Correspondent. PITTSBURGH, Jan. 23.
The squeals and squawks that are the bane of radio fans have been brought under control and combined in music rivalling that of the pipe organ. The new instrument, in fact, Is called a radio organ, and SO oscillating vacuum tubes replace the pipes. The first concert on the radio organ was played by Dr. Charles Heinroth, noted musician of Carnegie Institute, and though the event was not without a few impromptu notes, the half hour program amply demonstrated that the noise of radio tubes can be made beautiful. The radio organ is the product of the genius of R. C. Hitchcock of the Research Department, Westinghouse The keyboard is like that of a regular three-octave organ and foot pedals to control the volume are provided.” The touch of a key plays the proper note ‘by causing one of the’ tubes to oscillate. The electric impulses thus set up may then he carried directly to a loud speaker which transforms them into sound. But they need not be transformed into sound at once, and this fact is held to open a vast realm of possibilities for the radio organ.. For instance, the music that is to say, the electrical impulses set up by the oscillating tubes may be broadcast without use of a microphone and not become audible until it is picked tip on the receiving sets. Likewise the possibility of a central organ with the music wired to several churches or theatres may -be easily be envisioned. Another advantage of the radio organ is that all the mechanism of the instrument may be placed in a basement room, with only the keyboard visible.
The News-Herald. Franklin, Pennsylvania January 23, 1930 · Page 5
Dr. Richard Hitchcock of Westinghouse sits on top of “junior” the portable Van de Graaff generator
The History of the Organ in the United States. Orpha C. Ochse
Radio News 1931, on ‘The Electrical Future Of Music.’
Popular science monthly. May 1930.p35
Electronic and Experimental Music: Technology, Music, and Culture . Thom Holmes
The Lipp Pianoline was a monophonic vacuum tube based keyboard instrument designed as an add-on for piano players. The Pianoline was part of a family of portable piano-attachment instruments popular in the 1950’s such as the Ondioline, Clavioline and Univox – the Pianoline being distinguished by it’s larger sized keys.
The instrument’s sound was generated by a number of astable multivibrator vacuum tubes and monostable multivibrator tubes for frequency division. Tone colour was added with filters, pre-amplification and vibrato. In contrast to similar keyboard add-on instruments, the tone generator and power supply were built into the keyboard unit rather than as an external module. The resulting sound was fed to an external, portable loudspeaker unit using an output cable.
The Pianoline was designed and built by the established Stuttgart based Piano manufacturer Richard Lipp & Sohn who were looking to diversify in the postwar market for electronic keyboards. In 1970 the company was acquired by the Jehle Piano Company and closed in 1972.
The Emiriton was an example of a series of finger-board electronic instruments developed in the Soviet Union in the 1930’s, inspired perhaps by Leon Termen’s avoidance of a standard keyboard with his Theremin. Other instruments included V.A.Gurov’s (a former colleague of Leon Termen) “Neo-Violena“(1927) the “Sonar“(1930) and the Volodin’s “Ekvodin” (1931). Designed by A. Ivanov and A.Rimsky-Korsakov, The Emiriton was a originally a fingerboard instrument allowing the use of glissando effects, with later models incorporating a standard keyboard. The Emiriton generated sound from neon-tube oscillators and was able to replicate sounds such as the bassoon, violin, cello and clarinet.
Andrey Vladimirovich Rimsky-Korsakov, grandson of the famous Russian composer,studied at the Leningrad Conservatory and the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute. His combination of musical and technical knowledge allowed Andrey Vladimirovich to work successfully at the Research Institute of Musical Industry organized by Academician N.N.Andreyev. From 1932 he collaborated with the engineer A.A.Ivanov to construct one of the earliest Russian electric musical instruments: the Emiriton. In early 1941, Rimsky-Korsakov moved to the Leningrad Physicotechnical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, where he began his investigations in hydroacoustics. In 1942, he joined the Navy and, during the war was involved in designing and testing acoustic mines. After the war, Rimsky-Korsakov returned to his studies in musical acoustics at the Leningrad Electrotechnical Institute of Communication, and later at the Acoustics Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Moscow. In 1960, Rimsky-Korsakov established the Department of Electroacoustics and Ultrasonics at the Moscow Mining Institute focussing on acoustical measurements, and noise and vibration control and technological processes of low-frequency acoustic vibrations.
