A short snippet of a recent rehearsal of 'le cygne' by C. Saint-Saëns. This piece is an extract from 'le carnaval des animaux', originally written for piano and cello, here it is for piano and ondes Martenot. Maurice Martenot, inventor of the ondes Martenot, played this piece in Abel Gance's 1931 film 'la fin du monde'.
Unlike our previous practice videos, the audio and video are synchronous! There was only one camera involved, so the audio and video may not line up 100% of the time.
Josh Semans - ondes Martenot
Joshua Gidney - piano
Video by Mark Lamin
Ondomo by ASADEN. Legacy of Love.
The ondes Martenot is an electronic musical instrument, invented around the time of the first world war by Maurice Martenot; a cellist and radio operator. He found himself captivated by the sound of the valve radios that he worked with in the war, and he set out to turn these electronic tones into musically manipulable sound.
It's a relatively popular misconception that the ondes Martenot was invented in 1928. It was, in fact, on May 8th 1928 that Maurice introduced his instrument to an audience at the Paris Opera, after more than 10 years of work. By this time it was in it's second iteration; a refinement of the first. Consisting solely of a volume control perched on a pedestal, and a cabinet that stood a short distance away from the performer; the instrument was played with both hands while standing up. There was no keyboard, only a wire that protruded from the cabinet, terminating in a ring that was worn on the right index finger. This wire, and the pulley system inside the cabinet, would dictate the pitch of the tone produced by the instrument. The first keyboard appeared on the Mk. 3 ondes Martenot, and was a non-functional 'dummy' keyboard, used only for visual reference of pitch.
It was the Mk. 5 ondes Martenot, built in 1937, that set the form that the instrument would continue to embody, more or less. The player now sat to play the instrument, with their left hand resting on a control drawer, or tiroir. The ring and string ran along a fingerboard underneath the keyboard, which was functional and suspended in such a way that allowed slight side-to-side movement, allowing the player to impart their own unique vibrato.
In 1974, the Mk. 7 ondes Martenot brought with it, among other improvements, the transistorisation of the instrument, doing away with the fragile vacuum tubes that previous models relied on for tone generation. This model of the ondes Martenot was the last built by Maurice before his death in 1980, and is commonly used by conservatoires and ondistes for teaching and performance.
One of the most notable composers of music for the ondes Martenot was Olivier Messiaen. He wrote several works, including the orchestral Turangalîla-Symphonie, and the Fête des Belles Eaux which was written for six ondes Martenot and performed at the 1937 International World's Fair in Paris. Messiaen's wife was Yvonne Loriod, whose sister Jeanne literally wrote the book on how to play the ondes Martenot. Her technique books are key texts in learning the traditional technique of the instrument.
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