World’s first electronic synthesizer is being auctioned off

Actual photo of the synthesizer provided by Bonhams // via

Actual photo of the synthesizer provided by Bonhams // via

Built by a scientific instruments maker named Max Kohl in 1905, this wood and brass contraption will hit the action block October 22nd in New York City. The fine art auctioneers at Bonhams will be hosting the event with expectations to fetch a $20,000 to $30,000 guide price from the history-making accoutrement.

According to Bonhams, an instrument of this sort is “extremely rare, with only one similar but smaller apparatus located in a US institution.” With its physical fruition being over a century old, the idea for it came even earlier by a fellow German doctor and physicist by the name of Hermann Von Helmholtz.

As FACT reports, “his Helmholtz Sound Synthesizer, considered to be the first electronic synthesizer, uses tuning forks controlled by electromagnets to generate tones.”

Back in 1880, Helmholtz fascinatingly wrote about his experiment (which was quoted in the book Synthesizer Basics):

“Music was forced to shape for itself the material on which it works. Painting and sculpture find the fundamental character of their materials, form and color, in nature itself, which they strive to imitate. Poetry finds its material ready formed in the words of language. Music alone finds an infinitely rich but totally shapeless plastic material in the tones of musical instruments. There is a greater and more absolute freedom in the use of material for music than for any other use of the arts; certainly it is more difficult to make a proper use of absolute freedom.”

Makes one wonder how Helmholtz – or even Kohl – might react upon hearing even a blip of Aphex Twin’s discography.



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