Looking at the history of couple musical instruments turned out to be very inspiring for my small research.

After Jeremy Montagu: Musical instruments evolve over time. They change to be louder, easier or more comfortable to play. And music written for every instrument reflects this instrument’s capabilities at certain point in time. Music in a way comes from the instrument, because instrument is the medium music is transmitted by.

This is true for example for violin, which sound changed significantly from 1700s, mainly because of incorporating metal strings. Technically violin also got easier to play, thanks to chin rest, that gave left hand more freedom by relieving it from the necessity to hold the instrument. Sometimes the need for certain characteristic evolved into new instruments, which was the case with saxophone. Saxophone was originally created to fill the gap in French wind ensembles between brass (loud, but having hard times performing complex passages in fast tempos) and woodwinds (easily performing complex passages, but being much quieter than brass). Nonetheless both saxophone and violin, as well as pretty much any other instrument, provided composers with some “framework”, that influenced their compositions.

I also looked at the creation of theremin. This one was conceived when Léon Theremin was researching capacitance and radio transmission. It was like an evolution of science into art. Theremin’s (instrument’s) initial application was very classical, somewhat related to lyrical cello, but out-of-this-world sounding, looking and being played like. It was then applied to science fiction movies’ soundtracks and used to perform other repertoire, but what is interesting to me is that this instrument came to live in a different way than other “classical” ones, and while being very modern in it’s construction and playing technique, its initial application was very eclectic.

More on contemporary computer-based instruments to come…

Montagu, Jeremy. The World of Romantic & Modern Musical Instruments. London: David & Charles, 1981.
Glinsky, Altber. Theremin: ether music and espionage. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Pituch, David. Saksofon od A do Z [Saxophone From A to Z]. Kraków: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, 2000.