Proto-Synth

The composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett died this past Christmas Eve, and tonight WQXR played a selection of his works.

One of them was from his score for the 1967 film Billion Dollar Brain, and it featured an eerie, flute-like instrument. At first I thought it was a Theremin, but then I realized it must be an ondes Martenot.

If you haven’t heard of this gizmo — one of the earliest electronic instruments, among whose charming idiosyncracies is a troika of loudspeakers including one made of metal and another strung like a lyre — you should go and have a look at Wikipedia’s excellent article.

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