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]

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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 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.

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n.d. “Das Teilspektrum Der Glocke - Side A”.