The Background to 1945
Advances in the newly established field of electronics were preparing the way for less costly and more compact approaches to the generation of synthetic sound. The direct current arc oscillator appeared in 1900, and by 1906, Lee De Forest had patented the vacuum-tube triode amplifier valve. Progress was slow but steady, and by the end of the war, with the industry well established, several engineers were able to investigate the possibility of using the new technology for the construction of electronic musical instruments. The primary motivation behind most of these designs was a desire to create additions to the conventional orchestral range, with an underlying hope that composers could be persuaded to provide a suitable repertoire. The devices that emerged were thus intended primarily to satisfy traditional ideas of musical writing. Some indeed, such as the Neo-Bechstein Piano (1931), were little more than modified acoustical instruments, using special pick-ups to capture naturally produced vibratory characteristics for the processes of electronic amplification and modification. The best-known modern example of this class of instrument is the electric guitar.
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