By | July 18, 2022

Oskar Sala: Why Google honors him today

Oskar Sala, a pioneering electronic music composer and physicist, would have celebrated his 112th Birthday on Monday.

The German sound effects were created using a musical instrument called a mixture of trautonium, which transformed radio, film, and television.

Google will change its logo in 27 countries to honor his memory, and create a doodle or illustration.

Here’s his story:

Early life

Sala was born in Greiz in Germany in 1910. He was always surrounded by music from the moment he was born. His mother was a singer, and his father was an eye doctor with musical talent.

Sala began studying organ and piano at an early age. He began playing classical piano and writing songs as a teenager.

Sala, then 19, moved to Berlin with Paul Hindemith to learn piano and composition.

He was then introduced to Friedrich Trautwein, an engineer who was known for creating the first electronic musical instrument, the trautonium. This instrument produces an electronic pulse which is converted into sound via a loudspeaker.

The trautonium

Sala devoted his efforts to mastering the trautonium, as well as further developing it. This later inspired his studies. He also performed in public performances, and toured Germany to show the instrument to others.

Sala studied physics at the University of Berlin in 1932. He wanted to further his research and expand his understanding of mathematics.

He was a key contributor to the development and production of volkstrautonium. Telefunken is a German radio-television company.

Electronic music was banned in Nazi Germany. Trautwein met Josef Goebbels who was the minister of propaganda. Sala then performed on the instrument.

His work was approved by the Nazi authorities and he was allowed to continue.

Sala created a new type of trautonium in 1935. Three years later, he developed a radio-trautonium that was portable enough to be used for live performances.

Sala, 34 years old, was sent to the East Front war. He was severely injured and was convalescent the majority of the campaign. After the Second World War, Sala, 36, returned to Berlin in 1946.

Two years later, he began to work on his last invention, the mixture of trautonium, which is a polyphonic form of the original instrument. His invention was made public in 1952.

Sala built a larger version of his instrument and, in 1958, established his own studio at Mars Film, a German film company. He started working in electronic music production, such as Veit Harlan’s Different From You and Me and Rolf Thiele’s Rosemary. His most well-known film was The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock.

The musician creates sounds with his instrument in this film such as bird cries and hammering, and door and window slams.

Sala worked on more than 400 films. For his soundtrack work, Sala was awarded the Filmband in Gold and the Merit Cross. This is a recognition of his dedication to music over the course of his life.

Sala donated his instrument to the German Museum for Contemporary Technology in 1995. Five years later, at 85, he gave his estate to the museum.

Sala, at the age of 1992, died in Berlin on February 26, 2002.

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