Uncertainty Theory #32

About the Variophone

01. Soundtrack The Thief (1934) - Nikolai Voinov (using "paper sound" technique)
02. Sacrament - Oleg Buloshkin - (track 1 from Ans Electroshock presents Electroacustic music vol. IV - Archive Tapes Synthesiser 1964 -1971)
03. Symphony of Sirens - Arseny Avraamov - (track 1 of the album Works 1922-1923)
04. In The Cave Of The Dead - Sergei Djokanov - (track 2 from the album The Green Desert (1985))
05. Music from Cosmos - Artemiev & Kreitchi - (track 11 from Ans Electroshock presents Electroacustic music vol. IV - Archive Tapes Synthesiser 1964 -1971)

The variophone was developed by Evgeny Sholpo in 1930 at Lenfilm Studio Productions, in Leningrad, Soviet Union, during his experiments with graphic sound techniques, also known as ornamental, drawn, paper, artificial or synthetic sound. In his research, Sholpo told
with the assistance of the composer Georgy Rimsky-Korsakov. The variophone was an optical synthesizer that used sound waves cut on cardboard discs.
that rotated synchronously with a moving 35 mm film while being photographed on it to produce a continuous soundtrack.
Subsequently, this film strip is reproduced as a normal film by means of a film projector. When read by a photocell, amplified by the
and monitored by a loudspeaker, it functions as a musical recording process.

Although with the first version of the variophone, polyphonic soundtracks of up to 6 voices could be produced by recording several monophonic parts and combining them later, by the late 1930s and 1940s, some soundtracks contained up to twelve voices, recorded as tiny parallel tracks. within the normal soundtrack area.

At the same time, in the Soviet Union, several other artists were experimenting with similar ideas. The first artificial soundtrack ever created was drawn in 1930 by the composer and music theorist Arseny Avraamovwho was working with a hand-drawn technique to produce sound effects. Nikolai Voinov, Ter Gevondian and Konstantinov were developing sound-on-paper techniques. Boris Yankovsky was developing his technique of spectral analysis, decomposition and resynthesis, resembling recent computer music techniques of cross-synthesis and the phase voice encoder.

Many sound films and artificial soundtracks for movies and cartoons were produced using the variophone, including the popular sound films, which were often broadcast on the Symphony of the piece from 1930-1940 and Torreodor . At the end of the 1941 siege of Leningrad , the variophone was destroyed when the last missile exploded. After World War II, Evgeny Sholpo became the director of the new Scientific Research Laboratory for Graphic Sound at the State Research Institute for Sound Recording in Leningrad.

The fourth and final version of variophone was not finished, despite promising experiments in musical intonation and temporal characteristics of live musical performance. The laboratory was moved to Moscow and Sholpo was dismissed from his position as director. In 1951, after a long illness, Evgeny Sholpo died and his laboratory was closed.

The variphone documentation was transferred to the Acoustics Laboratory of the Moscow State Conservatory and subsequently to the Theremin Center. In 2007, several hours of graphic soundtracks produced with the variophone were discovered in a Moscow film archive and are pending publication.