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article imageThe Trautonium an early electronic instrument

By Ken Hanly     Mar 17, 2017 in Technology
The Trautonium is an early electronic musical instrument invented about 1929 by Friedrich Trautwein in Berlin at his Musikhochschule' music and radio lab, the Rundfunkversuschstelle. The instrument is named after Trautwein.
Soon Trautwein was joined by Oskar Sala who helped develop the Trautonium until his death in 2002. Sala was a German physicist, composer, and a pioneer of electronic music. In 1948 Sala further developed the Trautonium into the Mixtur-Trautonum: The Mixtur-Trautonium allowed for the first time in music history the execution of sounds which had only been known in theory since the Middle Ages, but were never actually playable[example needed]. Sala's invention opened the field of subharmonics, the symmetric counterpart to overtones, so that a thoroughly distinct tuning evolved.[6]
During the 40's and 50's Sala worked on numerous film scores perhaps the best known the non-musical soundtrack for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Click the You Tube icon to watch the video:
Oskar Sala was a pupil of the German composer Paul Hindemith who was quite interested in the Trautonium and wrote a number of selections for it. On the 20th of June 1930, the Trautonium was introduced by Hindemith and Sala at a concert called Neue Musik Berlin 1930. The concert included the 7 trio pieces for three Trautoniums by Paul Hindemith. A more recent performance is available on You Tube:
Hindemith himself played the top part, Sala the middle part, and Rudolph Schmidt the bass part. There was a positive response to the music that caused Hindemith to write more for the Trautonium including a concertino for trautonium and strings:
Sala did not teach his art to any pupils until Peter Pichler a Munich musician and artist met Sala in his Berlin studios in 1996. Pichler had heard the sound as a young man and was fascinated by the emotional impact and dynamic range of the sound. He searched far and wide for someone who understood the instrument and finally tracked down Sala. Much of Sala's knowledge has been preserved as a result. Pichler is one of the few musicians who has mastered the Trautonium as well as composing for it. There is an appended video with Pichler playing two short pieces by Hindemith in a very weird studio! The Trautonium is an early predecessor of the much more versatile electronic synthesizers such as the Moog synthesizer in the appended photo.
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