Tuesday, June 08, 2010

THE ELECTRIC CAR e6 by BYD (Hong Kong)

BYD E6 Electric Plug-in hybrid Car photo

BYD, China's biggest battery maker, isn't wasting any time carving its niche in the new world of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. It all started with the F6DM plug-in hybrid sedan, followed by the smaller and less expensive F3DM plug-in hybrid compact car.

Now BYD has introduced its E6 electric car at the Beijing International Auto Show. It takes the shape of a crossover, or MPV, and will be built on on the F6's platform (same as the F6DM, which could be sold in Europe by 2010).

BYD E6 Electric car photo

BYD E6 Electric Vehicle Specifications
So far, all we know is that the E6 will be a 5 seater with an acceleration of 0 to 100 kph of around 10 seconds. Top speed should be top speed of 160 kph (100 mph), and the battery pack, which is located under the rear passenger seats, will be based on BYD's own lithium-ion iron phosphate technology. Range per charge is expected to be 300 km (186 miles).

But most impressive of all:

BYD E6 Electric Car crossover photo

"BYD projected the battery had a life of 2,000 cycles, for a lifetime range of about 600,000 km (373,000 miles)"

Wow! Even if thats just half true, it's still pretty good.

BYD E6 Electric car photo

Charging of the battery will take the night with 220V, but the E6 electric car can also take a fast charge that can bring the battery to 80% SOC in about 15 minutes.

BYD says that it could start producing the E6 within two years. Another one to follow.

The current GCC perusal of BYD electric drive dreams focuses upon the lithium iron phosphate battery that they manufacture.

Powered by a lithium-ion pack built with BYD's own lithium-ion iron phosphate large format prismatic batteries, the E6 will have a maximum mileage of 300 km (186 miles) after being fully charged. BYD says the 5-seat vehicle will accelerate from zero to 100 km per hour in around 10 seconds and has a top speed of 160 kph (99 mph).

Charging at 220V will take overnight; the E6 can also take a fast charge that can bring the battery to 80% SOC in about 15 minutes.

A front traction motor delivers 450 Nm of torque, while a rear motor delivers 100 Nm of torque.

BYD had earlier developed the F3e prototype electric vehicle, with electric consumption of less than 12 kWh per 100km, and a range of more than 300 km under one charge. BYD projected the battery had a life of 2,000 cycles, for a lifetime range of about 600,000 km (373,000 miles)


BYD's e6 Electric Car 'Game Changer'
BYD is working on at least three electric-drive models, the largest being the F6DM due out possibly in 2009.

For years, electric car proponents have been looking for the 'game changer' in battery technology, citing companies like Altair Nanotechnology, A123 and the ever-enigmatic EEStor as potential candidates for the title. Now it would appear that a once-obscure company situated not far from Hong Kong may be entitled to that claim.

Build Your Dream carmaker in China may just have claimed the title.

BYD has over 100,000 employees. Their core competence is batteries. Around the globe, they are Number One in lithium cell phone batteries and NiCd batteries.

They have done autos since 2003. Their announcements indicate that they can do a safe 2000 cycle lithium battery for only $300 per kWh.

If it is true that they can launch these auto batteries at that cost they don't need to spend much R&D to develop ICE because they will soon become obsolete for anything but "genset" applications. I assume that launch cost will be importantly higher than longer term production cost.

My guess is that BYD expects to do these batteries for $300 per kWh at launch because it can explain why they are so aggressive on the development of electric and serial PHEVs. They certainly seem to be more than capable for large scale fabrication of these batteries.

I was a bit surprised when my article last week on BYD's (BYDDY.PK) new e6 electric car and the related post with videos of Wang Chuanfu received far more attention than coverage of Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) Q1 2009 results. However, perhaps I should not be surprised given the intense interest in the auto industry in this economic environment. With Chrysler in bankruptcy protection and General Motors (GM) likely to suffer a similar fate, consumers and investors are eager to learn about companies that have been able to navigate the economy without the drama of government aid and bankruptcy proceedings.

I have been reading more on BYD's history and the path taken by Wang Chuanfu over the past several years. Perhaps the most revealing story I have found was published in the Financial Times in November. The FT article goes into considerable detail regarding BYD's strategy and background, but what I found most interesting had to do with the work ethic involved in building this company from the ground up over a very short time frame. Here are a few excerpts from the story:

Smarter and Harder Working Engineers

Although many might disagree, Wang Chuanfu considers the Chinese business climate and work ethic to be a major competitive advantage over western competitors:

    Mr Wang says Chinese companies are smarter and work harder than their western competitors. He says China's main advantages are the size of its market and the quality of its people; 5m graduates leave Chinese universities every year, "more than the population of some European countries", he says. And they will work for much lower salaries than their western or Japanese competitors.

    BYD employs 10,000 engineers, half of them working on cars, and Mr Wang says he will have 30,000 automotive engineers within a decade. His US and Japanese competitors cannot afford to hire so many, he says. "The cost is too high."

    BYD recruits most managers straight out of university, trains them on the job and lodges new graduates in a high-rise dormitory-style building adjacent to the factory.

Can Better Battery Technology Outweigh "Fit and Finish" Issues?

BYD has not adopted the typical supply chain that is used by most auto makers. Instead, nearly all components of BYD vehicles, except for the tires, and produced by the company. This kind of integrated supply chain may or may not be the best strategy in the long run since the "fit and finish" of BYD's vehicles is reportedly not up to par with many other manufacturers. Mr. Wang believes that this will improve over time and defends the overall quality of Chinese manufacturing. He considers the battery technology to be the competitive differentiator for BYD:

    BYD will be competing with plug-in models produced by Renault, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and General Motors, which plans to make its Volt model in China. Mr Wang says he is ready. "I believe Chinese companies can become leaders in the alternative car business because we make good batteries," he says. More experienced carmakers are struggling with such issues as the speed of charging and durability of automotive batteries – which need to last far longer than in laptops – in their prototype plug-in cars.

Mr. Wang also points out that other manufacturers have suffered battery recalls but BYD has never had a recall and is confident in the quality of the batteries. Given that battery reliability is a key aspect of the success of electric vehicles like the e6, BYD's long term success may depend on this point and on keeping this intellectual property proprietary — not always an easy task in China.

    … Given cases of exploding lithium-ion batteries in laptops, the potential product liability risk of electric cars faced by carmakers – Chinese or not – is huge. Mr Wang deflects the point firmly. "We're the only battery maker that has never had a recall," he says, leaving unspoken the names of Sanyo (SANYY.PK) and Sony (SNE), which have both had expensive recalls. "We're very confident of the quality of the batteries."

Work-Life Balance? Not So Much …

Mr. Wang and his employees apparently are not enamored with western concepts such as "work-life balance". Whether you agree with the need for this balance or not, it appears obvious that there is a competitive advantage when you have a workforce that is willing to make major sacrifices in order to advance the interests of the company. To be sure, this type of work ethic exists in many other countries, but typically in only a small subset of the population.

    Wang Chuanfu is all work and no play – and proud of it.

    He says his punishing seven-days-a-week schedule is par for the course in China. "Maybe in the Western world, life is number one and work is number two," he says one bright Saturday morning at the bustling headquarters of BYD, his battery-cum-car company in Shenzhen. "But in China, work is number one and life is number two," he adds. "Especially in my generation. I don't know if the next generation will be the same. I enjoy working very much, if you ask me to go sightseeing for a day I probably wouldn't enjoy it."

    In the rare moments when not at the office, Mr Wang lives in a modest penthouse flat in the "workers' village" with his wife and daughter.

    Mr Wang spurns the trappings enjoyed by many of his western peers, such as corporate jets and expensive clothes.

Whether BYD works out as an investment or not is an open question and there are many factors that will determine business success beyond work ethic and technology. However, one cannot help but be impressed with the thirteen year history of this company and the culture put in place by its founder. Like it or not, this is the type of competition the legacy automakers are up against in today's economy. In my opinion, the world will have better transportation options in the future as a result of agile, hard working, and innovative companies like BYD.

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posted by u2r2h at Tuesday, June 08, 2010 0 comments

Monday, June 07, 2010

EARLY MONOPHONIC SYNTHESIZER Ondes Martenot (1928) klangerzeuger


its unique method of control and expression attracts musicians


Speaker system

The ondes Martenot, French for "Martenot waves"), also known as the ondium Martenot, Martenot and ondes musicales, is an early electronic musical instrument that Maurice Martenot invented in 1928. The original design was similar in sound to the theremin.[1] The sonic capabilities of the instrument were later expanded by the addition of timbral controls and switchable loudspeakers.

