The World’s First Drum Machine-The Rhythmicon 1931

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From Wiki:In 1930, the avant-garde American composer and musical theorist Henry Cowell commissioned Russian inventor Léon Theremin to create the remarkably innovative Rhythmicon. Cowell wanted an instrument with which to play compositions involving multiple rhythmic patterns impossible for one person to perform simultaneously on acoustic keyboard or percussion instruments. The invention, completed by Theremin in 1931, can produce up to sixteen different rhythms—a periodic base rhythm on a selected fundamental pitch and fifteen progressively more rapid rhythms, each associated with one of the ascending notes of the fundamental pitch’s overtone series. Like the overtone series itself, the rhythms follow an arithmetic progression, so that for every single beat of the fundamental, the first overtone (if played) beats twice, the second overtone beats three times, and so forth. Using the device’s keyboard, each of the sixteen rhythms can be produced individually or in any combination. A seventeenth key permits optional syncopation. The instrument produces its percussion-like sound using a system, proposed by Cowell, that involves light being passed through radially indexed holes in a series of spinning ‘cogwheel’ discs before arriving at electric photoreceptors.

Press Here To Play The OnLine Rhythmicom

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RhythmiconMoscow

Press Here:  To Listen To The Actual Sounds Of The Rhythmicon As Mentioned Below

In the course of research for an article published in Organized Sound, Margaret Schedel recorded the rhythmicon housed in the Smithsonian. The sound is surprisingly percussive, almost drum-like. The pitch is unclear in the recording she sent me and she, too, remarked on this fact. The samples have been used in John P. Young’s work, “Ars Algorhythmica,” a piece for didgeridoo and electronics performed at the SEAMUS 2005 conference in Muncie, Indiana.