Who was Oskar Sala? Google Doodle celebrates electronic music composer and physicist

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July 18, 2022, 10:28 p.m. | Updated: July 18, 2022, 10:30 PM

Google Doodle celebrates Oskar Sala, electronic music composer and physicist.

Picture: Google Doodle


Oskar Sala was an innovative composer and physicist – classically trained, and later a pioneer in the world of electronic music…

Today’s Google Doodle marks what would have been the 112th birthday of Oskar Sala, a brilliant musical mind known for developing his own instrument, the melange-trautonium – one of the first electronic synthesizers.

Sala was born in Greiz, Germany in 1910. As a child he studied piano and organ and gave classical piano concerts. In 1929 he was accepted at the Berlin Conservatory to study piano and composition.

At the conservatory, Sala closely follows the experiments of Dr. Friedrich Trautwein and learns to play his musical invention: the trautonium.

When Sala first heard the monophonic instrument – an instrument that can only produce one note at a time – he was fascinated by the technology. “His Life Mission” Today’s doodle explains, “became master of the trautonium and to develop it further, which inspired his studies of physics and composition at school.”

Trautonium co-developer Oskar Sala plays the instrument in his Berlin recording studio

Trautonium co-developer Oskar Sala plays the instrument in his Berlin recording studio.

Image: Getty


Inspired by the work of Dr. Friedrich, Sala developed his own instrument, the mixture-traautonium, capable of playing several musical lines simultaneously. With this invention, Sala’s electronic music sound stands out from that of his peers.

Sala had found her niche. He studied physics at the University of Berlin between 1932 and 1935, where he helped develop a new form of Trautonium – Volkstrautonium. In 1935, he built a portable model, the Concert Trautonium.

In 1944, as World War II raged, Sala was called to join the German army on the Eastern Front, where he was wounded.

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Sala with the American composer Remi Gassmann, during a recording for the electronic ballet 'Paean' - 1960

Sala with American composer Remi Gassmann, during a recording for the electronic ballet ‘Paean’ – 1960.

Image: Getty


After the war, Sala returned to his recording studio in Berlin and turned to television and film music, creating sound effects for productions such as Alfred Hitchcock’s 1962 film. The birds, in collaboration with the first electronic composer Remi Gassmann. Using the trautonium mixture again, Gassmann and Sala created noises like bird calls, pounding, and windows slamming.

Sala had worked with Gassmann a few years earlier on Paean (1960), one of the first ballets to electronic music.

Sala has received numerous awards for his film scores – but he has never won an Oscar. In 1995 he donated his original trautonium mixture to the German Museum of Contemporary Technology.

“His endeavors in electronic music opened up the field of subharmonics,” adds the Doodle in its description of Sala. “With his dedication and creative energy, he became a solo orchestra.”

Behold the legacy of a music pioneer – Oskar Sala!

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