The instrument's eerie wavering notes are produced by varying the frequency of oscillation in vacuum tubes. The production of the instrument stopped in 1988, but several conservatories in France still teach it.[2] Since 2008, Jean-Loup Dierstein, with the support of Maurice Martenot's son, has been building ondes Martenot instruments based on the model used when production stopped in 1988.[3]

In 1997, the Ondéa project began designing an instrument based on the ondes Martenot. Since the Martenot name is still protected, the new instrument is called Ondéa, but has the playing and operational characteristics of the original ondes Martenot. In 2001, a completed prototype was first used in concerts. These instruments have been in regular use since 2005.[4][5]


In classical music

The ondes Martenot has been used by many composers, most notably Olivier Messiaen. He first used it in the Fête des Belles Eaux for six ondes, written for the 1937 International World's Fair in Paris[6] and then used it in several of his works, including the Turangalîla-Symphonie and Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine. His opera Saint-François d'Assise requires three of the instruments. The composer's widow, Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen arranged and edited four unpublished Feuillet inedits for ondes Martenot and piano which were published in 2001[7]. The ondes Martenot has also been used occasionally in transcriptions: Leopold Stokowski used the instrument in his ethereal orchestration of Buxtehude's Sarabande and Courante ("Auf Meinen Lieben Gott").


Other composers included Charles Koechlin, Edgard Varèse (as a replacement for two theremin instruments in his work Ecuatorial), Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Maurice Jarre, Antoine Tisné, Sylvano Bussotti, Giacinto Scelsi, Marcel Landowski, Pierre Boulez, Tristan Murail, Henri Tomasi, and Frank Zappa. André Jolivet wrote a prominent concerto for it in 1947.[8] Bohuslav Martinu* authorized the adaptation of his Fantasie to the use of the ondes Martenot when it proved difficult to perform on the Theremin, for which it was originally written.[9]


Estimates of the number of works written for ondes Martenot vary. Hugh Davies reckoned there to be around a thousand works composed for the instrument.[10] Jeanne Loriod's figures are the more widely quoted: she estimated that there were 300 pieces of chamber music, including 14 concertos.[citation needed] Jacques Tchamkerten's provisional catalogue of works for ondes, included in the current reprinting of Loriod's Technique, lists far fewer works than either of these figures.[11]
In cinema and television


Its first use in the cinema was by Shostakovich for one of Russia's first sound films, Odna in 1931. Arthur Honegger used it for Berthold Bartosch's film The Idea (1930, score added 1934). It was extensively used by composer Brian Easdale in the ballet music for The Red Shoes. It was frequently used in horror and science fiction movies and television, notably in the 1950s. British composer Barry Gray frequently used it in his scores for Gerry Anderson's television series, and American composer Dominic Frontiere used it in a few episodes of the television series The Outer Limits (1963-65). Film composer Elmer Bernstein incorporated the instrument into many of his works beginning with Heavy Metal, in 1981. Maurice Jarre was also noted for his use of the instrument. It was used to haunting effect by the composer David Fanshawe in the British television series Flambards. One of the few anime composers who has used the instrument is Takashi Harada in the soundtracks of A Tree of Palme (2002) and in Bincho--tan (2006).


Other film scores using the ondes Martenot include Lawrence of Arabia (1962); Billion Dollar Brain (1967); Doppelgänger (1969); Jesus of Nazareth (miniseries) (1977); Heavy Metal (1981); Ghostbusters (1984); A Passage to India (1984); The Black Cauldron (1985); Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988); Rising Sun (1993); Amélie, by Yann Tiersen (2001); both Bodysong (2003) and "There Will Be Blood" (2007) by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead; La marche de l'empereur, by Emilie Simon, played by Thomas Bloch. The score of A Tree of Palme also notably features the ondes Martenot.


It was not used for the female voice effects in the original Star Trek theme, despite many rumors to the contrary.[citation needed]
In popular music


One of the first integrations of the ondes Martenot into popular music was achieved in the Quebec musical scene. The two most popular Québécois musical groups of the time, Beau Dommage and Harmonium, made extensive use of this instrument (introduced there by Marie Bernard) in each of their 1975 albums, respectively Où est passée la noce? and Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison. Harmonium later toured with Supertramp and received several reviews of their work by English-speaking musical critics of progressive rock, who noted their use of the ondes Martenot.


Jonny Greenwood is often credited with bringing the ondes to a larger audience through Radiohead's Kid A (2000), Amnesiac (2001), Hail to the Thief (2003) and In Rainbows (2007) albums. Greenwood uses the ondes Martenot often in his solo efforts, and has written a piece for the instrument, entitled Smear. In live concerts, Radiohead have used six ondes for "How to Disappear Completely".[12]

The ondes Martenot was also utilized by Bryan Ferry, in 1999, on the album As Time Goes By, and by Joe Jackson on his 1988 soundtrack album for Tucker: The Man and His Dream and his 1994 album Night Music. Recently, ondist Thomas Bloch has toured in Tom Waits and Robert Wilson's show "The Black Rider" with Marianne Faithfull (2004–2006) and in Gorillaz leader Damon Albarn's show "Monkey: Journey to the West" (2007 onward).


Also, Yann Tiersen, well known for writing the music to Amelie, often features the use of the ondes Martenot in his music. His DVD La Traversee, documenting the recording of Les Retrouvailles, shows his use of the instrument.

In 2009, bruit direct disques[13] released a 12" 45rpm vinyl record of original ondes martenot compositions by Accident du travail[14].


Playing technique Au ruban playing technique   The tiroir of a 1975-model ondes

The ondes Martenot is unique among electronic musical instruments in its methods of control.[15] Maurice Martenot was a cellist, and it was his vision to bring the degree of musical expressivity associated with the cello to his new instrument.[16] The ondes, in its later forms, can be controlled either by depressing keys on the six-octave keyboard (au clavier), or by sliding a metal ring worn on the right-hand index finger in front of the keyboard (au ruban). The position of the ring corresponds in pitch to the horizontal location along the keyboard. The latter playing method allows for unbroken, sweeping glissandi to be produced in much the same manner as a Theremin. The keyboard itself has a lateral range of movement of several millimeters, permitting vibrati of nearly a semitone below or above the pitch of the depressed key to be produced.


By depressing keys or moving the ring, no sound is initially produced. A control operated by the left hand and situated in a small drawer of controls (tiroir) on the left side of the instrument controls the musical dynamics, from silence to fortissimo. This control (touche d'intensité) is glass and lozenge-shaped, and can be depressed several centimetres. The depth to which this key is depressed determines the dynamic level: the deeper, the louder. The manner in which it is pressed determines the attack of the note: quick taps produce staccato articulations, whilst more controlled and deliberate depressions are used to play legato.


The small drawer of controls also contains flip-switches to control the instrument's timbre. These function in much the same way as a pipe organ's stops can be added or removed. Like organ stops, each switch has its own sound color which can be added to the chorus of other timbres. The 1975-model instrument features the following timbres:
Onde (O)     A simple sine wave timbre. Similar in sound to the flute or ocarina.
Creux (C)     A peak-limited triangle wave. Similar in sound to a clarinet in high registers.
Gambe (G)     A timbre somewhat resembling a square wave. Intended to be similar in sound to string instruments, as the French title would suggest.
Petit gambe (g)     A similar but less harmonically-rich timbre than Gambe. The player can control the number of harmonics present in the signal by using a slider situated in the control drawer.
Nasillard (N)     A timbre resembling a pulse wave. Similar in sound to a bassoon in low registers.
Octaviant (8)     A timbre with a reinforced first harmonic whose intensity in the signal can be controlled by using a slider. This setting is analogous to the 4 foot stop in organ terminology.
Souffle (S)     A timbre often described as white noise, but in fact pink noise of indefinite pitch.

In addition to the timbral controls, the control drawer also contains flip switches which determine to which loudspeakers (diffuseurs) the instrument's output are routed. These are labeled D1 to D4.
Three diffuseurs. From left to right: Métallique, Palme, Principal
Principal     A traditional, large loudspeaker.
Résonance     A loudspeaker which uses springs to produce a mechanical reverb effect.
Métallique     A small gong is used as the loudspeaker diaphragm to produce a 'halo' effect rich in harmonics.
Palme     An iconically lyre-shaped loudspeaker, using strings to produce sympathetic resonances.
    * The Electro-Theremin is a similar instrument, famous for being used in the song "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys.
    * Prominent ondes Martenot performers include Ginette Martenot, Jeanne Loriod, Sylvette Allart, Thomas Bloch, Pierre Boulez, Alessandro Cortini, Cynthia Millar, Christine Ott, Dominique Kim, Valérie Hartmann-Claverie, Jacques Tchamkerten, Jonny Greenwood, Jean Laurendeau, Mary Chun, Bruno Perrault, Tristan Murail and Zac Baird.
    * Jeanne Loriod's three-volume Technique de l'onde electronique, type Martenot (Leduc, 1987) is considered to be the standard reference work on the ondes Martenot. It has a preface written by Olivier Messiaen.



