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1929 __ GrammophonMusik : Phonograph musical experiments
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), Ernst Toch (1884-1964)
Comment : During 1929-30, Paul Hindemith and Ernst Toch carried out rather more detailed operations [than Darius Milhaud in 1922] on phonograph recordings at the Rundfunk-Versuchsstelle Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. Hindemith was primarily interested in testing his theories of acoustics and the analysis of harmonic structures, later outlined in his teatrise "The Craft of Musical Composition" (1937). A by-product of this period of scientific investigation was a collaborative venture with the scientist Friedrich Trautwein, leading to the invention of the Trautonium, and the composition of his "Concerto for Solo Trautonium and Orchestra” (1931). Hindemith, however, did not choose to explore the creative possibilities of synthetic sound production for himself beyond the specific limits of instrumental imitation. The time was not still ripe for any general acceptance of processes of musical composition that extended beyond the traditional orchestra. (Peter Manning, "Electronic and computer music”)Paul Hindemith and Ernst Toch not only played a part in the further development of pitch and speed alteration of phonograph records, they changed the series of events of sounds, the order in which they occurred, and combined sounds from different recordings together by recycling records and creating sound montages. Their musical background was surprisingly conventional compared to the experimental music that they helped to mold through the use of phonograph records. Hindemith was a composer, conductor, and violinist from Germany who moved to the United States in 1940. He studied composition and later went on to teach at Yale University. With his expertise in music, Hindemith had a definite method to his craft concerning music theory and composition techniques. He wrote several works for chamber groups and for large orchestras. In the 1930's he wrote “The Craft of Musical Composition”, giving insight into his skills as a composer. Toch had many great accomplishments as well. A pianist and composer born in Vienna, Toch studied philosophy and medicine. Like Hindemith, Toch also wrote of his musical knowledge that eventually became accessible to the public. This book, called “The Shaping Forces of Music”, proves Toch to have a tremendous amount of knowledge in counterpoint and harmony. He went on to receive many awards for his work including the Pulitzer Prize for his Third Symphony, which was premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1955. With these remarkable musical accomplishments, it's no surprise that these musical masterminds were able to contribute to the creation of Turntablism. Sound montages are rather fascinating. By taking different recordings, whether music, speech, or sound effects and altering the order in which they appear, new recordings and new sounds are being created. This becomes a type of sound collage and can be quite musical depending on the artist performing it. The work of Hindemith and Toch was very abstract and used a variety of different sounds. One might say that their work was considered more experimental than musical, but disagreement arises over this statement. Hindemith and Toch were amazing in that they had enough knowledge to recycle records together, change the height and timbre, while furthering the manipulation of sound by pitch shifting the recording. The science behind their art is of very high stature, but I think the musicality is ever more apparent. To create a similar effect today, one might use multiple turntables and DJ mixers. Hindemith and Toch thus inspired the work that Turntablist bands are now performing. With a Turntablist band, each member of the group has a specific sound to work with. For example, one member would have a kick drum, another a snare, another a high-hat, another a bass tone, and another might have a vocal sample. They can manipulate the pitch, the rhythm, and the direction that their individual samples are playing. Combined together, an original composition is created. In this setting, the group would have much more control over the result of their sounds. Without Hindemith and Toch's work, this method may not exist. Although they couldn't play their manipulated samples back in such a controlled fashion, they still were the first to employ with method. Based on this information, Hindemith and Toch