Elektrische Klangmaschinen. Die Pionierzeit in Deutschland und Österreich. (Electric Sound Machines: The pioneering epoch in Germany and Austria)

Wien: Böhlau

Language(s): German


Historical Electroacoustic Devices Historical Electroacoustic Instruments


This is a novel publication as far as the subject area of sound generation is concerned. It is solely based on original documents. Donhauser’s research lasting three years focused on developments up until the end of the second world war. He discusses at length the influence of the radical politics, social movements and cultural changes in the post-1933 period. The proximity of most of the people involved with new musical instruments to the Nazi-Socialist ideology, the decline of fugures including Paul Hindemith and the fact that most new music was seen to be ‘degenerate’, were of great influence to the history of the usage of these new instruments.

Donhauser was able to consult a substantial amount of audio material and images. For the first time several facts come to light, for example, the price of the Trautonium, how many neo-Bechsteins and Elecrochords, etc. were produced. The choice of the numerous photos indicates the diverse group of musical personalities interested in these new instruments, for example Erich Wolfgang Korngold who looked into Emerich Spielmann’s Superpiano or Arturo Toscanini who had a demonstration of the Sphärophon by Jörg Mager. The book’s intention is particularly to investigate the historical, cultural, economic, political, but also technical-functional aspects. The resulting publication thus finds itself at the intersection of technology history, instrument design, musicology and cultural history. The appendices include performance dates, audio documentation, technical documentation and over 600 patents.

Donhauser’s book forms an excellent basis for further scientific study. It contains a large collection of sources and where they can be found in libraries and archives, patent applications, journal articles, interviews at the time, etc.

Anyone interested in the pre-history of electroacoustic music, in particular with the period 1920-1945 should consult this volume.

Abstract translation(s):


DONHAUSER, Peter (2007). Elektrische Klangmaschinen. Die Pionierzeit in Deutschland und Österreich