Image
MPIWG,. n.d. “Metal Monochord From The Charité Collection”.
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

Koenig’s flame analyser was, next to the sound synthesizer, one of the clearest expressions of Hermann von Helmholtz’s theory that complex sounds were made up of a spectrum of elemental or pure tones. The adjustable resonators covering a range of 65 notes from sol1 to mi5 (96–1,280 Hz), could each be rendered visible with a connection to a manometric flame capsule. The resonators were connected to a gas-filled capsule with a rubber tube. If activated, the distinctive pattern would appear in the rotating mirror.

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]

Videos

Object, Instrument, Technology

This specific array of precision tuning forks are highly-specialized experimental forks that relate directly to Koenig’s long-standing disagreement with Helmholtz on the nature of combination tones. Some of them date back to Koenig's display at the 1876 Philadelphia exposition.

Videos:

The history of the tuning forks in the Koenig collection

Object, Instrument, Technology

The sound synthesiser was Helmholtz’s clearest instrumental expression of his theory of timbre, or sound quality. Whereas his spherical resonators dissected compound sounds (vowels or musical sounds) into elemental frequencies, the synthesiser did this by building up complex sounds from simple frequencies. In 1857 he went to the instrument maker Friedrich Fessel of Cologne to turn this idea into reality. The initial instruments used a combination of electrically driven tuning forks, resonators and piano keys to synthesise compound sounds.

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. 

Contributor essay
by
David Pantalony; Erich Weidenhammer; Victoria Fisher

The University of Toronto acoustics collection consists of a comprehensive series of instruments made in the Parisian workshop of Rudolph Koenig (1832