7 Dec 2008
JOSEPH Schillinger the Rhythmicon!
Early drum machines were often referred to as "rhythm machines." In 1930–32, the spectacularly innovative and complex Rhythmicon was realized by Léon Theremin on the commission of composer-theorist Henry Cowell, who wanted an instrument with which to play compositions whose multiple rhythmic patterns, based on the overtone series, were far too difficult to perform on existing keyboard instruments. The invention could produce sixteen different rhythms, each associated with a particular pitch, either individually or in any combination, including in mass, if desired. Received with considerable interest when it was publicly introduced in 1932, the Rhythmicon was soon set aside by Cowell and was virtually forgotten for decades. The next generation of rhythm machines played only preprogrammed rhythms such as mambo, tango, or the like.