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Visuals to sounds: the Oramics Machine

Posted on: June 13, 2016

Nowadays lots of media artists, musicians and music software and hardware products are dedicated to translating visuals into sounds and vice versa. One of the pioneers in this area of “visual sound” was a British electronic composer called Daphne Oram. She was one of the founders of the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. But after hearing Poème électronique of Edgar Varese at the Brussels World’s Fair, she decided to leave the BBC and start her own electronic music studio a year later, the Oramics Studios for Electronic Composition. In this studio, she made one of the first synthesizers and quite likely the first audiovisual synthesizer in the beginning of the 1960s: the Oramics Machine.

With this (of course) analogue and largely mechanical machine, she drew shapes and waveforms onto a synchronised set of ten 35mm film strips which overlayed a series of photo-electric cells. These cells in turn generated electrical charges to control amplitude, timbre, frequency and duration of sounds generated by oscillators. This audiovisual way of music composition was called “Oramics” by Daphne Oram:

Daphne Oram died in 2003 at the age of 77 and oramics and the Oramic Machine were forgotten. But in 2011 the Oramics Machine has been salvaged and now is part of the collection of the Science Museum in London. The videos below document the rescue of this pioneering synthesizer by the Science Museum and explain some of the groundbreaking audiovisual concepts behind it:

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1 Response to "Visuals to sounds: the Oramics Machine"

Reblogged this on Feminatronic and commented:
Here is another in the series Visuals to Sound from nnnoises.com

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