Time, Volume 44. 1944
Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-garde, 1900-1929 By Larry Sitsky
One of the earliest electronic instruments of the Soviet period, the Radio (or ‘Cathodic’) Harmonium was a three voice polyphonic cathode vacuum tube instrument controlled by a manual keyboard, designed for playing atonal music by the audio physicist Sergeĭ Nikolaevich Rzhevkin (1891-1981). The instrument was used by the philosopher Ivan Orlov in his investigations of aural phenomena.
‘A course of lectures on the theory of sound’ Sergeĭ Nikolaevich Rzhevkin. Pergamon Press, 1963
Orlov, I. E. 1926e. “Experiments with Rzhevkin’s cathode harmonium.”A Collection of Articles in Musical Acoustics (Russian),State Institute of Musical Science, 1925, 1.
Designed by the engineers Vladimir A Gurov and V.I. Volynkin with the musical input from the composer Lucien M. Varvich, the Neo Violena was manufactured in Russia in 1927 and seems to have reached the USA during sometime during the 1930’s. The Neo Violena, as it’s name suggests, was a monophonic violin like instrument. The sound was generated by the player pressing a metal string to contact a metal conductive fingerboard; the position of the finger on the string determining the pitch and finger pressure varying the volume. Sound was produced from a heterodyning vacuum tube. The instrument was said to be capable of “producing a pleasant and ‘juicy’ sound that resembled different symphony orchestra instruments and possessed a wide range of sounding shades and timbres.”
“ On Thursday evening at the School House, A. R. Hamilton, president of the Hamilton College of Commerce at Mason City will give an address on “How the “Violena” Is Played” . The “violena” a musical instrument that is a whole orchestra in one, has been perfected at Leningrad, Russia, by the inventor, Vladimir A. Gurov and the young composer, Lucien M. Varvich. The player twirls a dial and the violena turns into a bass viol, another twirl and it becomes a guitar, still another and it is a flute, and so on. Besides its ability to reproduce faithfully almost- any musical instrument.”
The Bode Bugle. Page 5 USA. 28 May 1937.
The engineer and physicist Igor Simonov was a colleague of Lev Termen at the ‘USSR Sound Recording Institute’, a sound studio laboratory that supplied real-time synthesised sounds for Moscow Radio in the 1930’s. Simonov collaborated with Termen on a number of projects including designs and instructions for home built Theremins but also built several of his own musical devices including a monophonic vacuum tube electronic keyboard instrument called the ‘Companola’ (1936) and the ‘Noisephone’, an electronic device for generating percussive and everyday sound effects – notably, the Noisephone was used to imitate the howling of the wind in the movie “The Forty First” (1957).
THE HISTORY OF ELECTRO-MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS IN RUSSIA IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Irina Aldoshina, Ekaterina Davidenkova. Saint-Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences, Russia
‘Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage’. Albert Glinsky
Later developments of Freidrich Trautwein’s original Trautonium were continued by the Trautonium virtuoso and composer Oskar Sala. In 1936, Sala christened his first instrument the ‘Rundfunktrautonium’ (‘Radio-Trautonium’) and also developed a concert version, the “Konzerttrautonium”. After the end of the Second World War the instrument was re-named the ‘Mixturtrautonium’ but all were essentially developments of the original subtractive synthesis principles of the Trautonium.
The essential design principles of the Trautonium were retained by Sala; sound production on the basis of sub-harmonic ‘mixture’, and the method of playing with two string manuals. The latter are made of wire-covered catgut strings which act as variable resistors. according to the position at which they are pressed againts the contact rail beneath them, they control the frequencies of the electronic sound generators. when the finger glides over the string a continuous glissando results over the entire tonal region which has just been tuned up. Micro-tonal intervals could be produced on the Mixturtrautonium. To ensure accurate contact with the notes leather covered sprung and moveable metal tongues are added to each string. Unlike with a vibrating string, the gradation of the electrical-resistant string manual is linear and not exponential so that all octave have the same finger range.