   1. ^ K.D. Skeldon, L.M. Reid, V. McInally, B. Dougan, C. Fulton: "Physics of the Theremin", Am. J. Phys., 66 (1998) 11:945–55.
   2. ^ Thomas Bloch, insert notes to Naxos Records CD 8.555779 "Music for ondes Martenot", p. 9
   3. ^ "Ondes Martenot" on Thomasbloch.net
   4. ^ Timeline of the Ondéa replica development.
   5. ^ Extensive (21 pages) documentation on the Ondéa (Ondes Martenot replica).
   6. ^ Hill, Peter; Simeone, Nigel (2005). Messiaen. Yale. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-0300109078.
   7. ^ Bloch, p. 7.
   8. ^ Hilda Jolivet: Avec André Jolivet (Flammarion, 1978), pp. 188-190
   9. ^ Bloch, p. 8
  10. ^ Quoted in Douglas Martin, "Jeanne Loriod, Who Transformed Electronic Wails Into Heartfelt Music, Dies at 73", New York Times (19 August 2001).
  11. ^ Jacques Tchamkerten: catalogue of works for ondes Martenot in Jeanne Loriod: Technique de l'onde electronique type Martenot, vol. 2 (Leduc)
  12. ^ video of "How to Disappear Completely", with 6 Ondes
  13. ^ bruit direct disques, record label website
  14. ^ myspace for accident du travail, julie normal and olivier 2mo
  15. ^ Loriod, 1987
  16. ^ Jean Laurendeau: Maurice Martenot: Luthier de l'Electronique (Dervy Livres, 1996)


    * Sculpting music with the ondes martenot - Radio France Internationale (English)
    * Présentation détaillée des Ondes Martenot (French)
    * Ondes Martenot : facts, videos, pictures, discography, works... (English)
    * The presentation of Ondes Martenot C° Union des Enseignements Martenot (English)
    * Audities Foundation Model 6 Ondes Martenot
    * BBC Radio 6 Music - The Great Bleep Forward
    * The Ondes-Martenot at Obsolete.com - includes two audio excerpts from the Turangalila-Symphonie (Quicktime format).

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondes_Martenot"




On http://www.alexbach.dk/abca/gallery.html there is a SOUND EXAMPLE:

abca playing the pre-historic synth, Ondes Martenot

The keyboard itself is four octaves wide, and in front of this you'll find the wire controller with the small ring through which you insert your index finger. The wire (which is actually a fine nylon cord) is stretched above a fingerboard in which you'll find small circular depressions that represent the white notes on the keyboard; and protruding metal studs that mark the positions of the black notes.

synthesized violins and cellos have never sounded this good! Then there were the flutes, whistles, atmospheric voices and amazing effects...

 four permutations afforded by the two switches
  •   'Button + Slider'
  •    'Keyboard + Keyboard'
  •    'Keyboard + Slider' mode allows you to control the pitch of the sound using the wire controller, but trigger envelopes using the keyboard.
  •    'Button + Keyboard' mode, which allows you to play the pitch of the sound conventionally using the keyboard, articulating notes using the button.

You have to hear this one

completely intuitive and incredibly musical. The depressions and studs on the fingerboard made it simple to locate conventional semitones, and the ring moved without any discontinuities or unevenness. I could articulate each note individually and smoothly using the amplitude button, or create slides and vibrato without difficulty.


The ondes Martenot (which is French for "Martenot waves", also known as the ondium Martenot, Martenot and ondes musicales) is one of the first electronic musical instruments ever created. It was invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot and it's sound was very similar to a Theremin – except with much more control over the timbre of the sound.

I'd stop short of calling it a real synthesizer, but it did have switches to control the sound. It even came with 4 very different speakers that could be switched on and off. The eerie sounds of the ondes Martenot were produced by thermionic valves (or vacum tube).

The Martenot was produced for 60 years all the way up until 1988, but a knockoff called the Ondéa started being produced in 2001.

The really cool thing about this instrument is how it's played. On first sight, it looks like it operates like a piano, however it can be played either via the keyboard itself or by sliding a metal ring worn on the right-hand index finger in front of the keyboard. This allows the musician to play sweeping, wavering sounds very similar to the theremin. The keys on the keyboard actually have a little bit of lateral motion and you can modulate the pitch of a note up or down by pushing it left or right. (Maybe all those posers who vibrate their finger on the key when they play a synth with modulated sound dream of these)

Now, it doesn't matter if you press a key or more the ring, those don't actually produce any sound (!).  To produce a sound, first you must pull out a small drawer on the left hand side that contains various many controls. One oblong-shaped key controls the volume of the note by how far it is pressed – the deeper the push, the louder the note.  Additionally, how it is pressed determines the attack of the note: quick taps produce short, staccato notes and more controlled and deliberate presses play legato.

Also in this drawer are flip-style switches that control the Martenot's sound. Each switch has its own sound color which can be stacked up to create a compound sound, just like an organ. The switches feature a sine wave, triangle wave, a pulse wave noise, and many other sounds.

If that isn't enough, the are 4 different speaker systems (called "diffusers") that can be used to modify the sound. There is a standard speaker, a speaker with springs that add a type of reverb to the sound, a speaker with a "gong" as a diaphragm which produces very interesting harmonics and a speaker that is similar to a stringed instrument called a Lyre – great for drones and rich textures. Of course, you can use more than one speaker at a time and switch between them on the fly (take that, Leslie speakers!)

There really aren't very many people can play this instrument as very few of these actually exist, however

Jean Laurendeau is an absolute master. Here is a video of him demonstrating the instrument.


[ondes Martenot]


Les Ondes Martenot, improvisation par Monique Pierrot

31. December 2008Improvisation aux ondes Martenot par Monique Pierrot


Sextuor d'ondes Martenot - pièce d'Olivier Messiaen

25. January 2009L'ensemble d'ondes Martenot de Jeanne Loriod, en 1983, jouait "Les Fusées" (partie 3) de la suite "La Fête des Belles Eaux" de son beau-frère Olivier Messiaen. Maurice Martenot avait inventé en 1922 l'un des plus anciens instruments électroniques : les ondes Martenot. (rediffusion)


Ondes Martenot et Theremin music instrumentist

25. March 2007he played with RADIOHEAD ! and with orchestras, television, with 2 fabulous music instruments that you can hear and see here.



Composer: Pierre Boulez
Work: Le visage nuptial (first version, 1946/47) (2 ondes Martenot)
Voices: soprano, contralto
Other instruments: piano, percussion

Composer: S. Bussotti
Work: Due voci
Voice: soprano
Other instruments: orchestra

Composer: Jacques Chailley
Work: Casa Dei (oratorio)
Voice: unspecified
Other instruments: choir, orchestra

Composer: Jacques Charpentier
Work: Stele
Voice: soprano
Other instruments: organ

Composer: Lindsay Cooper
Work: Nightmare
Voice: 2 unspecified voices
Other instruments: piano, marimba, percussion, drums, bassoon, synthesizer

Composer: Olivier Messiaen
Work: Saint François d'Assise (opera)
Voices: soprano, 3 tenors, 3 baritones, bass-baritone, bass, chorus
Other instruments: orchestra

Composer: Serge Provost
Work: Ein Horn (4 ondes Martenot)
Voices: soprano
Other instruments: none

Composer: Michel Redolfi
Work: Mare Teno
Voices: soprano
Other instruments: electronics

Composer: Giacinto Scelsi
Work: Uaxuctum (The Legend of the Maya City which destroyed itself for religious reasons)
Voices: 4 unspecified voices, mixed choir
Other instruments: orchestra

Uaxuctum (1969)

This extraordinary piece is in five movements, totaling approximately twenty minutes. In addition to the large chorus, written at an astonishingly difficult technical level, the work is scored for: four vocal soloists (two sopranos, two tenors, electronically amplified), ondes Martenot solo, vibraphone, sistrum, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, bass tuba, double bass tuba, six double basses, timpani and seven other percussionists (playing on such instruments as the rubbed two-hundred liter can, a large aluminum hemisphere, and a two-meter high sheet of metal). The chorus is written in ten and twelve parts, incorporating all variety of microtonal manipulations, as well as breathing and other guttural and nasal sounds. This piece is certainly Scelsi's most difficult to perform, and was not premiered until October 12th, 1987 by the Cologne Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra. Uaxuctum is subtitled: "The legend of the Maya city, destroyed by themselves for religious reasons" and corresponds to an actual Maya city in Peten, Guatemala which flourished during the first millennium AD; in addition, the Mexican state of Oaxaca comes from the same ancient meso-American root.

