Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“Cindy Electronium”: Shockingly Futuristic

Hard to believe this piece of music was made in 1959 – sounds quite contemporary to me:

Cindy Electronium

Raymond Scott (1959)

YouTube comments are almost universal in declaring Raymond Scott to be ahead of his time, with many remarking upon this recording’s resemblance to “chiptune” or “8 bit” (i.e., video game) music of the 1970s and 80s.  Thanks to MSN Entertainment for the back story:

Of all of Scott’s accomplishments of 1949, however, none was more important than the Electronium, one of the first synthesizers ever created.  An “instantaneous composing machine,” the Electronium generated original music via random sequences of tones, rhythms, and timbres.  Scott himself denied it was a prototype synthesizer – it had no keyboard – but as one of the first machines to create music by means of artificial intelligence, its importance in pointing the way toward the electronic compositions of the future is undeniable.  His other inventions included the “Karloff,” an early sampler capable of re-creating sounds ranging from sizzling steaks to jungle drums; the Clavivox, a keyboard Theremin complete with an electronic sub-assembly designed by a then 23-year-old Robert Moog; and the Videola, which fused together a keyboard and a TV screen to aid in composing music for films and other moving images.

(image courtesy of Google Arts & Culture)

What’s interesting is that if you pull up Raymond Scott’s works from Discogs’ database, you will see very few commercial recordings released in his lifetime – “Cindy Electronium” not being one of them.

Those interested in Raymond Scott’s work might well want to seek out 2-CD compilation, Manhattan Research (named for Scott’s own audio laboratory) — a brief description:

The material, while never intended for commercial release, provides insight into Scott’s work.  Included among the tracks on the album are commercials for companies such as Ford Motor and IBM, a humorous “Audio Logo” collage entitled, “Don’t Beat Your Wife Every Night!,” and various collaborations with Jim Henson.  The album features a number of Scott’s inventions including the Clavivox keyboard, Circle Machine, Bass Line Generator, Rhythm Modulator, Karloff, Bandito the Bongo Artist, and the auto-composing Electronium.


LINK to Electronic Musical Instruments on Zero to 180

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2 Responses

  1. Nope – the Electronium was designed and built around 1968 and 1969. Most of the extant pieces for it are from 1970-71. Still, ahead of the game, but not ten years early!

    1. He developed his first sequencer in 1953 using relays and thyratrons. He had the Clavivox keyboard/sequencer patented in 1956, US Patent #2871745. The first version of the Electronium was then developed in 1959. The “Soothing Sounds For Baby” electronic LPs were released in 1963. This is all according to official sources.

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