It’s safe to say that nearly anyone cognizant of the existence of the Trautonium can easily fit under the umbrella category of “eccentric.” Yet, this electronic instrument, invented in 1929 Berlin, is a medium for sublime human expression. Before synthesizers and computers usurped what can more aptly be called today’s “music assembling,” musical instruments that used electricity but still required dynamic human input and live performance had a brief but profound era in the 20th century.
Formal compositions and even orchestral concertos have been written for this instrument, among which is Paul Hindemith‘s “Langsames Stück und Rondo für Trautonium.” Youtube user Ghost Money also has several interesting improvisations using the organic but other-worldly sounds of the Trautonium.
Perhaps the only person that can be said to have mastered the Trautonium was Oskar Sala (1910-2002) who pioneered the instrument’s capabilities and applications. Among Sala’s credits are Hitchcock’s The Birds, where he created the sounds of the birds among a variety of other short films. In 1997 he released a full-length album, Subharmonic Mixtures which unfortunately is so rare that it cannot be economically purchased. However, one can find several tracks from it on teh interwebs, among which is the delightfully weird Caprice Rubato.