This is an intensely dramatic work, and the most bizarre in Scelsi's output. It depicts the end of an ancient civilization - residing in Central America, but with mythical roots extending back to Egypt and beyond - it is the last flowering of a mystical and mythological culture which was slowly destroyed by our modern world. In this case, Scelsi says, the Mayans made a conscious decision to end the city themselves. Uaxuctum incorporates harmonic elements throughout, and is extremely difficult to come to terms with.

The first movement, the longest of the five, is a grand overture; it begins in quiet contemplation, only to be interrupted by the violent mystical revelation of the chorus propelling this story into the present from the distant past, and then sinking back into meditative tones with a presentiment of the upcoming adventure. In the wild and dramatic second movement, we enter the world of the Mayans, complete with mysticism in all aspects of life; it is an incredible and violent tour-de-force of orchestral writing. The short third movement opens with an atmosphere of foreboding, building into a realization of things to come, and reaching a decision. After a few seconds of silence, the city of Uaxuctum is quickly destroyed and abandoned. The fourth movement is dominated by the chorus throughout, and presents the wisdom gained by the Mayans as they gradually fade into oblivion. The fifth movement returns to the opening mood, and gives a dim recollection of the preceding events which have now been told, in abstract form, to our time and civilization.

There really are no proper words to describe this amazing piece, which presents Scelsi at his most daring and innovative. It is a world all to itself, and a warning.

Composer: Gilles Tremblay
Work: Kékoba
Voices: soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor
Other instruments: percussion

Composer: Edgard Varèse
Work: Ecuatorial (2 ondes Martenot or theremin cellos)
Voices: baritone
Other instruments: orchestra of 4 trumpets, bass trombone, 3 tenor trombones, organ, piano, 6 percussion

Composer: Patrik Vidjeskog
Work: Tre brev till det ogripbara
Voices: baritone, mixed choir
Other instruments: percussion, organ, string orchestra



Thomas Bloch musician and the rare instruments he plays ondes Martenot glassharmonica cristal Baschet he has made 2500 concerts and 100 CD with Radiohead Gorillaz Tom Waits Valery Gergiev ondes martenot glass harmonica cristal Baschet Lasry ondes martenot glass harmonica cristal Baschet konzertagentur ondes martenot glass harmonica cristal Baschet ondes martenot best soloist virtuose virtuoso solist soliste solisten ondes martenot glass harmonica cristal Baschet Lasry structures sonores ondes martenot glas harmonika concert agency agence de concert cristal baschet agencies concerts konzert agentur agent ondes martenot ondes martenot ondes martenot ondes martenot ondes martenot onde martinot onde martinot onde martinot onde martinot onde martinot glass harmonica

ondes Martenot glass armonica
cristal Baschet Thomas Bloch

titre Thomas Bloch

performer of rare instruments

"Thomas Bloch is unquestionnably a virtuoso and a musician"
"Thomas Bloch est, sans discussion, un virtuose et un musicien"
The New York Times


2 5 0 0       C O N C E R T S


M I L O S  F O R M A N      Amadeus
G O R I L L A Z      Monkey: Journey to the West
T O M   W A I T S  /  B O B   W I L S O N     The Black Rider
DAFT PUNK (T. Bangalter)/GASPAR NOE    Enter the void
E M I L I E   S I M O N         The March of Penguins
M A R I A N N E     F A I T H F U L L
V A N E S S A   P A R A D I S
J O H N     C A G E
O L I V I E R     M E S S I A E N
J E A N - F R A N C O I S   Z Y G E L
P H I L I P P E    S A R D E
A R T H U R    H
L A R A   F A B I A N
M I L A N O      S C A L A
M U S I C   C E N T E R   L O S   A N G E L E S
M Y U N G - W H U N    C H U N G
V A L E R Y    G E R G I E V


A brief text about facts regarding the instrument is followed by a more complete text written by Thomas Bloch for the booklet of his CD "Music for ondes Martenot" published by Naxos (ref. 8.555779) and by a repertoire of works composed for it.

It is possible to hear excerpts of this CD and to see more videos on the audio - video page of this site.

  • The ondes Martenot in brief...

Maurice Martenot - ondes Martenot  1928

Maurice Martenot plays the 1rst model (1928)
he used only a ribbon and had to stay  a little way from the unit

     Maurice Martenot (1898 - 1980) found the principle of ondes Martenot (sometimes written onde Martenot, Martenot waves in English, fale martenota in Polish, ondas martenot in Spanish or, by mistake : ondes Martinot), when, as a serviceman in radio transmissions during the first world war, he noticed «the purity of the vibrations produced by the lamps of a condenser whose intensity can be made to vary».

     It was one of the first electric instruments in the world and the only one of that time to have given rise to a vast repertoire and to be still played today. Maurice Martenot was also a cellist and the inventor, with his sister, of a method of artistical education. He was above all interested in the musical means offered by electricity and not so much by research in sound. He started doing research work for ondes Martenot in 1919. But he did not present the instrument to the public until May 1928 at Paris Opera.

    His immediate triumph was followed by a world tour.

   Seven successive specimens made by Maurice Martenot were born, each one bringing innovations. The bases of the last instrument, transistorised, still played and taught in about ten Music Academies in France and in Canada, were fixed in 1975.

     The building of Ondes Martenot stopped in 1988. His son Jean Louis then started working on a digital instrument. In 1995, engineer Ambro Oliva makes the ondéa, a close instrument.

     REVIVAL !!!   From 2008, Jean-Loup Dierstein works on rebuilding the original ondes Martenot. The production will begin before the end of 2009 - write here for informations about this new instrument.

ondes Martenot ladies

Ondes Martenot octet and two pianos
conducted by Ginette Martenot (around 1935)

ondes Martenot

The 7th model of ondes Martenot
the double pedal
 the loudspeakers :
with the "résonance" included in the same cabinet
the "métallique"
the "palme"

    The instrument is monophonic and consists in three diffusers : a principal diffuser (a traditional loudspeaker), a resonnance diffuser (two possibilities : one originally named palme which is a loudspeaker in the shape of a flame, whose tuned strings, placed on a resonance chamber allow the sound to go on, vibrating by sympathy; and another one, more recent, named resonnance which is composed of springs and whose effect is the same but louder) and the metallique (a gong set in vibration by an engine, the metal replacing the membrane of the loudspeaker, which creates a metal sound halo at a precise pitch).

     A mobile keyboard allows a vibrato controlled «on line» and also micro intervals.

     In front of and along the keyboard there is a ruban (ribbon) with a ring through which the interpreter puts the forefinger of his right hand. The frequency corresponds to the key facing the ring and allows to obtain the same effect as with a string instrument, without frette, or with a voice (glissandi, effects, lyric, song) on nine octaves.

     On the left, a drawer contains all the controls : sounds (one hundred possible combinations), transposition buttons (among others : quarter tones), loudspeakers controls, balance, pink noise and «touche d'intensité» (intensity key). As with a bow, no sound is produced if the interpreter does not press that key which allows to create intensities and attacks. Two foot-controlled pedals (mute and intensity) complete the instrument.

     There is about 1500 works composed for the ondes Martenot by Varèse, Messiaen, Honegger, Scelci, Boulez, Jolivet, Murail... It is also widely used in film music (Mad Max, Mars attacks, Fantomas, la Marche de l'Empereur - the March of Penguins...) and in popular music (Brel, Radiohead, Gorillaz, Vanessa Paradis...).


by Thomas Bloch

© Thomas Bloch / Naxos, 2004
from the booklet of the Thomas Bloch's CD
"Music for ondes Martenot" (réf.: Naxos 8.555779)
english translation : Susannah Howe

Maurice Martenot - Ginette Martenot  Paris opera in 1928

Maurice Martenot
plays the first model
of ondes Martenot
with his sister Ginette (keyboard)
in Paris opera


    The french Maurice Martenot (Paris, 1898 - Clichy, 1980) began his musical education early, giving his first cello concerts at the age of nine, accompanied by his sister Ginette who was to become the first ondes Martenot soloist. He was equally passionate about science (an area in which he was self-taught) and teaching; he wrote books on relaxation and breathing techniques, as well as, with his older sister Madeleine, developing the Martenot teaching method, widely used in France.

