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1922 __ Musical experimentations with variable speed phonograph
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
Comment : In the mid-1920s Darius Milhaud experimented with a variable speed phonograph, as did Paul Hindemith and Ernst Toch in the later 1920s. (Douglas Kahn)The 1900s had seen the birth of the commercial 78 rpm gramophone record and the 1920s the development of electrical recording systems as a sequel to broadcasting, making generally available a technique not only for storing sound information, but also for effecting certain alterations ot its reproduction. Darius Milhaud realized that changing the speed of recording varies not only the pitch but also intrinsic acoustical characteristics of the material, and during the period 1922 to 1927 carried out several experiments investigating vocal transformations. Percy Grainger performed similar experiments dureng the 1930s, paying particular attention to the use of piano sounds as source material. (Peter Manning, "Electronic and computer music”)The 1920s have been called the apex of the Mechanical Age and the dawning of the Electrical Age. In 1922, in Paris, Darius Milhaud (b. 1892) began experiments with "vocal transformation by phonograph speed change." (Herbert Russcol, “The Liberation of Sound”, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1972, p. 68). These continued over the next 5 years (to 1927). This decade brought a wealth of early electronic instruments.along with the Theremin, there is the presentation of the Ondes Martenot, which was designed to reproduce the microtonal sounds found in Hindu music, and the Trautonium. Maurice Martenot invented the Ondes Martenot in 1928, and soon demonstrated it in Paris. Composers using the instrument ultimately include Messiaen, Jolivet, Honegger, Milhaud, Varese, and Koechlin. (Sarah Louise Bassingthwaighte, “ELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC FOR THE FLUTE”, Chapter 2 “A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC”, 2002)The first man to discover Turntablism was Darius Milhaud and he did so through manipulation of the speed control on the phonograph. Phonographs with variable speed control were used in the '20s to play 78 rpm records because the speed at which they were actually recorded varied between 70 to 85 rpm. Milhaud, a French composer who studied in Paris, was the first to use this method for sound design and many influences led him to this discovery. Visiting New York influenced Milhaud in jazz and had a great impact on his music. He tells us of the phonograph records he purchased while in America. "When I went back to France, I never wearied of playing over and over, on a little portable phonograph shaped like a camera, Black Swan records I had purchased in a little shop in Harlem. More than ever I was resolved to use jazz for a chamber work." We learn of Milhaud's appreciation of jazz as well as his frequent use of the turntable. Perhaps this frequent use of the phonograph opened up the doors to his speed control experiments with vocal samples. The pitch control is one of many characteristics of a phonograph that allow its use as a musical instrument. One may wonder if adjusting the speed of a record can justify Turntablism. Just as a vocalist sings different notes in a musical scale, a Turntablist adjusts the speed of the phonograph to alter the pitch. In addition, this control also alters the BPM of the record. The first to use this technique was Darius Milhaud in 1922 with his experiments in vocal transformation on the turntable. Due to the limitations in phonograph technology during 1922, it is surprising that this discovery was made at such an early point in time. (David James Cramer, “The Origins of Turntablism”.)
Source : Kahn, Douglas (1990), “Audio Art in the Deaf Century”, In “Sound by Artists”, edited by Dan Lander and Micah Lexier, Toronto : Art Metropole : Banff : Walter Phillips Gallery, 1990, pp. 301-309.
Source : Manning, Peter (1985), “Electronic and computer music”, third edition, Oxford University Press US, 2004, p. 11.
Urls : http://www.subliminal.org/flute/dissertation/ch02.html (last visited ) http://digitalmusics.dartmouth.edu/~wowem/electronmedia/music/eamhistory.html (last visited ) http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=103982613&blogId=437068887 (last visited ) http://www.soundtoys.net/journals/audio-art-in-the (last visited ) http://mediatheque.ircam.fr/HOTES/SNM/ITPR04MILH.html (last visited ) http://www.hervedavid.fr/francais/phono/Coeuroy%20-%20le%20Phonographe.htm (last visited )

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