|Organ pipes thrust toward the heavens creating a sound few can imitate – with
the exception of the Robb Wave Organ, just one of many Canadian inventions
that pursues the advancement of sound.
Canadian sound inventions
A timeline of Canuck contributions to the science of sound
Canada has a strong voice in contemporary music, producing singers such as Avril Lavigne,
Celine Dion, Nickleback and Sum 41. But our global contribution to sound isn’t a new phenomenon.
Sound inventions and innovations have been broadcasting out of Canada in waves over the last
century and have helped shape music, communications and movies.
Telephone – Alexander Graham Bell
His work with hearing and speech in Burlington, Ontario, leads to his invention of the telephone
Glass tube organ - James P. Clarke
Clarke constructs an organ using glass tubes. He claims the glass creates a wider range of
possibilities for tonal variations.
Morse code - Guglielmo Marconi
Signal Hill , Newfoundland goes down in radio history after an Italian inventor transmits
the letter "s" in Morse code from Cornwall, England to Signal Hill’s receiving
station on December 12, 1901.
Radio telephony - Reginald Fessenden
On December 24, 1906, Canadian Reginald Fessenden transmits human voices from Brant Rock,
near Boston, Massachusetts, to several ships at sea. After giving a resume of the radio program,
Fessenden plays a recording of Handel’s " Largo" on an Ediphone, thus establishing
a second record - the first recording of the first radio broadcast.
The Robb Wave Organ - Morse Robb
Robb attempts to reproduce the sound of a cathedral pipe organ by amplifying sounds generated
by a series of rotating metal cylinders in Belleville, Ontario.
Movie film sound system
The first in the British Empire is installed in Montréal’s Palace Theatre.
Sonobel - Oswald Michaud
A piano technician and acoustics specialist in Montréal, Michaud invents and patents
an electric piano, calling it the Sonobel.
Sackbut - Hugh Le Caine
Le Caine begins work on the Sackbut, the world’s first voltage-controlled synthesizer.
Animated sound film - Norman McLaren
Canadian filmmaker McLaren produces Now is the Time, the first animated sound film.
By drawing on the audio track of the optical film directly by hand, he is able to create
specific tones that play along with his drawings on the visual frame of the film.
Composertron - Osmond Kendall
It allows composers to draw images in grease pencil and hear their drawings.
Multi-Track Tape Recorder - Hugh Le Caine
It uses a keyboard interface to dynamically change the playback of sounds recorded onto several
magnetic recording tapes. Using the “Multi-Track”, Le Caine composes “Dripsody,” a
piece of music entirely based upon the sound of water dropping into a pail.
Polyphone - Hugh Le Caine
The Polyphone, a polyphonic synthesizer, is the most extensive synthesizer built to date,
and is probably the first analogue, voltage controlled, polyphonic synthesizer in the world,
preceding the Moog and Buchla synthesizers by nearly a decade.
Digital sequencer - Ralph Dyck
Canadian synthesizer player Dyck designs a digital sequencer that is developed into the Japanese-made
Roland MC-8 in 1977.
Additive synthesizer - Nil Parent
Called the ‘16’, Parent develops and refines the additive synthesizer to make, what he calls
‘...a perfect junction between synthesis and analysis.’.
Synchoros - Philippe Ménard
In 1986, Ménard develops an instrument that consists of eight lamps connected to a
microcomputer. Sound is produced by the movement of hands under the lamps.
Graphite violins - Leonard John
A Toronto aerospace engineer and an expert on lightweight composite materials, John builds
and patents three prototype graphite violins by 1988.
Touch controllers – TacTex
The company TacTex is established in Victoria, British Columbia to commercialize pressure-sensing
technologiesadapted for musical expression..
Montréal musicians Plogue invite the world to download Bidule, their modular music
creation software for free at www.plogue.com.