The Telharmonium (also known as the Dynamophone) was an early electrical organ, developed by Thaddeus Cahill c. 1896 and patented in 1897. The electrical signal from the Telharmonium was transmitted over wires; it was heard on the receiving end by means of “horn” speakers.
[The Keyboard of the Telharmonium]¶
Like the later Hammond organ, the Telharmonium used tonewheels to generate musical sounds as electrical signals by additive synthesis. It is considered to be the first electromechanical musical instrument.
In 1895 Thaddeus Cahill submitted his first patent for the Telharmonium “The Art of and Apparatus for Generating and Distributing Music Electrically”. The Telharmonium can be considered the first significant electronic musical instrument and was a method of electro-magnetically synthesising and distributing music over the new telephone networks of victorian America.
This first patent was initially rejected by the patent office because the “plan contained principles and practices found in other patented devices”. Cahill, a trained lawyer, eventually succeeded in having his patent accepted in 1897.
The first design of the instrument set out the principles of the ‘Telharmonium’ or ‘Dynamophone’ that would be developed by Cahill over the next twenty years. Cahill’s vision was to create a universal ’perfect instrument’; an instrument that could produce absolutely perfect tones, mechanically controlled with scientific certainty. The Telharmonium would allow the player to combine the sustain of a pipe organ with the expression of a piano, the musical intensity of a violin with polyphony of a string section and the timbre and power of wind instruments with the chord ability of an organ. Having corrected the ‘defects’ of these traditional instruments the superior Telharmonium would render them obsolete.
[Thaddeus Cahill’s patent documents for the first Telharmonium of 1897]¶
Telharmonium tones were described as “clear and pure” — referring to the electronic sine wave tones it was capable of producing. However, it was not restricted to such simple sounds. Each tonewheel of the instrument corresponded to a single note, and, to broaden its possibilities, Cahill added several extra tonewheels to add harmonics to each note. This, combined with organ-like stops and multiple keyboards (the Telharmonium was polyphonic), as well as a number of foot pedals, meant that every sound could be sculpted and reshaped — the instrument was noted for its ability to reproduce the sounds of common orchestral woodwind instruments such as the flute, bassoon, clarinet, and also the cello. The Telharmonium needed 671 kilowatts of power and had 153 keys that allowed it to work properly.
Wikipedia / 120years.net / Sweetwater.com