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trautonium

electronic musical instrument whose tone is generated by oscillating radio tubes that produce an electronic pulse that is converted into sound by a loudspeaker. A neon light generates weaker frequencies that, controlled by a set of push buttons, affect the upper harmonics (component tones of the sound), making available many timbres, or tone colours. Pitch was originally controlled by moving the hand away from and toward an antenna, altering the frequency produced. Later, a steel wire was strung over a steel bar that indicated tempered scale intervals (i.e., those of the piano). Touching the wire varied the frequency. The instrument was invented by Friedrich Trautwein in Germany in 1930. The German composer Paul Hindemith, who played the trautonium, wrote a Concertino for Trautonium and Strings (1931).

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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