     In 1917 Martenot was working as an army radio operator when he came across the principle behind the instrument he went on to invent. While using valve radios tuned to similar (but not identical) frequencies, he noticed the "purity of the vibrations produced by triode valves when the intensity of the electrical charge is varied by means of a condenser [or capacitor]". He began his musical experiments in 1919.

     At around the same time the Russian physicist Lev Theremin was perfecting his own electronic instrument. The theremin has two aerials and the performer moves his or her hands towards and away from them, without ever touching them, to change the pitch and volume of the sound produced. Greatly piqued by the appearance of the theremin in Paris in 1927, Martenot presented the second version of his instrument, which he was then calling the "ondes musicales" (musical waves) at the Opéra on 3rd May 1928. The international tour that followed was met with great critical acclaim: the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung said, "Theremin is a physician-musician while Martenot is a musician-physician"; "It is ethereal, supernatural, inexplicable" claimed Information, and Der Abend (Vienna) enthused, "Wonder triumphed over scepticism", while the New York Herald said that had he lived in the Middle Ages, Martenot would have been accused of witchcraft and burned alive in the town square.

     Martenot's primary interest, however, was not research into new sounds (unlike the inventors of synthesisers, whose first models appeared almost thirty years later). The development of this most musical of electronic instruments was driven above all by an interest in the expressive, musical potential offered by electricity.

     To understand how the ondes Martenot works, we need to look at an acoustic phenomenon. The string of an instrument playing the note A has a frequency of 440 Hz, i.e. it vibrates back and forth 440 times per second. Depending on the speed of this vibration, the note (frequency) is low or high. The radio used by Martenot only worked at a very high frequency, emitting an ultrasonic note inaudible to the human ear (80 000 Hz). To obtain an audible sound therefore, he used the principle of heterodyning (which musicians use when tuning to another instrument) - producing a beat frequency by the combination of two oscillations of slightly different frequency in order to generate a third, whose value is the mathematical difference between the first two. The note A, for example, can be produced by the simultaneous production of two inaudible frequencies of 80000 and 80440 Hz. The first frequency is fixed and never changes, while the second is variable, modified by the performer who plays the instrument either via a keyboard (clavier or CL in French) or by moving a wire know as a ribbon (ruban or R in French).

ondes Martenot BW Thomas  Bloch
The keyboard and the loudspeakers

ondes Martenot - keyboard -  ribbon - drawer

The keyboard
the ribbon
the drawer
and the pedals

     The ondes Martenot is monophonic, so the keyboard and ribbon are played with the right hand only, with the exception of a number of virtuosic works requiring the use of both hands. With the left hand, the performer can alter aspects such as dynamics and timbre, using controls in a small drawer on the side of the instrument.

     The keyboard (written CL on a score when it is used in a work) has six visible octaves but actually has a range of almost nine, via a switch and transpose buttons. It is also sprung and the keys can be moved laterally through microtones a semi-tone up or down, thereby enabling the performer, by moving the right hand from side to side while depressing the keys, to create a vibrato effect just as Martenot could when playing the cello.

     The ribbon
(written R on a score when it is used in a work) extends along the length and in front of the keyboard and has a metal ring which fits on to the ondiste's right index finger. He or she then plays different notes by sliding the ring along  the keyboard, and above a scale calibrated with bumps and indentations which act as visual and tactile reference points. The sound made is like that of a fretless string instrument or the human voice, producing glissandi that can be unbroken or sketched out across the instrument's range, special effects, lyrical intonation, microtones, vibrato, and so on. Here again there is an obvious analogy with the cello. In addition, a key element of Martenot's teaching method was the importance of gesture and movement and the ondiste's ribbon technique puts this into practice. Some composers add scroll-like designs to their scores which players then reproduce with their hand movements, translating the image into sound.

     The musician's left hand works the touche d'intensité (intensity key) located in a little drawer on the left side of the instrument. This controls the sound level, something like the volume control of a radio. Extremely sensitive, it has a two-centimetre range of movement and can take the volume from zero to earsplitting. It acts as an extension of the player's thought process, enabling a wide variety of nuance, phrasing and attack (accents, slurring, detached notes, staccato, percussive effects, and so on). In order to produce a sound the musician has to play the keyboard (or ribbon) and depress the button simultaneously. The action of the latter is similar to that of a bow, recalling once more Martenot's beloved cello.

     Also located in the drawer are seven switches that control the choice of wave form (sounds) and their mixing, enabling numerous timbre combinations. On the latest model (1975), they are designated by letters rather than by numbers as on previous models: O for Ondes (sinusoid waves), C for Creux (peaklimited triangular signal), g for petit gambé (a square signal whose intensity can be regulated using a selector), G for Gambé (square signal), N for Nasillard (pulse signal), 8 for Octaviant (reinforced first harmonic, whose intensity can be regulated using a selector) and T for Tutti (combination of all timbres). There are also two switches which can be used to obtain variable-intensity pink noise, comparable to a Puff (S for Souffle), and to filter the harmonics (F for Feutre), creating a mute effect.

Playing on the keyboard (right hand)
while the left hand
controls the intensity key

drawer ondes Martenot

The keyboard, the ribbon with the ring
and the drawer with 
the intensity key (in white),
the sounds, the white noise, the loudspeakers and
the transposition buttons and the mixing knobs

     The drawer also contains six transpose buttons which allow the player to change each individual note instantaneously and simultaneously: a quarter-tone higher or lower, or a semi-tone, tone, third or fifth higher.

     Two foot pedals are connected to the drawer to work as a filter and touche d'intensité (intensity key) when a score requires both hands on the keyboard.

     Finally, the player uses a selection of switches to choose one or more of the four separate loudspeakers (diffuseurs in French: D1 to D4) which produce specific sound effects that can be combined using a mixing knob.

     The main loudspeaker (Diffuseur Principal - D1) is a traditional loudspeaker invented with the instrument. The Résonance (D2) dates from 1980 and is made up of stretched coiled strings enabling sounds to be prolonged. It is based on the Palme (D4), developed in 1950; both are used in the same way, but the latter has two sets of twelve chromatically tuned metal strings, stretched over a flame-shaped case, which resonate in sympathy with the notes played by the performer. Lastly, the Métallique (D3), invented around 1930, has a metallic plate like a gong that acts as the speaker membrane and produces an acoustic halo effect when the instrument is played.

     Over the decades since its invention, there have been seven models of the ondes Martenot, all incorporating various improvements.

     The 1919 instrument, a kind of theremin, was not seen as viable by Martenot and his first "official" model was that of 1928. This only had the ribbon, which the player pulled and released with the right hand to slide from one note to another. The performer stood a little way from the unit and controlled the volume using a control in a drawer on a table. The second model (1929) was more compact and included a dummy keyboard with a pointer to indicate the pitch of the notes played on the ribbon. The third model (1930) could be played from either a seated or standing position and the ribbon was positioned above a dummy wooden keyboard which worked as a visual reference. The next model had no ribbon but had a working, sprung keyboard. Ribbon and functioning keyboard finally appeared together in version five in 1937, the year in which Messiaen composed his Fête des Belles Eaux for six ondes Martenot (which was performed on a boat floating down the Seine as part of Exposition Universelle). Martenot began giving classes in the instrument at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in 1947, and a dozen or so more courses were later established in France and Canada, encouraging official recognition of the instrument. Model six (1955) was smaller and lighter owing to progress made in the field of electronics. The seventh and final version (1975) replaced valves with transistors.

     Around 370 instruments were manufactured in Martenot's workshop in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, along with a number of non-professional models: simplified versions for school use, chamber music versions, one combined with a radio and turntable and one designed to play raga modes (built in 1932 for the Indian poet and musician Rabindranath Tagore), among others.

     Production ended in 1988 on the retirement of Marcel Manière, Martenot's assistant since 1951. Jean-Louis Martenot, one of Maurice's sons, worked on a digital version, but this was not pursued. In 1995, engineer Ambro Oliva makes the ondéa, a close instrument.

    REVIVAL !!!  After 2008, Jean-Loup Dierstein, a wordly french renowned specialist of vintage keyboards, works on rebuilding the original ondes Martenot with the support of Maurice Martenot's son. The production will begin before the end of 2009. The instrument is exactly the same than the very last ondes Martenot model made in 1988 - write here for informations about this new instrument.

