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Hugh Le Caine


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Hugh Le Caine, a composer who studied music, particularly piano, and dreamed of applying scientific techniques to the invention of musical instruments.
As early as 1937 Le Caine had designed an electronic free reed organ, and in 1945 he began to develop electronic instruments at his home studio in his spare time. His Electronic Sackbut, built at this time, is now recognized to have been the first synthesizer. It featured continuous controls for timbre and a keyboard that was sensitive to both vertical and horizontal pressure, affecting volume and pitch respectively. At least 20 years passed before similar instruments were available commercially. Le Caine was also developing a polyphonic touch sensitive organ and a device to play several tape recordings simultaneously. In 1954 he was permitted to develop these instruments through facilities at NRC. One of his first projects there was the development of the Multi-track (Special Purpose) Tape Recorder, capable of altering the playback speed of several recordings simultaneously, through a keyboard. In 1955 he composed his landmark piece Dripsody for this instrument, using only the sound of the fall of a single drop of water. Several different instruments followed, using varying techniques for generating and controlling sound.


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