Music from paper and cardboard: a brief history of the variofon and the "drawn sound"

The development of industry and technology in the USSR in the 20s and 30s of the last century influenced many areas of society, including the art of creating music. For example, in this area, experiments were conducted with “drawn sound”, which led to the emergence of technologies that reproduce sounds that are inaccessible to traditional musical instruments.

    Today we will talk about experiments with artificially synthesized music and instruments created by Soviet composers and engineers.

    Pxhere PD Photos

    The birth of the concept of "drawn sound"

    The main ideologue of creating a new "automatic" music was the composer Arseny Avrahamov . He became known for his unusual ideas, which he promoted in the early 20s of the last century. One of them is “ Beeps Symphony ”, works that were performed using the system of steam beeps. According to the composer, the Symphonies were to become a symbol of the revolutionary power of the workers.

    In 1929, Abraham became part of a team that worked on the creation of the first Soviet sound film, Plan of Great Works, or Five-Year Plan. Together with Avraamov, inventor Evgeny Sholpo and animator Mikhail Tsekhanovsky worked on the sound for the film . When the sound track was created and displayedon the film, Tsekhanovsky admired the formed “acoustic patterns”. And the thought came to him - what will happen if you tape an ancient ornament? What music unknown to humanity can be heard when it is played?

    So the idea of ​​“drawn sound” appeared. And Abraham and Sholpo undertook to make it come to life. For their first experiments, they used the laboratory of the inventor Alexander Shorin .

    Arseny Avraamov presented the first achievements already in 1930, when he attended the first conference of sound films. He cut out figures and ornaments from paper and imprinted them on film. As Arseny himself wrote, he managed to imitate the sound of a barrel organ and reproduce the famous song “Marusya Poisoned”.

    In the fall of 1930, Arseny Avraamov founded the Multzvuk laboratory, in which he continued to work on recording sound from paper tapes. Sholpo decided to mechanize the whole process, so he began working on a tool that would simplify the process of creating synthetic sound tracks. And the ways of research of Abraham and Sholpo diverged.

    What scientists have created from the laboratory "Multzvuk"

    The structure of "Multzvuk" includes animator Nikolai Voinov, acoustics Boris Yankovsky and cameraman Nikolai Zhelinsky. They continued to work on the creation of artificial sound. In total, "Multzvuk" filmed almost 2 kilometers of film. It captured excerpts of such works as “Chinese Melody”, “Staccato Etude”, “Organ Triad”, etc.

    However, soon Yankovsky and Voinov left the laboratory to continue research in this area on their own.

    In 1931, Nikolai Voinov invented his own method of optical sound synthesis. Instead of drawing sound waves or imprinting them on film, Voinov cut them out of strips of paper.which were then read by the machine he invented under the name Nivoton. Voinov applied his invention in animated films, and with the help of Nivoton in 1931–1934 several cartoons were voiced .

    As for Boris Yankovsky, the theme of his work was the sounds of synthetic instruments . He wanted to create a universal collection of sounds, a kind of periodic periodic table, and lay a new area of ​​knowledge - synthetic acoustics. To demonstrate his ideas, Yankovsky created the “ Vibroexponentier ”, a device that generated images on a 35-mm film and played back with an arbitrary timbre.

    "Variofon" Sholpo

    Together with the composer Georgy Rimsky-Korsakov in 1932, Yevgeny Sholpo created the “Variophon”. The tool for work used rotating cardboard discs , on which the contours of the reproduced sound wave were cut. They periodically interrupted a beam of light, “writing” the outlines of the sound track to a 35-mm film. This process can be repeated several times to create a polyphonic sound. How does variofon you can see in the remaining film in 1934. And you can find the scheme of the variofon on the digitalmusicacademy website .

    With the help of a variofon up to 12 parallel audio tracks could be recorded on the tape. At the same time, the device made it possible to transmit intonations characteristic of "live sound". Thanks to the use of discs, long pieces could be recorded on the Varyophone, although this required constant manual adjustment of the instrument. Another limitation associated with the discs was the impossibility of synthesizing complex timbres that were impossible to cut out of cardboard by hand.

    From 1931 to 1951, Sholpo was the head of the “Graphic Sound” laboratory, where he worked on research in the field of “drawn sound” together with Jankowski. With the help of a variophon in the 30s and 40s, Sholpo and Rimsky-Korsakov sounded a number of films and cartoons, for example, “1905 in bourgeois satire” and “Symphony of the world”. Also during these years, several original pieces of music were created, as well as transcriptions of classical compositions for the variophon: Suite of Carburation by Rimsky-Korsakov (1932), versions of Wagner 's Flight of the Valkyries and Liszt's 6th rhapsody, and others.

    The original "Varyophon" was destroyed in 41 during a rocket attack on Leningrad. At the end of the war, Sholpo continued to work on a new version of the variofon, but the project remained unfinished. Yevgeny Sholpo died in 1951, and the laboratory, of which he was the director, was closed.

    What did the technology of "drawn sound"

    The pioneers of "drawn sound" have not managed to realize their ideas to the full. "Multzvuk" closed in 1934, and the archives were destroyed. All the works were recorded on nitrofilm, which was kept in the apartment of Arseny Avraamov. Somewhere in the period from 1936 to 1938 her sons of the composer, who used the film as a fuel , accidentally destroyed it . Boris Yankovsky stopped working on the issues of graphic sound due to the war that had burst out, and Sholpo did not have time to finish work on the new variofon.

    Nevertheless, these ideas survived and later took shape in the world's first multi-vocal synthesizer.ANS, which was named in honor of Alexander Nikolaevich Scriabin, one of the first ideologists of the synthesis of light and sound in works of art. ANS was created in 1958 by engineer Yevgeny Murzin. In the instrument, the sound track was recorded by means of a beam of light passing through five discs with a printed pattern. The ANS device made it possible to create 720 unique sound waves. Later, avant-garde composers recorded their first electronic works on ANS .

    Photo linearclassifier SS / instrument Oramics

    "Painted Sound" in its work also exploredcomposer and sound engineer Daphne Oram, one of the founders of the BBC studio Radiophonic Workshop. One of her inventions is the Oramics instrument, which reproduced soundtracks drawn by hand on a 35 mm film. With the help of Oramics, Daphne Oram created music for films, performances, television and radio programs.

    In the 1950s, Norman McLaren, an innovator in the field of animation, also worked with optical sound reproduction. In his works he used the sound created by the methods of Nikolai Voinov. An example would be his movie Synchromy .

    Nowadays sound artistscontinue to comprehend and recycle the legacy of Soviet sound innovators. And if the ideas of Eugene Sholpo were implemented in the synthesizer ANS in the 1950s, the vision of Boris Yankovsky was embodied with the advent of computer music.

    What else to read on:

    By the way, if you like the microformat more, we have our own Telegram channel .

    Also popular now: