The First Electronic Instruments

120 Years of Electronic Music

The Super Old Ones...

Clavecin Électrique
("Electric Harpsichord")

Jean-Baptiste de Laborde

Leyden jars > electrical charge > vibrate bells

The electrical matter has something of the soul, as air is to the body, the guardian of the bellows globe, and ‘the conductor of the wind-door.

Musical Telegraph (1876)

Elisha Grey

Keyboard with metal reeds that formed an electromagnet, making them vibrate.  

“as a novelty, was highly entertaining, though unless an almost incredible improvement be effected, it is difficult to see how the the new instrument can be of permanent practical value.”

The Famous Ones...

Telharmonium (1897)

Thaddeus Cahill

And it is scientifically perfect music...

New York Times Review

In the basement...

A tone wheel (or 'dynamo') is electromagnetic– a similar principle to a speaker or guitar pickup.  The Hammond Organ (1935) is basically a miniature Telharmonium.

metal coil wrapped around magnet

metal gear (tone wheel)

1)  As teeth get closer to magnet, voltage is generated in coil...

2)  Voltage is picked-up off the coil by wires...

wires from coil

3)  ...and the Telharmonium makes a sine wave!

metal coil wrapped around magnet

metal gear (tone wheel)

wires from coil

Theremin (1922)

Leon Theremin

Seed Art from the Minnesota State Fair!

Theremin orchestra at Carnegie Hall

Vacuum Tube (1906)

Audion Piano (1915)

The Lesser-Known Ones...

Ondes-Martenot (1928)

Maurice  Martenot

Ondes-Martenot female orchestra

Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead) on the Ondes-Martenot

Trautonium / Mixturtratonium (1930's)

Freidrich Trautwein / Oscar Sala

The Birds (1964)

Alfred Hitchcock / Bernard Herrman

The Weird Obscure Ones... 

120 Years of Electronic Music

The First Electronic Instruments

By Brian

The First Electronic Instruments

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