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1916 __ « Band Concerts from an Electric Bulb »
Comment : « Music that range form the piercing wail of a taut violin string to the grumbling bass of a monster horn has been added to the remarakable achievements of an electrical instrument so small and so insignificant in appearance that it could be passed by scores of times without arousing so much as a lingering glance. Despite its innocent appearance, however, its technical name nis more than formidable. Scientists know it as the “oscillating vacuum tube”, although this name has been changed and shortened to a simple compound word, “audion”. “Audion” is derived from audio, to hear, and ion, the tinest division of electricity; in other words, is exactly what the oscillating vacuum tube accomplishes. [...] Amateurs and professional wireless operators know the audion well, although numbers of them are not aware that it has other uses than the reception of radio signals. Connected with the proper wireless instruments, the audion will receive and strengthen the weak signals of a distant radio station to a degree several times as loud as any other detector. But its ability in this direction does not stop there. If several of the tubes are connected in the correct way and adjusted with great care, the wireless signals will be increased in loudness several hundred times. This arrangement is known as the Audio amplifier. [...] Built on the bulb close to the filament are two metal electrodes. One is a tiny replica of the grids that are used in coal stoves ... and it is called a grid; while the other is a small plate. The grid and the plate are connected to the other apparatus in such a way that a perfect balance, electrically speaking, is maintained between them. When an outer influence, such as an incoming wireless wave, is brought into the bulb, this balance is disturbed, and in a strengthened form, the disturbance is heard in the telephone head receivers as the dots and dashes of the wireless code. Strange to say, this same balancing principle is made use of in another application directly opposite in nature to the foregoing, when the vacuum tube is employed as a wireless telephone. Hundreds of the bulbs are connected to a powerful battery or dynamo. The voice spoken into a telephone transmitter connected in the circuit so disturbs the lectrical balance of the bulbs that powerful waves are created. The most striking example of this application was the recent feat of telephoning wirelessly from Washington to Hawaii. Another use of the audion is in relaying the current that carries the voice over long distance telephone lines. The other applications of the audion are of a laboratory nature. One of these applications is transforming electricity. By throwing a small lever, the outgoing current can be varied from fifty to more than a million vibrations a second. By the combination of some of the foregoing properties of the vacuum bulb, the uncanny but delightful result, electrical music, is attained. The idea of converting the silently flowing electric current into strains of the most bewitching music is not entirely new. Many readers will recall the telharmonium, which was built at great cost several years ago and with which electrical concerts in the home were prophesied. But the telharmonium required dynamos of such variety and size that it was eventually given up because of the prohibitive cost. Music from electricity - or music from light, to be exact - goes back many years before the telharmonium. Legendary Egyptian history, three thousands years old, tells us that the rays of the descending sun, would strike weird music from the face of the statue of Memnon. Incredible as this tale may seem to us now, the present day accomplishment of electrical music is hardly less astonishing. To an ordinary audience, the fact of most striking importance would be the quality of the music. It is quite possible to imitate the mellowest tones of a Stradivarius violin, but more interesting still, it is possible to create music of a tone anfd timbre that no one in this world has ever heard before. No less strange than the quality of the music is the means by which it is obtained. [...] Dr. Lee de Forest, the discoverer of this type of electrical music, claims that with an arrangement of four or five bulbs and suitable adjusting apparatus and keys similar of a piano keyboard, he can easily obtain notes ranging in pitch through as many octaves as are desired and a tone quality identical with that of all musical instruments now in use as well as qualities never before produced. The volume of sound depends upon the adjustments, the number of batteries that are used and the size and number of electric horns which project the sound. The horns can be distributed in various parts of the room or grouped together. The basic principle involved in creating music by a vacuum bulb, Dr. De Forest does not attempt to explain. Nor does anyone else. Perhaps it is due to the unbalancing action caused by interference with the flow of the current. In this case, the tiny particles of electricity loosened, bombard the grid and the iron plate in musical rhythm. At all events, the action is probably highly complicated, and it may involve some new principle of electricity that we have not yet learned. ». (George F. Worts, “Band Concerts from an Electric Bulb”, Popular Science Monthly, Vol. 88, Jan/June 1916, New York, pp. 71-73)

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