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The Trautonium: Oskar Sala and the development of electronic music in Germany

Brilmayer, Benedikt (2016) The Trautonium: Oskar Sala and the development of electronic music in Germany. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

The history of electronic music in Germany seems to have started with the establishment of the NWDR’s studio in Cologne. But this institution wouldn’t have been able to exist without antecedent experimentation with electronics and music. In this lecture, I would like to show, how focusing on the biography of one person and his work with one instrument offers an alternative perspective for Germany’s history of electronic music. In 1988 a person reentered the concert-stage, opening awareness for his former activities parallel to and earlier of those of the Cologne studio. Oskar Sala, born in Thuringia in 1910 and had his career as soloist on the Trautonium relaunched after working in his private studio for about 30 years, virtually unknown to the public. His instrument, the Mixtur-Trautonium, was constructed in the 1940s and 1950s. But even in the late 80s it still provided a solid potential for producing electronic music on stage. In his studio Sala predominantly composed for television, radio and movie productions, the most famous example being his work for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1962). Why do this man and his instrument offer an alternative view on electronic music? First of all, he gave concerts and produced music on the Trautonium in the 1930s, thus starting to create music with electronic means two decades before Herbert Eimert and the Cologne studio did. Secondly, Sala together with his colleague Friedrich Trautwein, inventor of the Trautonium, was involved in the design of the Cologne Studio, both even were lecturers at the International Summer Course for New Music (Darmstadt). Sala also was a consultant for designing the Siemens Studio in Munich and even was visited by Ussachevsky. His correspondence, which for the first time ever I evaluated for my dissertation, offers an insight in his view on electronic music, which is pointing to his former mentor and teacher, the composer Paul Hindemith. Sala and Trautwein worked from 1929 on in one of the first research laboratory in electronic music technology, the “Rundfunkversuchsstelle” (Radio-Research-Institute) in Berlin. This institution marks the beginning of systematic research and experiments in electronic music. Paul Hindemith himself was very interested in the development of electronic musical instruments, as well as electronic music. His aesthetic position of course completely differed from that of Arnold Schoenberg and Anton von Webern, who had been the authorities, Herbert Eimert and Karlheinz Stockhausen referred to in their music and writings. Oskar Sala and the Trautonium are two keystones in an alternative view on electronic music. Salas education both as a composer and as an electro-engineer enabled him to develop his own musical style and the Mixtur-Trautonium. His efforts in electronic music after the war soon were overshadowed by the Cologne studio, but his work enables us now to gain new perspectives on the genesis of German electronic music. His connections reached out to a wide field of people, all reestablishing cultural work in post war Germany.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:20



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