09. The Hunters of New Sounds: Early Electronic Music Instruments and the Dawn of DIY Culture


These videos illustrate some of the electric instruments I wrote about in my article. Many other instruments I found while doing the research have disappeared or are still undocumented.


1. Dallapé with Kaarlo Kytö, “Keijujen tanssi” (Fairy Dance)



Vibraphonist Eino Katajavuori played a sellofoni (cellophone) in Dallapé concerts and records. The sellofoni was developed in the late 1920s and Katajavuori electrified it. The sound of a one-string instrument with a gramophone horn resembles the sound of a slide guitar. This recording is from 1931.


2. Rytmi Swing Ensemble, “My Serenade”



It is not known exactly who built Finland’s first electric guitar and when the electric guitar was first played on a record. While playing in Erkki Aho’s orchestra from the summer of 1941 to January 1943, guitarist Viljo Immonen switched to electric guitar. Immonen plays an electric guitar solo with this jazz piece “My Serenade” (and on the flip side ‘Carry me back to old Virginny’) released in 1946. On this track, recorded in May 1946, Immonen plays a guitar on which Gunnar “Goony” Strömmer installed a “stick microphone” and built an amplifier.


3. Mr. Wiik, Portable electric organ



This recording is from 1961. In this example, we hear a self-made transistor organ built at the turn of the 1960s. The electric organ has three octaves and is a small-sized portable model. The instrument is polyphonic. For every two tones, there is a transistor-operated oscillator that makes a certain sound. At the time of recording, the instrument is not ready yet. It does not sound in tune and you cannot play chords with semitone intervals on the organ. The instrument was built by the sergeant major Wiik from Tampere, Finland. Prior to this three-octave organ, he has also built a large two-manual electric organ.


4. Sähkökvartetti, “Kaukana väijyy ystäviä” (Friends lurking far away)



Sähkökvartetti’s TV performance is from September 2, 1969. Sähkökvartetti (Electric Quartet) is an electronic instrument designed by Finnish pianist Kullervo Aura and built by Aura and underground singer M.A. Numminen with the help of Erkki Kurenniemi who finished the instrument in 1968. The instrument is designed for collective live playing. Sähkökvartetti was also the name of the quartet who played the instrument. Sähkökvartetti always performed the same piece, ‘Kaukana väijyy ystäviä’ (Friends lurking far away). The length of this improvisation varied from a few minutes to several hours. The musicians are Tommi Parko, Peter Widén, Arto Koskinen and M.A. Numminen (not shown in this clip) who was the vocalist of the group.


5. Erkki Kurenniemi & Riitta Vainio: Interactive dance performance with DIMI-O synthesizer



The video starts with Erkki Kurenniemi’s demonstration of the DIMI-O (optical) synthesizer he had constructed. After the talk follows ‘DIMI Ballet’ with dancer Riitta Vainio. With her movements in front of the video camera the dancer controls the sounds of DIMI-O synthesizer. As an additional element the performance video contains video graphics. The performance was arranged in 1971 in Yleisradio, Helsinki Finland.