ondes Martenot with amplifier


Made by La Lutherie Electronique, Paris, ca. 1930

The ondes Martenot is one of the oldest electronic musical instruments. Its inventor, Maurice Martenot was a cellist and pianist. During his military service in the First World War, he was in charge of radio broadcasts and that gave him an awareness of the musical possibilities of electronic sound generation.

In 1918, he began designing an instrument that he finally presented in Paris in 1928. The design evolved constantly until 1975, when he brought out his seventh and last example.

Among the first composers to write for the instrument were Jolivet, Varèse, Honegger and Messiaen. In popular music, such diverse artists as Jacques Brel, Joe Jackson and Radiohead have contributed to its continuing success. It has also been used on a large scale in film music.

The ondes Martenot consists of a keyboard with a drawer containing switches, and an amplifier. The keyboard is equipped with a ribbon to which a ring is attached. The right hand plays the keyboard or moves the ring in a sideways movement along the keyboard. The left hand works the switches in the drawer; these determine timbre, touch and rhythm.

ondes Martenot
ondes Martenot - detail (ring)