When you think of early sound synthesis, what technologies come to mind? The Hammond Organ? Or perhaps its predecessor, Thaddeus Cahill’s Telharmonium? In the early 1920s and 30s, many Bauhaus artists were using paper and film to synthesize musical instruments.
A few of them experimented with the optical film soundtrack itself, drawing waveforms directly upon it. [Evgeny Sholpo] created an optical synthesizer he called the Variophone. It used cardboard disks with intricate cutout patterns that resembled spinning, sonic snowflakes.
During the early 1930s, an artist named [Nikolai Voinov] created short animated films that incorporated the cut paper sound technique. [Voinov]’s soundtrack looked like combs of varying fineness. For his animated figures, [Voinov] cut and pieced together characters from paper and made them move in time to his handmade paper soundtrack.
In [Voinov]’s “Dance of the Crow”, an animated crow struts his stuff from right to left and back again while working his beak in sync with the music. The overall effect is like a chiptunes concertina issuing forth from a crow-shaped pair of bellows. It’s really not to be missed.
Thanks for the tip, [Leo]!
Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.