Martenot, Maurice (Louis Eugene)

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Martenot, Maurice (Louis Eugene)

Martenot, Maurice (Louis Eugene), French inventor of the electronic instrument “Ondes musicales,” a.k.a. “Ondes Martenot”; b. Paris, Oct. 14, 1898; d. there, Oct. 10, 1980. He studied composition at the Paris Cons, with Gédalge. He constructed an electronic musical instrument with a keyboard, which he called Ondes musicales. He gave its first demonstration in Paris on April 20, 1928, and, on Dec. 23, 1928, the first musical work for the instrument, Poème symphonique pour solo d’Ondes musicales et orchestre, by Dimitri Levidis, was presented in Paris. Martenot publ. Méthode pour l’enseignement des Ondes musicales (Paris, 1931). The instrument became popular, especially among French composers: it is included in the score of Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (1935); Koechlin’s Le Buisson ardent, part 1 (1938); Martinon’s 2nd Sym., Hymne à la vie (1944); and Messiaen’s Turangalila-Symphonie (1946–48). It was used as a solo instrument in Koechlin’s Hymne (1929), Jolivet’s Concerto (1947), Landowski’s Concerto (1954), Bondon’s Kaleidoscope (1957), and Charpentiers Concertino “alla francese” (1961). Many other composers were attracted to it as well. Of all the early electronic instruments—Ondes Martenot, Trautonium, and Theremin—only Martenot’s has proved a viable musical instrument. When Varèse’s Ecuatorial, written in 1934 for a brass ensemble and including a Theremin, was publ, in 1961, the score substituted an Ondes Martenot for the obsolescent Theremin. Martenot’s sister, Ginette Martenot (b. Paris, Jan. 27, 1902), became the chief exponent of the Ondes Martenot in concert performances in Europe and the U.S.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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