Tag Archives: num:ScienceMuseum=1964-63

Lily Pavey’s Musikriter

This article was written by Ellie West-Thomas, Research Assistant for Electronic Music.

Whilst exploring the Science Museum’s Stores at Blythe House, I came across something rather unusual. Being classically trained in music and music theory I have had to write a score and use musical notations on many occasions, but I never knew that a typewriter could be used to write sheet music.

The Musicgraph or Musikriter, was invented by Lily Pavey, patented in 1961 and completed in 1963. Pavey was the first inventor to receive National Assistance to enable her to continue working on this project.

It is a typewriter that when you strike the key, as on any normal typewriter, it sounds a note of music and prints the note in the proper place on music paper. The machine could write vertically as well as horizontally, meaning that anyone could fundamentally teach themselves the basics of music theory.           

Lily Pavey knew that other people had tried to perfect a musical typewriter but failed, however she was not a trained engineer. She studied music and mathematics and the mechanisms of the typewriter and electronics. She figured out how to give vertical elevation with moving the paper and how to create 8000 combinations with 46 keys.

The typewriter Lily Pavey tinkered with to make her prototype (Science Museum, Credit: Charlotte Connelly)

She hoped that more and more composers would be more encouraged to set down their new inspirations and ideas instead of following what had already been written.

It then was put in to production and called the Imperial Pavey Musigraph.

She developed the Musicgraph in to a device called the Spherigraph. Not only was it able to add words to music but it could be used for complicated maths, chemistry symbols and even ballet choreography notation.

The production model Pavey Musigraph (Science Museum, Credit: Charlotte Connelly)