MATRIXSYNTH: The Harmonic Tone Generator from 1964

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Harmonic Tone Generator from 1964


You might remember James Beuchamp's Harmonic Tone Generator posted back in December (be sure to see that post for other bits of synth history). Skot Wiedmann, the man behind Motus Mavis and the Hyve touch synthesizer, wrote in to let us know a new article on the story behind the Harmonic Tone Generator, including an NPR piece, just went up today on the University of Illinois' Public Media website here. Be sure to click through for the audio and the full post. Below is just an excerpt for the archives.

"One of the earliest synthesizer structures was invented in the University of Illinois’ Experimental Music Studio in the early 1960s as part of one of the first computer instruments – The Harmonic Tone Generator.

From Left to Right: The Original Harmonic Tone Generator, James Beauchamp constructing the Harmonic Tone Generator, a close up of one of the original instrument's panels
James Beauchamp sits at a workbench tuning three circuit boards before installing them in the Harmonic Tone Generator. This picture was taken in 1964.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of James Beauchamp
“A lightbulb went off and I decided: we build electronics for audio, we record using electronics in playback, but what about making music or sounds from electronics to begin with?” said James Beauchamp, a research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois.

He completed the Harmonic Tone Generator in 1964 as part of his PhD project in electrical engineering."


Pictured: "James Beauchamp sits at a workbench tuning three circuit boards before installing them in the Harmonic Tone Generator. This picture was taken in 1964.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of James Beauchamp"


Pictured: "The original Harmonic Tone Generator and its next generation counterpart side by side in the Sousa Archive

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mark Smart"

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