Ribbon play (right  hand) - ondes Martenot
Playing with the ribbon

ondes Martenot
The keyboard and from left to right the "diffuseurs"
"principal" (D1), "résonance" (D2), "métallique" (D3)

ondes  Martenot CD cover Thomas Bloch Bloch Naxos - painting by Rémi Bloch

"Music for ondes Martenot"

Thomas Bloch's CD cover
Naxos - reference : 8.555779
- painting by Rémi Bloch -

     Today the ondes Martenot repertoire comprises more than a thousand works, in varying genres: contemporary music, pop songs, film scores, stage music, dance, rock and pieces written for radio, TV and ads. Composers of works for the instrument include Dimitri Levidis (whose Poème symphonique of 1928 was the first work written for the instrument), Pierre Boulez (ondist himself), Elmer Bernstein, Sylvano Bussotti, Jacques Canteloube, Jacques Chailley, Jacques Charpentier, Marius Constant, Henri Dutilleux, Nguyen Tien Dao, Arthur Honegger, Jacques Ibert, Maurice Jarre, André Jolivet, Charles Koechlin, Marcel Landowski, Olivier Messiaen, Darius Milhaud, Tristan Murail, Nicolas Obouhow, Bernard Parmegiani, François Rauber (the writer of Jacques Brel's songs), Maurice Ravel (who authorised arrangements of a few of his works - Ma Mère l'Oye, the String Quartet and Sonatine for piano - saying they sounded as they did in his dreams), Henri Sauguet, Giacinto Scelsi, Yoshihisa Taira, Henri Tomasi, Edgar Varèse, Pierre Vellones... Also in pop music field : Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Tom Waits...

     Although the ondes Martenot is a multifaceted instrument, it is sometimes considered obsolete by those ignorant of its potential. Composer Michel Redolfi quashes all such prejudice: "The ondes Martenot, whose most celebrated patron was of course Olivier Messiaen, continues to be used in weird and wonderful compositions. Seen as taboo, rejected by those who fail to understand its qualities, thought of as too pure, out of control, too free in its apparently effortless sound production, without exaggerated physical movement, the ondes Martenot can, for instance, create new chords for the human voice, free it from its player's flesh and breath and let it drift away towards new soundworlds."


The history of synthesizers and samplers  - Part I

In this article we would like to present a solid theoretical foundation for anyone who wants to know the history, principles of construction, operation and the use of synthesizers and samplers in the production of music. The magnitude of the subject does not give us the opportunity to very detailed description of all of them, however we will try to give a fairly broad cross-section of what is most important both in terms of influence, as well as the operation of most famous synthesizers and samplers.

What is  synthesizer? Synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument, which contains various modules for producing and shaping sound, such as oscillators, filters or voltage control amplifiers. The synthesizers are used to produce sounds impossible to obtain by traditional instruments. With the emergence of these instruments the entirely separate branch of music was developed, namely the electronic music.
The word "synthesizer" is derived from the word "synthesis". And that word means the synthesis of all the components or any individual pieces into one thing. This is what the synthesizer do.

A typical synthesizer contains three most basic modules:
1 The Oscillator - the module that produces initial sound
2 The Keyboard - the module that is used to control the sound in the musical way
3 The Filters and Effects to change the nature of the sound.

The third section usually contains the VCA module, which allows you to set different characteristics of sound int terms of it's decay or attack as well as the VCF Envelope filter, which may change the characteristics of filter actions depending on the time.

For a long time already the synthesizers have a built-in sequencer module for programming synthesizer, so that it can play different rhythms or phrases at the same time, and a module to store both factory and user sound presets. The first synthesizer that was equipped with a memory for storing sounds was the Prophet 5, and it was simply priceless in terms of practical usability for musicians, who did not have to set each sound again.

A brief history and types of synthesizers

The first synthesizer in the world has been discovered in 1919 by Léon Theremin. He called it Aetherphone, but this name was not accepted and that synthesizer has become known as the Theremin. This is one of the few electronic instruments that do not require physical contact, to play them. A musician who played it just raises his hands near the two synthesizer's antennas and through the movement of hands he controls the volume and pitch. This synthesizer has been used in numerous recordings, such as a soundtrack for the film "Forbidden Planet", the song "Good Vibrations" by the group  Beach Boys and is still used.

The following photos illustrate both the appearance of the instrument, and the way it was played. In the first photo is Léon Theremin:



The Theremin sound sample:
  Theremin - mp3>>

The next significant step in the history of synthesizer development is the Ondes Martenot:

Maurice Martenot (1898 - 1980) invented it when he worked as a radio technician during World War I, He noted "the purity of the vibrations produced by the tubes, which can be controlled with a capacitor". This was one of the first electronic instruments in the world, and the only, which inspired a huge repertoire of songs, and that is still in use today. Martenot began work on the Ondes Martenot in 1919. It does not, however, was presented to the public until May 1928, when it suffered unprecedented success at the Paris Opera. This triumph allowed Martenot the world concert tour.
The Martenot's instrument is still in use and taught in about ten conservatories of music (France, Canada). Some companies like Ambro Oliva and SEAM improved the design of this instrument and it is available under these new names since 2001.

Ondes Martenot is a monophonic instrument, consisting of 3 "diffusers": the  "major" diffuser (a traditional speaker), the "resonant" diffuser and the "metallique" diffuser (a gong put in vibration by using an engine, metal replaced a speaker's membrane, which gives a metallic sound with precise height).
The Resonant diffuser has 2 varieties: the so-called. "Palm", which is a speaker in the shape of a flame, with strings placed on the resonance chamber, allowing the sounds on the principle of resonance, and second, more modern, so-called "Resonnance"  (which is built on springs using the same principle of  resonance)

Mobile keyboard allows the player to control the vibration, and also to obtain micro intervals. On the front and along the keyboard is a ribbon with a ring through which the performer put his right hand finger. The frequency of the instrument is determined by the location of the finger and allows the player to get the same effects as using fretless string instruments or the human voice (e.g. glissando). Ondes Martenot's range is very broad, it covers as much as 7 octaves. On the left there is a drawer with all the regulators: the preset sounds (100 possible combinations), the transposition keys (among other things quarter tons), regulators for speaker, the balance, pink noise and the "
touche d'intensité" (key expression). The instrument also has 2 foot controlled pedals- the muting pedal and decay pedal.

More then 1200 compositions in very different styles were written for Ondes Martenot: the ballet, film music, theater, jazz, rock, contemporary music, the television and radio ads.

Here is a sample of the sound of this wonderful synthesizer coming from the Jolivet's concert  on Ondes Martenot:

Ondes Martenot - mp3 >>

Shortly after the Ondes Martenot another, very important in the history synthesizer was invented, which was called Trautonium:

Trautonium is an instrument discovered by German engineer Dr. Freidrich'a Adolf Trautwein, who first presented it at an exhibition in 1930r. In the years 1932-35 the serial production was started by the Telefunken company. The famous music writers using that instrument were Paul Hindemith (Concertina for Trautonium and Orchestra), Höffer, Genzmer, Julius Weismann, and also Oscar Hall, who became a virtuoso of this instrument, and even continued to work on its development, by introducing its own variations - 'Mixtur-Trautonium', 'Concert-Trautonium' and 'Radio - Trautonium'. Dr. Freidrich Trautwein also invented the 'amplified harpsichord' (1936) and 'Electronic Bells' (1947).

'Trautonium' had a keyboard consisting of resistive wire, extended on a metal rail. It was marked with chromatic signs, similar to the piano keyboard and was connected to a tube oscillator. The performer played the instrument by pressing a wire touching the rails, closing the circuit, and the sound of the oscillator has been strengthened through the loudspeaker. Position of the finger on the wire controlled resistance, which gave the appropriate frequency. Trautonium had a range of 3 octaves, which could be transposed by the switch. The additional circuitry can be added in order to control the sound by strengthening the harmonics tone of the basic components,  the un-harmonics also can be added by the selective filtering. This unique form of the so-called "subtractive" synthesis yielded interesting and inspiring tones. This instrument differed significantly from other synthesizers from 20' and 30' of the last century. The instrument had a pedal that controls the overall volume

Here is original samples of the sound of this exacting instrument: 

Trautonium - mp3>>    

Trautonium 2 - mp3>>   

Another significant synthesizer in the history of music was discovered by electronic engineer Harry Olsen RCA Mark I.


On the left you can see a room filled with synthesizer modules. The photo on the right shows instrument's inventors, Harry Olson (in depth) and Herbert Belar (front).
It was much more complicated than the Theremin, Trautonium or the Ondes Martenot. It was controlled by paper strap of 38 cm wide, on which the binary code was encoded bearing information about notes and phrases for the sequencer. The development of the RCA synthesizer cost the company 500 000 dollars.