The 1948 post-war Mixturtrautonium was a polyphonic version of the original Trautonium, generating sound from two AEG Thoraton tubes with a 3 ½ octave range (which could be extended with an octave switch). The instrument could also be controlled with a foot pedal that not only allowed variation in volume but also with a lateral foot movement, select three different sets of sub-harmonics. The Sub-harmonic ‘mixture’ technique basically used un-natural low frequency harmonics to modulate a sawtooth signal creating complex harmonic ‘mixtures’ which could be further coloured with noise generators, mixers, an envelope controller and a frequency shifter.
During the pre-war period, the ”Rundfunktrautonium’ was used extensively for film and radio broadcasts and after Paul Hindemith’s endorsement, became the instrument of choice for ‘serious’ electronic music composition (Hindemith’s switching of allegiances from Jörg Mager’s Sphärophon family of instruments to the Trautonium signalled the end of Mager’s career in instrument design). A portable version, the ‘Konzerttrautonium’ was designed in 1936 specifically for the composer Harald Genzmer’s ” Conzert für Trautonium und Orchestrer” and saw more than fifty performances before the outbreak of the war.
Berlin had in the early Thirties become the world capital of electronic music, with inventors and designers such as Jörg Mager , Oskar Vierling , Fritz Sennheiser , Bruno Helberger, Harald Bode, Friedrich Trautwein and Oskar Sala (with much of the work centred around the Heinrich-Hertz-Institute). These instruments often explored radical new approaches to tonality and expression and were enthusiastically adopted by the avant-garde of the period. This period of musical ferment coincided with the seizure of power by Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist party (NDSAP), who initially tried to absorb this strain of modernism for their own propaganda ends – indeed, the name ‘Volkstrautonium’ echoes the name ‘Volkswagen’ as a peoples instrument for a modern, new Germany. On the 18th August 1933, Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s Propaganda Minister) presided over the IFA ‘Internationale Funkausstellung’ (International Radio Exhibition) in Berlin. The music for the exhibition was provided by the ‘Future Orchestra’ (Das Orchester der Zukunft) composed of the most advanced electronic instruments of the time: The Volkstrautonium played by Oskar Sala, Bruno Helberger’s Hellertion, Oskar Vierling’s Elektrochord , the Neo-Bechstein of Walther Nernst, a collection of electric violins and cellos and Leon Termen’s Theremin.
The rise of the Hitler’s National Socialist party presented electronic and avant-garde musicians with a difficult choice; either the hope that by collaborating they would survive and be left alone and be able to continue working or, simply, leave the country. Trautwein, who had joined the NDSAP in the late thirties used his connections:
Luckily Trautwein knew a general who was on our side and arranged that we could play the instrument to the minister of propaganda Joseph Goebels, Hitler’s right hand man. I Played something by Paganini and of course he liked it. After that, they left us in peace.
This collaboration resulted in a commission from the Reich’s Radio organisation for several new instruments to be built for a weekly fifteen minute programme “Musik Auf Dem Trautonium” (playing German classical music accompanied by a pianist) and later commissions to use the instrument at large scale NDSAP rallies, outdoor concerts, speeches and, (alongside other electronic instruments such as Vierling’s GrosstonOrgel) the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. However, this patronage was short-lived as the Nazi’s asserted their traditional conservatism; Atonal, Experimental and avant-garde music alongside Jazz and other non-German culture was branded ‘entarte’ or ‘degenerate’. Trautwein and Sala’s workshop was denied funding and closed, the Trautonoium was relegated to performing Reich-approved music. Sala spent the war years touring throughout Germany and Axis occupied countries until he was conscripted in 1944 and sent to the Eastern Front
After the end of the war Sala founded a studio for film music soundtrack production in Berlin,where, amongst many other projects, he recorded music for Hitchcock’s “the birds” .