were the first Turntablists to create the philosophy that Turntable bands use today to perform music. Hindemith and Toch furthered the experiments and research of Darius Milhaud by using vocal pitch transformation in their Turntablism practices. They transposed the pitch of vocal sounds several octaves by changing the playback speed of the phonograph. Using the speed control Hindemith was able to transpose a vocal composition four octaves lower. He took another vocal composition and transposed it four octaves higher. Toch was able to manipulate voice samples as well, making them almost unrecognizable. He used the concept of sound-time expansion to take a choir of multiple voices and then increased the speed that the phonograph record was playing. These vocal transformation experiments created sounds that were never heard before by the human ear and proved Hindemith and Toch to be musical geniuses. (David James Cramer, “The Origins of Turntablism”)GrammophonMusik at Neue Musik Berlin 1930.In the mid-1980s, three seemingly unremarkable 78-rpm records arrived at Berlin's State Institute for Music Research. With their cryptic hand-written labels, the privately pressed discs gave little clue as to their contents and significance. It was soon discovered, however, that they contained works by German composer Paul Hindemith, music long believed to have been lost. Recorded in 1930 by the composer himself, these discs preserved works that existed in no other form. They were Hindemith's "grammophonplatten-eigene Stücke" -- pieces written specifically, and solely, for phonograph records. The institute, apparently, was not interested in the 78s. The discs were returned to the donor, who in turn sold them to a junk dealer. Their location, if they still exist, is now unknown. Fortunately, a musicologist at the institute, Martin Elste, recognized the importance of the records and taped them before they were returned (Martin Elste, “Hindemith Versuche ‘grammophonplatten-eigen Stücke’ im Kontext einer Ideengeschichte der Mechanische Musik im 20. Jaherhundert”, In Hindemith Jahrbuch 25, 1996, pp. 195-221; Martin Elste, “Hindemith’s Experiments with the gramophone : Long Lost Recordings Rediscovered”, paper presented at the conference of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, Syracuse, NY, May 1998). This tape became perhaps the only existing aural evidence of Grammophonmusik, the first musical genre to use recording technology as a compositional tool. Though lone forgotten, the brief life of Grammophonmusik deserves renewed attention, for it anticipated by decades now thriving musical practices, and marked a crucial transformation in a technology once thought capable only of reproducing sound. Neue Musik Berlin 1930 was the tenth in a series of annual modern music festivals in Germany known for adventurous programming; previous festival in Donaueschingen and Baden-Baden, for example, featured works written pour player piano, mechanical organ, even radio. The program for 18 June 1930, however, premiered a type of work new to the series and new, in fact, to most of the musical world. The final pieces that evening were several "Originalwerke für Schallplatten" (original works for disc), specifically two "Trickaufnahmen" (trick recordings) by Paul Hindemith and three works collectively titled "Gesprochene Musik" (spoken music) by his contemporary Ernst Toch. One of the Hindemith's "Trickaufnahmen" was labeled "Gesang über 4 Oktaven" (four-octave song) and contained two similar studies, each lasting a little over one minute. Both consist of a brief melody and its variations, almost certainly sung by Hindemith himself. The other 'trick recording" was an untitled instrumental work lasting just over two minutes. These short, simple pieces may be thought of as etudes, but not in the traditional sense, for they explore the technical abilities not of the performer but of the instrument. The vocal work clearly exploits a property of the technology that all phonograph owners at some point discover: when a record accelerates, the pitch rises; when slowed, it falls. In this work, phrases sung at normal speed with double- and half-speed versions, creating passages that leap or drop an octave from the original. The end of the piece briefly explores another technological possibility: the ability to record sounds produced at different times "on top" of each other to produce harmony and counterpoint. (Only later, in the era of magnetic tape, did the technique come to be called overdubbing). The studies