Thursday, March 22, 2012

Developements in music technology

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Development of Music Technology

Music has always been an integral component of peoples’ lives and communities in general and so the development of music and/or styles is important to advance and update music with modern life.

The ongoing development of music technology (both making it and capturing it) has always been about enhancing the sound, tone and quality of the recorded performance and also to increase the oral pleasure of the listener.

The origins of electronic music can be traced back to the audio analytical work of Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (181-184) the German physicist, mathematician and author of the seminal work SENSATIONS OF TONE Psychological Basis for Theory of Music (c1860). Helmholtz built an electronically controlled instrument to analyse combinations of tones the Helmholtz Resonator, using electro magnetically vibrating metal tines and glass or metal resonating spheres the machine could be used for analysing the constituent tones that create complex natural sounds. Helmholtz was concerned solely with the scientific analysis of sound and had no interest in direct musical applications, the theoretical musical ideas were provided by Ferruccio Busoni, the Italian composer and pianists whos influential essay Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music was inspired by accounts of Thaddeus Cahills Telharmonium.

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The engineer and prolific US inventor Lee De Forest patented the first Vacuum tube or triode in 106. The Vacuum tubes main use was in radio technology but De Forest discovered that it was possible to produce audible sounds from the tubes. Other instruments to first exploit the vacuum tube were the Theremin (117) Ondes Martenot (18), the Sphäraphon (11) the Pianorad (16).

The Theremin in particular was a major discovery in music technology as it allowed for mass experimentation as can be expected when sounds as unique as the ones it produces can be used effectively on popular music records, for example, The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’. It went on to be used by a large amount of bands and composers after this point including world-renowned musicians such as Led Zeppelin.


The original Theremin used a foot pedal to control the volume and a switch mechanism to alter the pitch. This prototype evolved into a production model Theremin in 10, this was a unique design, resembling a gramophone cabinet on 4 legs with a protruding metal antennae and a metal loop. The instrument was played by moving the hands around the metal loop for volume and around the antennae for pitch. The audible sound came from the oscillators, later models adding an amplifier and large triangular loudspeaker. This Theremin model was first shown to the public at the Moscow Industrial Fair in 10 and was witnessed by Lenin who requested lessons on the instrument. Leon Termen realised that rather than being a problem, body capacitance could be used as a control mechanism for an instrument and finally freeing the performer from the keyboard and fixed intonation.

From this point forward the production of new and innovative instruments became more frequent, but no less substantial or world changing. The Hammond Organ followed the Theremin in April 15 and in the mid sixties came possibly the most important invention in music so far, the Synthesiser created by Robert Moog.

Robert Moog developed his ideas for an electronic instrument by starting out in 161 building and selling Theremin kits and absorbing ideas about transistorised modular synthesisers from the German designer Harald Bode.

Whilst attending a convention in the winter of 6, Moog was introduced to the idea of building new circuits that would be capable of producing sound. In September 164 he was invited to exhibit his circuits at the Audio Engineering Society Convention. Shortly afterwards in 164 Moog begin to manufacture electronic music synthesisers. Moogs synthesisers were designed in collaboration with the composers Herbert A. Deutsch, and Walter (later Wendy) Carlos.

After the success of Carloss album Switched on Bach, entirely recorded using Moog synthesisers, Moogs instruments made the first leap from the electronic avant-garde, into commercial popular music. The Beatles bought one, as did Mick Jagger who bought a hugely expensive modular Moog in 167 (unfortunately this instruments was only used once, as a prop on a film set and was later sold to the German experimentalist rockers, Tangerine Dream).

These were the key instruments involved in revolutionising music and defining and sometimes creating genres that have existed over the last decade or so. The music created by these machines has touched millions and inspired many thousands to turn their hand to creating their own music and onto bigger greater things.

These inventors and the inventions themselves are god-like and should be praised so as they have changed and shaped so many thousands of lives with their innovative, new ways of looking at music production and use of the, at that time, state of the art technology.

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