Contributor essay
by
Alexandra E. Hui (Mississippi State University)
Early European settlers brought firearm technology to waterfowl hunting in the Americas. In the late eighteenth century, market hunting of the goose and duck flocks of the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways proliferated. Hundreds of bird species move along the Atlantic coast and from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota and Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico, migrating between breeding grounds and wintering grounds, and in the nineteenth century, hunters began using sound to draw down these passing birds.
Object, Instrument, Technology

The parabolic microphone uses a parabolic reflector to collect and focus sound waves onto a receiver, ensuring great directional sensitivity along the axis to which the reflector is directed. The microphone found initial application in sports and theater broadcasting, and later in eavesdropping and espionage during World War II. It also became a key instrument in the recording of animal vocalizations, and as such provided an important stimulus to the field of biological acoustics. 

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Sonde is a studio-oriented musical instrument designed by Canadian physicist Hugh Le Caine and built in the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) Electronic Music (ELMUS) Lab in Ottawa, Canada. It was created to facilitate experimentation in additive electronic sound synthesis. Unlike subtractive sound synthesis, in which a complex waveform is “shaped” by filtering or removing different frequencies, additive synthesis requires building up a complex waveform through the simultaneous introduction of multiple simple waveforms.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Polyphone is a performance-oriented musical instrument designed by Canadian physicist Hugh Le Caine and built in the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) Electronic Music (ELMUS) Lab in Ottawa, Canada. It is the world’s first known keyboard-based electronic synthesizer that allowed for multiple notes to be played at once. Its name, Polyphone, is derived from this polyphonic capacity. It permitted musicians, for the first time, to play a synthesizer as they would a piano or organ: with two-hand accompaniment and multi-note chords.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Serial Sound Structure Generator is a studio-oriented musical instrument designed by Canadian physicist Hugh Le Caine and built in the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) Electronic Music (ELMUS) Lab in Ottawa, Canada. It was created to expand upon the serial composition technique of using the repetition of a series of notes, typically a series of 12 tones, to create a musical composition.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Special Purpose Tape Recorder (or Multi-track) was the first studio-oriented instrument designed by Canadian physicist Hugh Le Caine and built in the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) Electronic Music (ELMUS) Lab in Ottawa, Canada. It was created to afford composers the opportunity to alter and recombine pre-recorded sounds into a single musical output. This prototype version of the instrument used a three-octave keyboard to control the speeds of six tapes simultaneously, and then mix them down into a single recording.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Electronic Sackbut, designed by Canadian physicist Hugh Le Caine, is the world’s first known voltage-controlled synthesizer. It employed various techniques in electronic signal processing – among them the generating, dividing, filtering, modulating, and blending of electronically-produced waveforms – to permit new ways of creating and controlling musical sound.