The Trautonium, named after its inventor, the Berlin engineer Friedrich Trautwein (1888-1956), is a precursor to today's synthesizers as an electronic musical instrument. In 1927, the Rundfunkversuchsstelle (RVS) was founded at the University of Music in Berlin with the aim of investigating the relationship between music and technology in broadcasting. There Friedrich Trautwein got a lectureship for musical acoustics in 1929. Together with the composer and music professor Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), Trautwein developed a first Trautonium, which was first publicly performed with Hindemith's compositions at the Berlin festival "Neue Musik" in 1930. Oskar Sala (1910-2002), Paul Hindemith and the pianist Rudolph Schmidt played.
Motivated by the outstanding criticism of the first concert, Hindemith's "Concert Piece for a Trautonium with Accompaniment of the String Orchestra" (1931) was created immediately afterwards.
Here in a performance by Peter Pichler with the Ensemble New Babylon in Munich.
The Trautonium was originally a monophonic instrument.
The development of the device is then inextricably linked to Oskar Sala, a student of Hindemith, who developed the "Volkstrautonium", the Radio Trautonium and the Concert Trautonium from it in the 1930s, and ultimately the Mixturtrautonium at the end of the 1940s.
Special features of the Mixturtrautonium are the frequency dividers, which make it possible to create chords from a fundamental tone using the subharmonic frequency series. Sala set the Trautonium to over 300 films, including award-winning documentaries and Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds”.
The Radio Trautonium was lost in the turmoil surrounding the division of Berlin (supposedly it was scrapped in the east) and is now considered lost.
Particular attention was paid to the Concert Trautonium which was portable. The big public appearance for the Concert Trautonium followed in 1940 when Oskar Sala gave a special concert in the Berlin Philharmonie together with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Mixttrautonium was developed after the war between 1948 and 1952. Here Oskar Sala implemented all the ideas that he had carried around for years. The device was expanded with an electric hammer mechanism, a noise generator and circuits for generating percussive effects.
Further information on Oskar Sala can be found at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, which manages the complete estate of Oskar Sala .