Built in the late 1950s, the Electronium was quite possibly the greatest of Raymond Scott's electronic music inventions. It was an automated device capable of composing and performing music. The Electronium was not programmed via a keyboard, but through a wide array of buttons and switches which are best described in Raymond Scott's own words, "A composer `asks` the Electronium to `suggest` an idea, theme, or motive. To repeat it, but in a higher key, he pushes the appropriate button. Whatever the composer needs: faster, slower, a new rhythm design, a hold, a pause, a second theme, variation, an extension, elongation, diminution, counterpoint, a change of phrasing, an ornament, ad infinitum. It is capable of a seemingly inexhaustible palette of musical sounds and colors, rhythms, and harmonies. Whatever the composer requests, the Electronium accepts and acts out his directions. The Electronium adds to the composer's thoughts, and a duet relationship is set up."

The first Electronium was built from parts cannibalized from Raymond Scott's other projects, such as his Karloff sound effects generator, and the massive Wall of Sound sequencer. All of these were purely analog components. The Electronium used an artificial intelligence to create its music, and it could literally create any sort of music imaginable. It composed, recorded, and performed all at the same time, as long as Scott manned the controls. The device proved rather complex for ordinary people to use.

Raymond Scott worked on the Electronium throughout the 1960s, eventually asking Robert Moog to help digitize the machine. Scott had spent more than a million dollars to bring his device to life, but his own health was deteriorating. However, in 1970, Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records read of Raymond Scott's work. He came to New York for a demonstration and ended up buying an Electronium with a $10,000 down payment. Scott came to California to teach Gordy how to use the Electronium and ended up staying there for years refining the device even more. Motown spent millions of dollars on the Electronium and other music creating technology. However in 1977, Raymond Scott retired after a heart attack, and the Motown Electronium fell into disrepair.

Following Raymond Scott's death, Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh purchased the Motown Electronium from Scott's widow. Since 1996, the Electronium, or rather, most of the Electronium as it had razed for spare parts, has sat in a room at Mark Mothersbaugh's Mutato Muzika studio. It no longer functions, but Mothersbaugh eventually plans to restore it to working condition.


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.