end with a two- and three-voice chord, respectively, with Hindemith singing all the parts. The instrumental study explores the two techniques equally. The piece seems to be scored for three instruments, xylophone, violin, and cello. Most likely, however, Hindemith used only a xylophone and viola (his own instrument) and changed the speed of the recording to create higher and lower string sounds. The viola, sometimes, as violin and sometimes as cello, plays pizzicatto throughout, combining, with the xylophone (itself heard at different speeds) to create a lively study in timbre and polyphony. It must have been tremendously difficult for Hindemith to create these works. Had magnetic tape been available, the pieces could have been easily created through simple splicing and overdubbing, but these techniques became faisible only after World War II. Although he had access to the latest equipment at the Hochschule für Musik, the conservatory that employed him at the time, Hindemith likely had nothing more than disc-cutting phonographs and microphones at his disposal. For the instrumental work, he probably recorded the viola part on one phonograph and the xylophone part on another and then used a third to combine the different parts onto a single record. We can imagine the complex choreography of the process, with Hindemith moving from viola to xylophone to play each part, and then from phonograph to phonograph to start, stop, and change speeds. Poor timing or clumsy movements would have ruined the work. When Hindemith presented these works (incidentally, only eight days after he created them), what exactly did the public hear ? Perhaps the composer simply set the records going and sat down, but the evidence suggests that the performance were more involved. Hindemith actually made two discs of the xylophone-viola piece, raising the possibility that he had two phonographs on stage. He thus could have performed a phonograph duet, starting the records at different times to create a canon. It is also likely that there was more to the performance of the vocal piece than mere playback. One critic noted that Hindemith had written an "aria with piano accompaniment, in which the human voice extends to a range approximately 3 1/2 octaves" (“Arie mit Klavierbegleitung schreibt, in der sich die menschliche Stimme in einem Umfang von ungefähr 3 1/2 Oktaven ergeht”; Willi Schuh, “Neue Musik Berlin 1930”, In Schweizerische Musikzeitung 70, 1 August 1930, p. 550). This could only describe the "Gesang über 4 Oktaven", but since there is no accompaniement on the disc, Hindemith must have played the piano alongside the phonograph. Unfortunately, we will never know what he played, for the piano part was not preserved. On the same night, Ernst Toch presented his "Gesprochene Musik". In an article published at the time of the festival, the composer explained his interest in Grammophonmusik : "Concerning my contribution to original gramophone music I would say this : the concept arose from the attempt to extend the function of the machine -- which up to now has been intented for the most faithful possible reproduction of live music -- by exploiting the peculiarities of its function and by analyzing its formerly unrealized possibilities (which are worthless for the machine's real purpose of faithful reproduction), thereby changing the machine's function and creating music of its own" (note6) (“Über meinen Beitrag zur Original-Grammophon-Musik möchte ich sagen : dem Versuch liegt der Gedanke zugrunde, die Maschine, die bisher der möglichst getreuen Reproduktion von original ausgeführter Musik galt, erweiternd dahin auszunützen, dass sie durch die Besonderheit ihrer Funktion und durch die Ausxertung jener Abfall-Zone ihrer Möglichkeiten, welche für ihren eigentlichen Zweck (eben die getreue Reproduktion) wertlos, weil verändernd ist, eine ihr typische, arteigene Musik hervorbringe.”; Toch, “Über meine Kantate ‘Das Wasser’ und meine Grammophonmusik”, In Melos 9, May-june 1930, pp. 221-222) . "Gesprochene Musik" consisted of three movements : two unnamed, the third called "Fuge aus der Geographie". The "Geographical Fugue" has since become Toch's most popular piece, and is now performed without phonographic manipulation. A charming work for spoken chorus, the performers declaim tongue-twisting place names in complex polyphony (e.g., in the English version, "The Popocatepetl is not in Canada rather in Mexico Mexico Mexico"). Few people know, however, that the piece began life as an experiment in "Grammophonmusik". Although the disc version of "Gesprochene Musik" has not survived, Toch himself offered some insights into its creation and sound : "I chose for this the spoke word and had a four-voice mixed chamber choir speak exactly indicated rhythms, vowels, consonants, syllables, and words, so that in exploiting the mechanical possibilities of recording (such as increasing tempo and therefore pitch), a kind of instrumental music came about, so that it may perhaps nearly be forgotten that its creation is based solely upon speech. (Only on one point did the machine unfortunately deceive me: it changed the vowels in a way I did not intend). I attempted to tackle the problem from several perspectives in two little movements and a ‘Geographical Fugue’" (‘Fuge aus der Geography’; Toch, pp. 221-222). Like Hindemith, Toch created his works in the Hochschule für Musik. However, where Hindemith explored the contrapuntal possibilities of the phonograph, Toch's interest lay in timbre. As he discovered, it is not simply pitch that changes with the speed of a recording, but the quality of the sound as well. Anyone who has heard the Munchkins sing in "The Wizard of Oz" or a Chipmunks record knows the jittery effect of speeding up the voice. Before the advent of recording, however, such timbral effects simply were not possible, and in 1930 this was relatively unexplored territory. Toch's transformation of the human voice must have stunned the Berlin audience. One listener, Georg Schünemann, then the director of the Hochschule für Musik, was impressed and mystified : "If vowels are sung and are raised in pitch, curiously strange sounds ring out; and if they are combined with consonants in the manner of solfège syllables, a nearly instrumental sound arises. How they amazing pieces worked hardly a musician could say, and how these unusual sounds came into being no one knew, whether through combining instrumental instruments, voices, or even noises. And yet every compositional, logical, and tonal aspect was precisely planned" (Georg Schünemann, “Produktive Kräfte der mecanischen Musik”, In Die Musik 24, January 1932, pp. 246-247). [...] Hindemith and Toch clearly saw great musical potential in sound recording, and in their phonograph etudes took a creative leap that led to a reconceptualization of the technology. But what compositional problems could be solved, what needs met, by exploiting what Toch called "the peculiarities of [the phonograph's] function" ? Unfortunately, the 1930 concert in Berlin marked the end of their engagement with "Grammophonmusik". Neither composer seems to have conducted further experiments, and they did not raise the topic in later writings. Yet "Grammophonmusik" did not die with them; nor, in fact, was the idea born with them. A number of composers, critics, and scholars in Europe and the United States had been theorizing and, to a lesser extent, experimenting with this new type of mechanical music. In surveying "Grammophonmusik", in the period leading up to Neue Musik Berlin 1930, we will see two interconnected currents that can help explain what might otherwise seem to be a sudden and unexpected innovation. These were, first, a drive to radically expand the sonic palette available to composers and, second, a desire on the part of composers to become less dependent on performers for the presentation and dissemination of their work. [...] While various aspects of recording were discussed in the German music journal after 1933, "Grammophonmusik" was never mentioned. The change in Germany's political climate, however, cannot be solely responsible for the demise of "Grammophonmusik". After all, composers and writers outside Germany had taken a great interest in the topic; surley no sinister force silenced them. The available technology was simply incapable of realizing the theoretical possibilities of "Grammophonmusik", from disc-inscription to the phonograph concerto. And when experiments were conducted, the results may have been deemed unworthy. From today's perspective, Hindemith's "grammophonplatten-eigene Stücke" may sound crude, one-dimensional. That Hindemith had complete control over the creative and re-creative process may not have compensated for the limited interest of the final product. Toch apparently did not take his own "Grammophonmusik" too seriously, calling it "an interesting acoustical experiment ... perhaps a musical joke" (“Ein interessanter akustischer Versuch... ein musikalischer Scherz wohl auf”; Toch, “Über meine Kantate ‘Das Wasser’”, p. 222). Some