MPIWG,. n.d. “Metal Monochord From The Charité Collection”.
Object, Instrument, Technology

Invented by John Shore in 1711, the tuning fork was initially used by musicians. After Chladni’s studies of its vibrations, however, it was also extensively employed by acousticians, who praised the purity of its sound. Hermann von Helmholtz, especially, based his experiments with beats, combination tones, and simple tones on tuning forks attached to resonators that enhanced their suitability for experimentation.


After coming to Paris in 1851, Rudolph Koenig trained with the violin maker Vuillaume until 1858, when he launched his own instrument-making business at Place Lycée Louis-le-Grand. Koenig’s workshop participated in Paris’s flourishing activities in scientific research and instrument-making from the 1830s to the 1880s. More specifically, it contributed to the development of acoustics as an independent field of research.


The silk manufacturer Johann Heinrich Scheibler invented a method to tune keyboards with unprecedented accuracy, applying principles that he had developed in his textile factory. His technique involved a set of tuning forks called a tonometer, a chronometer, and the counting of beats. It aimed to deskill tuning so that anyone could achieve precise tuning regardless of their musical ear. He explained his invention in Der physikalische und musikalische Tonmesser of 1834.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The double siren was one of Koenig’s more popular instruments. It consisted of two “polyphonic” or “multivoiced” sirens with more than one series of holes, and was an invention of the German physicist and former teacher of Hermann von Helmholtz, Heinrich Wilhelm Dove (1803–1879). It produced several pure tones simultaneously, in musical chords, and under greater pressure. It was ideal for demonstrating interference effects (when sound waves combined to amplify or diminish each other) and combination tones. [Pantalony 2009, 184-185]


“Index: Tone-Limit Apparatus”. 2013.
Springer, Anton. 1961. “Zeitlupe Für Sprache Und Musik”.
Contributor essay
Paolo Brenni

The scientific instruments used for research and teaching in the nineteenth and early twentieth century are beautiful and fascinating artifacts.

University of Michigan,. (25 July 2014AD) 2014. “Siren Disk Demo – The Musical Scale”. Houghton, Michigan: Michigan Technological University.
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.