Slightly improved variant was Mark II that uses 24 adjustable oscillators:

Once the ownership of the machine was transferred to Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in 1959, Milton Babbitt used it to create such works as' Philomèle ' for soprano and synthesized sound.

A sound sample from Milton Babbit's "Ensebles For Synthesizer": RCA Mark II .mp3>>  

Most of electronic instruments produced in the years 1920, 1930 and 1940 were different varieties of electronic organs. One model deserves the special attention - the Hammond organ:

The first one was built in 1935. The Hammond organ became very a popular keyboard instrument in the sixties and seventies and have been used by the greatest  keyboard instruments virtuosos, such as Steve Winwood, Ion Lord of Deep Purple, Tony Banks of Genesis, Rick Wakeman of Yes, Rick Wright of Pink Floyd, Keith Emmerson from Emmerson, Lake and Palmer and many others.

The inventor and manufacturer of Hammond organ was Laurens Hammond. Initially, these units have been sold to churches as a cheaper alternative to traditional pipe organ, however, they quickly found use in jazz, blues, gospel, soul, rock and fusion music of the sixties and seventies. The most famous model of the Hammond are the B3 and C3, which appeared in 1955. Thus, although the intention Hammond was a cheaper substitute for the implementation as pipe organ, it quickly became a very common tool creating a class in itself, and musicians such as Jimmy Smith contributed to it's unbelievable public success.

Hammond organ use audio discs placed in a rotating electromagnetic transducers to produce sound. Therefore, it is not a purely electronic instrument, but rather electromechanical. Sounds produced by mechanically rotating discs can be mixed in numerous ways using manuals made in the form of switches and thus very complex combinations of tone can be obtained. Hammond organ is the first electronic instrument, which truly changed the face of the music, the way we know it today.

Here is the sound sample of the Hammmond C3 organ:
 Hammond C3 - mp3>>   

In the fifties of last century electronic instruments began to be treated more and more seriously. This is because during this period a new style in classical music came to the public interest, the so called "musique concrete". This style makes use of different sounds from the environment as recorded sounds, and links them together in a composition. It was also associated with the spread of magnetic tape, as  the popular recording technique. The sounds were recorded, the pitch changed by the tape speed  manipulation, then they have been processed by various filters, cut, looped, and finally combined in the composition. Actually, you can say that the techniques used in music concrete are still alive today in digital samplers, which are able to mimic all the tricks associated with the magnetic tape, of course, but with a much greater degree of precision and higher quality.

At the beginning the synthesizers were incredibly expensive, their construction was carried out mostly by the hobbyists determined to search for new sounds, and access to them had only the major institutions such as philharmonic music academies. Real rise of synthesizers occurred during the Sixties, when bands such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and many others have begun to introduce them en masse to their sound. But even then the synthesizer was only an addition to other instruments. The synthesizers became fully independent thanks to musicians such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Klaus Schultze and Isao Tomita. They based on the synthesizers treating them not as additional instruments but built full extremely reach arrangements using solely synthesizers.  In the second half of the last century during the sixties a particularly interesting form of experimentation was magnetic tape use. the first electronic instrument using this trick was called Mellotron. It was the archetype of the modern sampler, which instead uses digital, looped samples.  Magnetic tapes, with taped excerpts of a sound, such as choir or strings section were the origin.


Clearly, the Mellotron was a very complicated and expensive instrument, which gaves the possibility, however of extremely expressive sounds  not possible to obtain in any other way. An example of one of the best uses of Mellotron in the history of music is  "In The Court Of The Crimson King"  album by the group King Crimson. The following photos show internal mechanics of the Mellotron and several other of its versions:





The history of synthesizer and sampler development - part II

Mellotron sound was used on the famous recordings of The Beatles, such as Strawberry Fields Forever. It was the first sampler in the history using the pieces of magnetic tapes as today's digital samplers use digital samples.

Here is a sample of the Mellotron sound from that famous recording  mp3 >>>   

Another very important inventor in the history of music was Robert Moog. He invented a modular synthesizer, which consists of several modules combined with each other in different ways by using cables. Although he was not the first of the inventors of a modular synthesizer, earlier than him was  Büchl Don, who also introduced the initial concept of this sequencer, but Moog was important in the sense of establishing a certain standard in the construction of electronic synthesizers, which since then are reproduced by countless companies: the Music Control Voltage (VCA). Modular Moog synthesizers included  voltage control setting of 1 Volt per octave, to control the basic functions: pitch (VCO), cut-off filter (VCF) and volume (VCA). Envelope, low frequency oscillators and keyboard could give the small voltage needed. Although the Don Buchla synthesizer also used voltage controls as well as Moog, but did not have such precise adjustment, it's settings were rather experimental and not suitable to the broader use in music just like Moog's synthesizer. 

On the following photos left to right - Büchla together with his modular synthesizer and early Moog:



Below - early Buchla's synthesizers :


A very important step forward was the invention in 1969 by R. Moog 's the MiniMoog synthesizer. It was an attempt to get rid of huge quantities of cables, which can be very complicated in operation and adjustment of the modular Moog synthesizer. This has resulted in fantastically miniaturized instrument:

Moog remedied the problem of huge quantities of cables by the use of permanent connections between the modules and by use of large-scale switches, through which similarly large number of  combinations could be obtained, as using cables. This allowed the extensive use of synthesizers during concerts, and not only in the studio. Bass sounds of the Minimoog ibecame quickly the loved standard for many musicians musicians and took a permanent place in classic popular music.


Examples of Moog Modular synthesizer sounds:   Bass .mp3>>>    Vibrations .mp3>>>


Another instrument that has permanently inscribed on the history of music is the Prophet 5:

Although it was not the first polyphonic synthesizer, which is capable of playing chords, as such instruments existed before, like the Yamaha CS-80 (which is one of the main Vangelis' instruments in the late'70 and early'80), its truly innovative value, however, consisted of something else: it had a miniature internal chips, where a single VCO, VCF, VCA unit could be built in a linear IC system. The Prophet 5, thanks to the use of this technology has become the smallest polyphonic synthesizer, which may be used for concerts, and is easily transported. Another very important innovation of Prophet 5 was the overall programmability. Musicians were for the first time able to save their sounds in the cells of RAM and recall them freely during the concerts. This was simply invaluable move forward for musicians, using the synthesizer as their principal instrument. Polyphonic synthesizers, which emerged after the Prophet 5, all used similar technology of miniaturized integrated circuits of IC type.


Examples of sounds from synthesizer Prophet 5: 

Prophet 5 sound-mp3>>   Prophet 5 -In the Air Tonight-mp3>>  


So far, the only types of sound synthesis in synthesizers were either the  "additive" and the "subtractive". The first instrument, which was built on the basis of a completely different sound synthesis was the New England Digital Synclavier. Although it was very expensive and rarely used outside the world of film and experimental music, but it included many elements, which passed the synthesizer to the future. First of all, it had a new technology generators based on the principle of FM synthesis, namely the mathematical, digital audio synthesis. Secondly, the Synclavier contained a computer, which governed both the parameters and the sequencing of sound, and even the sampling of sounds from outside in the later models. It was to become the first fully digital sampler and a first digital workstation. Later, some companies have put on the market their workstations, which were more miniaturized, such as Ensoniq ESQ-1, Korg M1, but the concept was discovered and introduced by the Synclavier. It significantly helped in the  development of electronic music and one of its big fans was an American composer and guitarist, the great experimenter, Frank Zappa.

In the photo below New England Digital Synclavier:

One can not mention here is the first digital sampler, the Fairlight CMI. In the seventies of last century, a group of people in Sydney in Australia have started work on the synthesizer controlled by computer. But what came out was completely different from the original draft vision. It turned out that they built the first sampler. This sampler has changed the face of electronic music by replacing the complex process of tape looping with much easier digital processing. Although it was very costly device, its ability to create and edit sounds, as well as controlling them through the illuminated graphic pen on the keyboard was highly coveted by musicians. Excellent French composer, Jean-Michel Jarre in his early albums was very advanced user of the device. Fairlight CMI has inspired a lot more, newer samplers.

The following photo shows that first mass-used sampler:

Another very important synthesizer-sampler designating new horizons in the development of music is Emu Emulator. Emu in the early seventies, was a company that produced modular synthesizers. However, Dave Rossum, founder of Emu Systems, completely changed its approach when he first saw Fairlight'a CMI in 1980. Then he came to the conclusion that there must be a simpler way of sampling and a year later the EMU produced the first prototype- the Emulator I. User's interface was much simpler than the CMI's, the operation of instrument was also easier to understand, and the price ($ 8000) was significantly lower than CMI's price. Starting from then Emu has become the dominant sampling company. Another model was Emulator II, produced in 1984 - it had longer sampling times, the built-in sequencer, and the possibility of multisampling. Some of the sounds have become the standard sounds of eighties, for example  "shakuhachi", and are still popular today. There are bands such as Depeche Mode, which still use the Emulator II.

