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"Cosmic" piano by Maurice Marteno

personalities : "Cosmic" piano by Maurice Marteno
French radio operator, inventor of “Marten Waves” Maurice Marteno

During the First World War, when for a long time the rumble of exploding shells, the whistle of bullets, the grinding of tank tracks, etc. filled the world, the French radio operator Maurice Martenot, sitting in the trenches, dreamed of finding a new sound that would drown out the notes of war. Experimenting with a military radio station, he became interested in the unusual “singing” sound emitted by the equipment lamps. Being a musician by vocation (he perfectly played the violin), it was not difficult for him to turn the random electric sounds of the radio station into unpretentious melodies.

After the war, carried away by electric sound, Maurice Marteno continued his experiments. For almost ten years he worked on his project and only in 1928 did he achieve the desired result. In the same year, at the Paris exhibition, he presented his invention to the world community, calling it “Ondes Martenot”. Since this was one of the first such tools, Marteno's invention aroused lively interest.

Here you can listen to how this unique instrument sounds:

Marteno really managed to find a new sound. People who first heard his instrument in 1928 dubbed it the “cosmic piano”, because it emitted unearthly sounds unusual for that time, which at the same time seemed joyful, mysterious, and magnificent! M. Ravel, when he heard the sound of the Marteno Waves, said: “What an amazing sound! This is just fantastic. But he lacks the ability to hesitate. " After a while, Marteno will improve it in accordance with Ravel's wishes.

In the thirties, composers looking for a new sound wrote music for Marteno Waves. Among them were such famous composers as Olivier Messian, Boguslav Martinou, Darius Millau, Arthur Honegger, Charles Köklen and others. This tool is widely used in the film industry when creating music for science fiction films.

Maurice Marteno and his waves

In the Marteno Waves, as well as in the invention of Leo Theremin, which was already written about on our website, a vacuum tube oscillator was used. The difference between the tool invented by M. Marteno lies in the fact that it has a seven-octave keyboard and a ring with a thread, which is worn on the index finger of the right hand when playing.

In addition, on the left side of the tool is a special panel that acts as a “bow”. The sound from the Marteno Waves is extracted in two ways: either by pressing the keys on the keyboard, or by pulling the thread (the stronger the force pressing it, the louder the sound). It also has a special toggle switch for switching the tone and control mode.

The instrument of Maurice Marteno has one feature: it can only make one sound at a time. But, as musicians who had the opportunity to play it, “this quality is more than compensated by its rich and rich timbre - from soft bass to paroxysm of super-high fortissimo, from playful whistling to heartbreaking howling and sounds of“ flying saucer ”, as well as various methods of sound production - from glissando to vibrato, etc. "

Currently, when modern synthesizers are capable of reproducing many complex sounds, the instrument of Maurice Marteno has lost its relevance, but some musicians, while paying tribute to history, still continue to use it in their work. So, finally, I propose to listen to the song of the famous British band Radiohead, in which this "space piano" sounds:

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