Preserving the Works of Joseph Schillinger

The Rhythmicon Reimagined Subharmonicon


Moog Music has reimagined two early classic electronic instruments. One of these classics is the Rhythmicon, which was the first drum machine.

JS Rhythmicon

“Cowell wanted an instrument that would play compositions involving multiple rhythmic patterns, which are impossible for one person to perform simultaneously on an acoustic keyboard or percussion instruments. The invention, completed by Theremin in 1931, can produce up to sixteen different rhythms—a periodic base rhythm on a selected fundamental pitch and fifteen progressively more rapid rhythms, each associated with one of the ascending notes of the fundamental pitch’s overtone series. Like the overtone series itself, the rhythms follow an arithmetic progression, so that for every single beat of the fundamental, the first overtone (if played) beats twice, the second overtone beats three times, and so forth. Each of the sixteen rhythms can be produced individually or in any combination. A seventeenth key permits optional syncopation. The instrument produces its percussion-like sound using a system, proposed by Cowell, that involves light being passed through radially indexed holes in a series of spinning “cogwheel” discs before arriving at electric photoreceptors.”

Wikipedia May 10, 2020

Moog Music has combined the original concept of the Rhythmicon and added a sound generator that is a reimagination of the Telharmonium.


“The Telharmonium (also known as the Dynamophone) was an early electrical organ, developed by Thaddeus Cahill circa 1896 and patented in 1897.[1][2][3] The electrical signal from the Telharmonium was transmitted over wires; it was heard on the receiving end by means of “horn” speaker.

Like the later Hammond organ, the Telharmonium used tonewheels to generate musical sounds as electrical signals by additive synthesis.It is considered to be the first electromechanical musical instrument.”

Wikipedia May 20, 2020

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