Here is the Emulator II:



How the Emu Emulator sounds: Emu Emulator II - Shakuhachi -mp3     Emu - Enjoy the Silence -mp3


Another important synthesizer in the history is the Yamaha DX7 released in 1983. This is one of the most famous and most widespread synthesizers using FM synthesis. Yamaha has developed technology for their keyboards, the FM has been in existence for some time, but only this model has brought up the desired success. Since that time, FM synthesis has dominated analog synthesizers and until recently was the dominant technology used in synthesizers. FM technology was able to produce good sounds at a relatively low cost that were previously available only on very expensive and complex machinery. The DX7 is a digital synthesizer that has the easy choice of a sound at the touch of a button. It was also equipped with recently discovered midi interface, which allowed for easy control of synthesizer, as well as its co-operation with other sound modules. The Yamaha DX7 cost was less than $ 2,000. It was the first really widely available digital synthesizer. It has proved a huge success, becoming one of the most widely sold and most widespread synthesizers in history. In the years 1983 - 1987, very many songs on the music market contained the sounds from DX-7. 

Here is the Yamaha DX7 model:



 Yamaha DX7 sound example:   Yamaha DX7 -mp3  


Roland TB-303. Before the techno era it is absolutely would not get onto this list of the best or most notable synthesizers. But since the techno style was invented, this instrument has become the most desirable instrument to get for a techno musician, because it's action of unique resonance filter has become very desirable and fashionable element of the techno style. Interestingly, the Roland TB-303 was designed and produced as an instrument to imitate bass guitar. It appeared, however, that it did not completely suited to this role, it's tone was a very poor attempt to clone the bass guitar. But the electronic musicians  quickly figured out that with the appropriate settings of the controls it gives a very nice and interesting, wet filter sound, with a soft kind of distortion, which is suitable for many synthesizer lines such as leads and pulsations. The Roland TB-303 is probably the most classic techno music synthesizer on the market. It's simplicity and one of a kind sound have contributed to its high rank among the best synthesizers in history.


Sound samples from Roland TB-303: Roland TB303 Get_Ready -mp3   Roland TB303 Acperience -mp3


Roland D-50. This instrument was designed by Roland specifically to make it the same market hit as the Yamaha DX7 for the Yamaha company. And so it happened: D50 has become one of the most popular synthesizers of the eighties, and the whole twentieth century. It also helped in the development of today's sample based synthesizers. The D-50 was one of the first synthesizer with built-in ROM memory  that contained the samples which could be used instead of oscillators. These samples were short, but good enough to give a lot of realistic instrument sounds. Another very important innovation of the Roland D-50 was the introduction of the synthesizer module effects: the reverb, chorus, equalizer. Many previously built synthesizers had some effects but they were of much poorer quality. After the D-50, synthesizers which sounds based on samples almost always had built in effects similar to the famous Roland. After adding digital analog sound emulation  it has become a very warm sounding synthesizer, which actually carried out the majority of the sound of the eighties style music. Other synthesizers, such as the Korg M1, with its capability of imposing various tone over themselves (Combi feature) helped much in the development of today's advanced synthesizers, based on samples. But the Roland D-50 was the beginning of a new line of synthesizers, which went into the samples.

For comparison, let's listen to sounds of Korg M1 .mp3>>>


Therefore, the Roland D-50 is on the short list of most beloved synthesizers of all time. It is still a favorite among professional keyboard players. It is much easier to use than the Yamaha DX-7. It combines the technology of  8-bit PCM samples with the sounds generated in the typical synthesizer way, the so-called LAS technology (Linear Arithmetic Synth), so it is able to provide a very unique and complex sounds.
PCM sample contains a lot of transients in the attack, while the rest of the sound comes from the LAS section, which sounds very analog, soft, in the subtractive synthesis style and contains  perfectly sounding low-resonance filters. The instrument has a built-in chorus and reverb that was the first digital reverb ever used in a synthesizer, which helps to give it's sounds extra space and life.

A very interesting solution is the joystick, which is used to manipulate sounds in real time. The D-50 was and still is a wonderful instrument for pads, beautiful, sometimes sounding a bit percussive. The most successful patches are for example the "Staccato Heaven" or "Glass Voices" The combination of sound characteristics of digital loops, featured on the first samplers and analogue warmth gives the D-50 really unmatched sound quality-clean and warm at the same time. Another famous patch is "Fantasia", a mixture of digital bells and synthesizers with a slightly warm, out of tune taste to it.

Yet another notable patches to "DigitalNativeDance", "Soundtrack", "Pizzagogo" and "Glass Voices" of the D-50 have characteristics of the sound of the analog mixed wealth, combined with crystal, digitally perfect taste, with the expression and overall beauty of sound, which is difficult to imitate. The Roland recently released its V-Synth, which is like D-50, thanks to the use samples of low resolution in some cases.

This popular synthesizer is in wide use in all music styles among artists such as Eric Clapton, Enya, 808 State, Jea n Michael Jarre, Vince Clarke, Apollo 440, Eat Static, LTJ Bukem, Fluke, Information Society, Lab-4, Gary Numan, Rick Wakeman, Kitaro, Rush, Boston and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.



Patches from Roland D-50: 
 Roland D50 - Enya      Roland D50 - Staccato Heaven     Roland D50 - Fantasia



The last synthesizer presented here did not become so popular as the previous ones, but its importance lies in the fact that it introduced a new technology to create new sounds: the modeling. This is the Yamaha VL1. Its drawback was the high cost. Yamaha VL1 was first available in the market synthesizer using sound modeling techniques. It was very expensive and could only do a few things (for example, play as a true saxophone). But it had the ability to do those things really well! Which is why it inspired a new wave of modeling synthesizers (such as the Clavia Nord Lead and the Korg Prophecy, which was able to deliver a lot of strange sound effects, being an affordable solo synthesizer. Therefore, it enjoyed a big commercial success. Like the Synclavier and Fairlight, the Yamaha VL1 can be seen as the beginning of a new generation of advanced synthesizers.


Yamaha VL1

Clavia Nord Lead



Korg Prophecy


The rhythm machine modules-rhythmic synthesizers and percussion samplers

Very interesting and necessary instrument in the market of electronic music is a programmable drum and percussion machine. One of the most successful models is the Roland TR-808. Initially, Roland has introduced a series of CR:

However, the rhythm could not be fully programmed using those devices. They had only permanently programmed factory rhythm 'patterns'  and could therefore be used as fully professional equipment to create rhythms, and could only be helpful with, for instance exercises on the guitar. The first fully programmable drum synthesizer-sampler was the Roland TR-808 introduced in 1980. This machine has become very popular and has initiated many styles of music as we know today as Techno, Rap, modern House, etc. The machine had a well-sounding samples based on the analogue sound of drums. Interestingly, although these machines initially had been dominated by other samplers of this type, such as the Linndrum, the fashion for Roland TR-808 returned at the end of '80, when hip-hop artists have discovered that they could tune the sound of a kick drum of the machine down in such a way that it gave an extremely powerful, bass sinusoidal wave, which became the basis for the style in countless productions.

Here's how the Linndrum looks. It dominated the sound of the sampled drums in the middle of eighties and the Roland TR-808, which a classic of the genre at the late eighties:




TR-808 sound:

Here is one more drum and percussion machine. This is the Roland TR-909
The instrument is an analog-digital hybrid, which has become another classic techno genre. It is used very often in 'house' and related styles of music. It is a tool that every producer of dance music already has or will have in his collection. You can not name all using it, because it is used by everybody. to name a few of them they are Technotronic on "Pump Up the Jam" , "This Beat Is Technotronic," Speedy J "Pullover", or "Dee-Lite".

This is the instrument:

Sound samples from Roland TR-909:


 Rolanda TR-909 patches: Roland TR909 - Pump Up    Roland TR909 - This Beat Is 


There is also yet another famous and widely used machine of the Roland 'TR' series - the Roland TR-707. It is a machine based on sampled rock drums, but in combination with a sequencer is also gives excellent results in dance music. Many of the Britney Spears' hits and other pop performers enjoy the sounds of the instrument:

This article shows briefly only some of the most important synthesizers and samplers in the history of music. But we hope this gives a good view on the subject for all who want to enrich their knowledge about the history of electronic instruments.

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posted by u2r2h at Monday, June 07, 2010 0 comments