critics agreed: One spoke on the "burlesque records by Hindemith and Toch" that "bordered closely on practical joking"; another called the performances "a poor joke" (Alfred Einstein, “Berlin’s New Music Festival - Review of Works for Masses, Children and Youth Continued -- Electrical Instruments -- The Trautonium School Opera, Creative Participation, Electrical Music.”, In New York Times, 17 August 1930, sec.8, p. 5, and also: Section Arts & Leisure, p. 99; Hans Gutman, “The Festivals as Music Barometers”, In Modern Music 8, November-December 1930, p. 30). [...] Moreover, it was widely believed that the phonograph as a fad soon to be replaced by the radio, and few put much stock in the older technology as the depression settled in. Whether because of the changing political climate, the practical difficulties of "Grammophonmusik", or the lure of newer technologies, the prospect o creating a vital new repertoire with the phonograph came to seen increasingly unlikely. "Grammophonmusik", however, was neither historical anomaly nor dead end. It was an expression of the musical zeitgeist and reflected the priorities and values of the avant-garde. The beginnings of "Grammophonmusik" coincided with a growing interest in what was called "mechanical music". In the 1920s, the player piano became a popular instrument with composers, notably Stravinsky (Rex Lawson, “Stravinsky and the Pianola”, In “Confronting Stravinsky”, ed. Jann Pasler, Berkeley and Los Angeles : University of California, 1986, pp. 284-301). Toch and Hindemith also wrote for playerless keyboard instruments, and both presented "Originalkompositionene für mechanische Instrumente" at the 1926 Donaueschingen festival (note 36). Electronic instruments, such as the Sphaerophon (1921), Theremin (1924), Ondes Martenot (1928), and Trautonium (1930), were coming into vogue as well. Hindemith wrote for the Trautonium at about the same time he was working with "Grammophonmusik", while Arthur Honegger, Edgard Varèse, and Darius Milhaud composed for the Ondes Martenot. [...] Although Hindemith and Toch said a little about their "Grammophonmusik", each explained his general interest in "mecanische Musik". In 1926 Toch praised its precision and objectivity : "Nothing occurs that is not fixed in the notes in terms of pitch, meter, rhythm, tempo, dynamics; every trace of spontaneity, f sentiment, of impulse is expelled (Ernst Toch, “Musik für mechanische Instrumente”, In Neue Muzikzeitung 47, July 1926, p. 433). (It may be hard to believe that Toch saw this as a good thing -- we must remember, however, that many composers felt that performers inevitably distorted their music with this uncalled-for spontaneity and impulse). A year later, Hindemith wrote that the advantages of mechanical music included 'the possibility to define absolutely the will of the composer" and "the expression of technical and timbral possibilities" (Paul Hindemith, “Zur mecanischen Musik”, In Musikanten Gilde 5, 15 November 1927, p. 156). For these composers the phonograph had the same appeal as electronic and automatic musical instruments. Like the electronic instruments, the phonograph could be used to create unusual and unfamiliar timbres, and like the automatic players, it gave the composers direct control over the sound and execution of their works. [...] The idea behind electronic synthesis -- the creation of music independent of traditional instruments and performance -- was prefigured by disc inscription. Hansjörg Dammert's proposed "Grammophonkonzert" and Hindemith's "Gesang über 4 Oktaven", both of which combined live and recorded music, anticipated what came to be known in the 1960s as live electronics, in which performers interacted with taped or computer-generated sound (as well as a variety of electronic equipment). Magnetic tape also made commonplace the alteration of pitch and tempo and the layering of recorded melodies that Hindemith and Toch explored in their "Originalwerke für Schallplatten". Raymond Lyon, in his 1930 proposal for a work using recorded human and environmental sounds, preceded "musique concrète" by nearly twenty years. His hypothetical "Paysage" might well have sounded like the early landmark of the genre, "Symphonie pour un homme seul" (1950) by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, which coincidentally incorporates recordings of slamming doors and whistling, two of Lyon's suggested motifs. Even hip-hop turntablism can trace its roots to "Grammophonmusik". Nearly sisty years before the first DJs were manipulating