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music and sound

By a guest author

Patchwerk

A Guest blog post from Robert Sommerlad, a musician and volunteer Science Museum research assistant.

On Wednesday 30 May Sound Artist-in-residence, Aleks Kolkowski, began his series of live demonstrations of wax cylinder recording, using an original hand-cranked Edison phonograph c.1909.  Aleks was joined by the talented Jason Singh, a beatboxer and vocal sculptor, who is currently the Sound Artist-in-residence at the V&A museum. Both residencies are part of Supersonix, an Exhibition Road Cultural Group project. Aleks gave a fascinating introduction to the process and technology used to inscribe sound onto a wax cylinder; the pressure […]

This artice was written by Ellie West-Thomas, Research Assistant for Electronic Music Fourteen years ago the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who created innovative music and techniques that made it one of the most significant influences on electronic music today, closed its doors for the last time. Maida Vale Studios, the home to the workshop, was a place once filled by people brimming with ideas that changed the course of Electronic Music. The Workshop was set up to satisfy the growing demand in the late 1950s […]

Image of tuning forks

The Science Museum is very pleased to announce our first ever Sound Artist in Residence, Aleks Kolkowski. In recent years Aleks has explored the potential of historical sound recording and reproduction technology to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music. His works for singers, instrumentalists and even singing canaries often feature live-made sound inscriptions onto wax cylinders and lacquer discs using Edison phonographs and old disc recording lathes. Other activities include repurposing discarded digital CDs with 45rpm analog records and both sound installations […]

In the days before synthesisers, open source software and pirated soft-synths, electronic music pioneers had very few resources to create new and exciting sounds…

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 […]

Tape-players and tape-recorders were perhaps the most important instruments for many of electronic music’s pioneers, and for the staff of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in particular. With few electronic instruments existing, early sonic explorers were forced to adapt and abuse existing technologies, and practices such as tape-splicing soon became vital tools in the search for new sounds. Since then, the situation has changed dramatically for most musicians and electronic instruments and equipment have become ever more accessible and affordable. Or […]

This article was written by Rob Sommerlad, Volunteer Research Assistant for Electronic Music. Last week we looked at a curious fire-powered organ invented by Strasbourg’s Fréderic Kastner in 1873. For part one of The Amazing Adventures of Kastner’s Miraculous Pyrophone click here. The instrument wasn’t a great success, but Kastner’s family connections brought it a certain amount of acknowledgement.  While he “was not a distinguished physicist …he had a rich and influential mother who, it has been said, encouraged him […]

The 14 February 1876 is a very significant date in the history of the telephone. On that day both Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray filed papers with the US Patent Office for a working telephone. Following a dispute Bell’s patent was granted and published on the 7th of March 1876. Recently some historians have suggested that the dispute may have been resolved so quickly because Bell found a way to incorporate some of Gray’s ideas into his patent applications – but what could […]

This article was written by Rob Sommerlad, Volunteer Research Assistant for Electronic Music. There’s more to the relationship between fire and music than simply bad metaphors and innuendos, as I learnt this week at Blythe House. In a dark corner of the Science Museum’s storage facility sits a small, awkward-looking wooden box with intriguing glass pipes sprouting out of it. However, this unassuming little object just so happens to be one of the world’s last remaining pyrophones, an instrument which, as the name […]

Recently, one of my colleagues sent me this link to a small synthesizer hidden in a book. The synthesiser is a bought piece of equipment, but it’s designed to be hacked and modified by whoever uses it and this particular owner probably had a good reason to keep it hidden. Or he just thought it would be fun to stick a synth in an old book. Either way, this quirky instrument instantly reminded me of one of the objects in […]