NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1837 __ Galvanic Music
Charles Grafton Page (1812-1868)
Comment : The first electromagnetic device which converted electrical waves into sound is credited to a Dr C.G. Page of Massachusetts in 1837. He achieved this effect, which he called “Galvanic Music” (but which the rest of the world named for him “the Page Effect”, by revolving the armature of an electromagnet in front of a negative and positive electrical pole. Loud sounds were emitted which could be varied by altering the strength of the current in the poles. In 1846, M Froment of Paris showed a device which was designed not to create sounds but to analyse those made by Page’s effect. His vibrating bar arrangement was a direct percursor of the great physicist Helmholtz’s experiment the following decade to show that electrical impulse could be sent sounw a line and cause a tuning fork to resonate on the principle of sympathetic vibration. A similar acoustic phenomenon using capacitors where different notes were produced as the charge was varied was demonstrated in 1870. These investigations were seen as having important economic consequences for telegraphy. If a number of Morse senders and receivers could be variously tuned, it was theorically possible that all these signals, sounding different notes, could be sent down the same wire without physically stringing more of them was obviously economically desirable. Since, although the message was still encoded in dots and dashes, an acoustic element was involved, all the devices for the improvement of telegraphy along these lines were referred to as “telephones”.harmonic and musical telephones. (Brian Winston)
French comment : Dès 1837, Charles Grafton Page décrit les bruits émis lors de l'allumage ou de l'extinction d'une pile comme une musique galvanique. (Peter Szendy)Charles Grafton Page, de Salem, avait décrit un phénomène qu'il qualifiait de musique galvanisée – le son produit par la rupture d'un circuit électrique relié à un aimant. (In "Dictionnaire biographique du Canada en ligne", University of Toronto/Université Laval)Si les courants qui traversent un électro-aimant sont émis et interrompus plus de seize fois par seconde, on obtient la « musique galvanique » par les vibrations que le barreau de fer communique à l'air. Les notes musicales dépendent du nombre des vibrations communiquées à l'air par seconde. Si ce nombre dépasse seize, on obtient des notes distinctes. (In "Annales télégraphiques", Tome III, Année 1877, Paris : Dunod Éditions, p. 554)Téléphones du son, employés pour la transmission des sons mélodiques et Téléphones d'articulation, employés pour la transmission de la voix humaine. Dès l'année 1937, Page, physicien américain, découvrit que la rapide aimantation et désaimantation des barres de fer produisait ce qu'il appelait la "musique galvanique" transmissible a distance. De la Rive, de Genève, en 1843, augmenta ces effets harmoniques en opérant sur des fils de longue extension qui passaient par des bobines ouvertes de fil isolé. [Il restait à découvrir la transmission de la parole, c'est-à-dire le "téléphone"]. (In "Bulletin", Volumes 45-48, 1874, p. 51)
Original excerpt : « The Production of Galvanic Music.The following experience was communicated by Dr. C.G. Page of Salem, Mass., in a recent letter to the editor. From the well known action upon masses of matter, when one of those masses is a magnet, and the other some conducting substance, transmitting a galvanic current, it might have been safely inferred (a priori,) that if this action were prevented by having both bodies permanently fixed, a molecular derengement would occur, whenever such a reciprocal action should be established or destroyed. This condition is fully proved by the following singular experiment. A long copper wire covered with cotton was wound tightly into a flat spiral. After making forty turns, the whole was firmly fixed by a smearing of common cement, and mounted vertically between two upright supports. The ends of the wire were then brought down into mercury cups, which were connected by copper wires with the cups on the battery, which was a single pair of zinc and lead plates, excited by sulphate of copper. When one of the connecting wires was lifted from its cup a bright spark and loud snap were produced. When one or both poles of a large horse shoe magnet, are brought by the side or put astride the spiral, but not touching it, a distinct ringing is heard in the magnet, as often as the battery connexion with the spiral is made or broken by one of the wires. Thinking that the ringing sound might be produced by agitation or reverberation from the snap, I had the battery contact broken in a cup, at considerable distance from the field of experiment ; the effect was the same as before. The ringing is heard both when the contact is made and broken ; when the contact is made, the sound emitted is very feeble ; when broken it may be heard at two or three feet distance. The experiment will hardly succeed with small magnets. The first used in the experiment, consisted of three horse shoes, supporting ten pounds. The next one tried was composed of six magnets, supporting fifteen pounds by the armature. The third supporrted two pounds. In each of these trials the sounds produced differed from each other ; and were the notes or pitches peculiar to the several magnets. If a large magnet supported by the bend be struck with the knuckle, it gives a musical note ; if it be slightly tapped with the finger nail, it returns two sounds, one, its proper musical pitch, and another an octave above this, which last is the note given in the experiment. » (C.G. Page, In "The American journal of science and arts", conducted by Benjamin Silliman, Volume 32, July 1837, New Haven : Hamlen, pp. 306-307)
Source : Page, C.G. (1837). “The Production of Galvanic Music”, In "The American journal of science and arts", conducted by Benjamin Silliman, Volume 32, July 1837, New Haven : Hamlen, pp. 306-307.
Source : Winston, Brian (1998), "Media Technology and Society: A History From the Telegraph to the Internet", Part I — “Before the speaking telephone — Propagating sound at considerable distance”, Routledge, pp. 33-34.
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.
Urls : http://articles.ircam.fr/textes/Szendy96d/ (last visited )

No comment for this page

Leave a comment