Artist/Maker/Manufacturer/Founder: Hugh LeCaine
Material/Medium/Support: wood, synthetic, metal, glass, fibre, paper
Earliest Production Date and Latest Production Date: Between 1945 and 1948
Dimension (H x W x D in centimeters): Height: 82 cm, Width: 52 cm, Length: 95 cm
Accession #: 1975.0336.001
Institution Name: The Canadian Science and Technology Museum
Hugh LeCaine of Ottawa created the Electronic Sackbut Synthesizer in his home studio over a period of three years from 1945 to 1948. This synthesizer is the first voltage-controlled synthesizer ever built, preceding the manufacture of commercial synthesizers by twenty years. Le Caine, a nuclear physicist with the National Research Council, was passionate about music. He was concerned that the musical notes produced by electronic instruments in the 1930s, such as the Hammond Organ and the Morse Robb Wave Organs, lacked a certain ‘expressivity’. Determined to shape technology for the needs of the musician and expand the possibilities of musical sound he built a synthesizer that allows for complex variations in pitch and tone. This, LeCaine achieved, through the innovative use of voltage control. The technique provides an automatic background voltage that can remain stable or be altered through the manipulation of the knobs and keyboard. The keys are sensitive to a vertical pressure that controls the volume and a lateral pressure that changes the pitch. In this way the musician can simultaneously manipulate the volume, pitch, and timbre of each note and produce gradual transitions from one sound to the next. The rudimentary appearance of the synthesizer – its three legs made of crossed pieces of scrap wood and with instructions penciled onto its surface – camouflages the brilliant concept behind this invention. LeCaine’s Electronic Sackbut Synthesizer is the precursor of to-day’s electronic instruments.
THE BIRTH OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC
M.A., Art History, Concordia University.
In 1954 the National Research Council (NRC) opened an electronic music studio for Hugh LeCaine to continue his work …
This essay was written by an M.A. student in a Museum Practice seminar in the Department of Art History, Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University. The seminar was taught by Dr. Loren Lerner with the assistance of Dina Vescio, a M.A. graduate of the program.
The Sackbut Blues
2009. Photograph. 50.8 x 76.2 cm.
Born in Almonte, Ontario, Kevin Bertram is a graduate of the Ottawa School of Art where he acquired technical training…
This artwork, inspired by the national treasure, was created by a student artist in the Department of Studio Arts (Photography) under the supervision of Marisa Portolese, Assistant Professor in Studio Arts(Photography), Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University.