records in live performance, like-minded experimentalists were doing the same in the musical capitals in Europe. As the story of "Grammophonmusik" makes clear, the ambitions a technology inspires in its users can far surpass the capabilities of the technology itself, ambitions that may only be fulfilled long after their originators are gone. Despite the gap between "Grammophonmusik" and the postwar developments that realized its goals, one person may be linked to both. Attending the concert of new music that night of 18 June 1930 was a teenaged art student from the United States who, while spending the summer in Paris, decided to visit Berlin. Several years later the young man created a phonographic composition of his own, the first of several that, in fact, have influenced modern composition more than the "Grammophonmusik" that inspired them. The teenager was John Cage. The work was "Imaginary Landscape N° 1” (1939), for muted piano, large Chinese cymbal, and two variable-speed turntables. Although Cage said little about the impact of Hindemith's and Toch's "Originalwerke für Schallplatten", he did acknowledge his interest in their experiments. As he told the grandson of one of those two pioneering composers, "Toch -- boy was he onto some good stuff back there in Berlin. And then he went and squandered it all on more string quartets !" (Lawrence Weschler, “My Grandfather”s Last Tale”, Atlantic 278, December 1996, p. 95). (Mark Katz)
French comment : Il y a [...] la question du radiophonisme, du génie radiophonique. Mais cette question est aussi contemporaine de celle d'un gramophonisme, d'un idiome musical proprement gramophonique. C'est ce problème que vise le terme allemand de “Schallplattenmusik” (littéralement: "musique discographique"). Le rapport annuel de la Musikhochschule de Berlin pour l'année académique 1929-1930 mentionne que, dans le cadre du festival Neue Musik Berlin 1930, Paul Hindemith et Ernst Toch ont présenté des œuvres originales pour disques (“Originalschallplattenmusik”). Selon le compte-rendu qu'en donne Heinrich Burkhard dans la revue Melos, celles-ci ont été réalisées: 1) par la fusion, le fondu enchaîné (berblenden) entre une musique "réellement jouée" (“real gespielter Musik”) et des enregistrements discographiques; 2) par l'utilisation de degrés de vitesse, de hauteurs et de timbres (“Schnelligkeitsgraden, Tonhhen und Klangfarben”) qui sont impossibles pour "le jeu réel" (“dem realen Spiel”). Ainsi est née, conclut Burkhard, "une musique originale qui ne peut être redonnée (“wiedergegeben”) que par le gramophone". Mager parle (c'est le titre de son ouvrage) d'une “Nouvelle époque de la musique par la radio”. Il parle aussi de "l'explosion du système des demi-tons", et il écrit une “Prophétie” radiophonique. La musique de l'avenir, dit-il, sera exécutée "en grande partie par des instruments radiophoniques": non seulement au sens où ceux-ci la transmettront mais surtout par "la production des sons musicaux directement au moyen d'instruments cathodiques". (Peter Szendy)
Source : Katz, Mark (2004), "Capturing sound: how technology has changed music", Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 99-113.
Source : Manning, Peter (1985), "Electronic and computer music", Third edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 11.
Source : Hindemith, Paul (1937), "Unterweisung im Tonsatz", Mainz, AMP, 1937.
Source : Hindemith, Paul (1937), "The Craft of Musical Composition", Translated by Arthur Mendel and Otto Ortmann, London : Schott, 1945.
Source : Cœuroy, A. & Clarence, G., “LE PHONOGRAPHE”, Troisième édition, « LES DOCUMENTAIRES », Paris : ÉDITIONS KRA, 1929.
Source : Szendy, Peter (1996), "De la Harpe Éolienne à la "toile" : fragments d'une généalogie portative", in Lire l'Ircam (n° spécial des Cahiers de l'Ircam),1996, pp. 40-72; also In Tr@verses n° 1, juillet 1996.
Source : Elste, Martin (1996), “Hindemith Versuche ‘grammophonplatten-eigen Stücke’ im Kontext einer Ideengeschichte der Mechanische Musik im 20. Jaherhundert”, In Hindemith Jahrbuch 25, 1996, pp. 195-221.
Source : Elste, Martin (1998), “Hindemith’s Experiments with the gramophone : Long Lost Recordings Rediscovered”, paper presented at the conference of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, Syracuse, NY, May 1998.
Urls : http://cec.concordia.ca/education/archive/elearning/module1/index_3_1_fr.html (last visited ) http://www.hervedavid.fr/francais/phono/Coeuroy%20-%20le%20Phonographe.htm (last visited )

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