The Online Rhythmicon
The Rhythmicon was a musical keyboard instrument built in 1931 by Leon Theremin at the request of composer/theorist Henry Cowell. Each key of the Rhythmicon played a repeated tone, proportional in pitch and rhythm to the overtone series (the second key played twice as high and twice as fast as the first key. The third key played three times higher and repeated three times faster then the first key, etc.)
While the Online Rhythmicon is no longer available on this site, you can download pieces that have been composed by selecting a performance from our archives.
"My favorite is the rhythmicon. Because that instrument, from its very conception, was intellectual in nature, and I find that the online version really does work well on several levels. As a learning or pedagogical tool, or musical understanding stretcher, it seems genuinely useful to me. And as a compositional medium it's got both simplicity and depth, and either way the results that come out are appealing."
—Bart Hopkin, Experimental Musical Instruments
The Rhythmicon was designed and programmed in Java Music Specification Language and JSyn by Nick Didkovsky, and commissioned by American Public Media. Nick would like to thank Preston Wright for the invitation to work on this project, and Phil Burk for the many insightful discussions, supporting software, and of course, JSyn. Nick would also like to thank the following beta testers who helped with bug reports and creative suggestions: David Birchfield, Philip Blackburn, Phil Burk, James Forrest, Kevin Norton, Chris Pepper, Larry Polansky, John Roulat, and Peter Selmayr.