Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)


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Omnitonic horn.

A crooked horn, whereby all the crooks are incorporated into the instrument, enabling the player to select any key instantaneously. See Horn, §3(i).


Group of American composers and avant-garde artists. The group evolved in the late 1950s in Ann Arbor, Michigan; its central figure was the composer Robert Ashley. Other composers who were members included Gordon Mumma, co-organizer with Ashley of the ONCE festivals, Roger Reynolds, who was active in the founding of the group and in the organization of the first festival, George Cacioppo, Donald Scavarda, Bruce Wise and, in later festivals, ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny. Artists, filmmakers (notably George Manupelli), architects, poets and performance artists were all involved in ONCE mixed-media activities, and many guest composers and musicians took part. ONCE festivals were given annually during the period 1961–8, and the ONCE Group, a smaller performance art ensemble founded by Ashley, performed, recorded and toured, 1965–9. After Ashley moved to California in 1969, ONCE activities declined in importance.

The most significant focus for avant-garde mixed-media activity in the Midwest during the 1960s, ONCE sponsored performances of works from the entire range of Cageian and post-Cageian experimental American music; its programmes also included music by prominent European contemporaries and works of the classic modernist repertory. The emphasis that ONCE played on mixed media had an influence on subsequent collaborative ventures in California and New York.


R.N. Sheff and M. Slobin: ‘Music Beyond the Boundaries’, Generation, xvii (1965-6), no.1, pp.27–65; no.2, pp.55–95; repr. in Lightworks, nos.14–15 (1981–2), 34–44

G. Mumma: ‘The ONCE Festival and How it Happened’, Arts in Society, iv (1967), 381

R. James: ‘ONCE: Microcosm of the 1960s Musical and Multimedia Avant-Garde’, American Music, v/4 (1987), 359–90




See Ondulé.

Ondes martenot

(Fr. ‘martenot waves’).

A monophonic electronic instrument invented by Maurice Martenot (b Paris, 14 Oct 1898; d Clichy, nr Paris, 8 Oct 1980), whose original name for it was ‘ondes musicales’. Martenot, who had studied piano, cello and composition at the Paris Conservatoire, first presented his instrument on 20 April 1928 as the soloist in Levidis’s Poème symphonique. He was very active in promoting and developing the instrument (making a world tour in 1930–31), on which his sister Ginette became a leading performer (succeeded by Jeanne Loriod), and it soon found favour with a number of composers including Milhaud, Jolivet, Koechlin, Schmitt, Ibert and Honegger. Varèse first used it as a substitute for the sirens in a performance of Amériques (30 May 1929, Paris) and later replaced two theremins by ondes martenot in the revised version of Ecuatorial. Messiaen wrote for six ondes martenot in Fêtes des belles eaux (1937) and, more importantly, gave a prominent part to the instrument in the Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine (1943–4) and the Turangalîla-symphonie (1946–8), where the unmistakable association of the instrument with the human voice creates the impression of a goddess-like figure, without the human limitations of range or power. In 1947 Martenot established classes in the ondes martenot at the Paris Conservatoire, and in the same year Jolivet was the first of a dozen composers to write a concerto for it. Apart from concert works (over 700 by 1990) and much film music, it has also been employed in many French theatres, including the Comédie-Française, the Théâtre National Populaire and the Folies-Bergère. More than 70 performers in at least seven countries have at some time specialized in the instrument (with ensembles in France and Montreal), including the composers Pierre Boulez, Maurice Jarre and Gilles Tremblay (early in their careers), Paul Beaver, Tristan Murail and Thomas Bloch.

Some of the enthusiasm which composers felt for the instrument is conveyed by Honegger. In Je suis compositeur (Paris, 1951) he compared it with the double bassoon, writing ‘The device known as ondes martenot could replace it with advantage. This instrument has power, a speed of utterance, which is not to be compared with those gloomy stove-pipes looming up in orchestras’. The ondes martenot is not specifically a bass instrument, however, for its range extends upwards beyond that of the piano.

The first two versions of the ondes martenot (1928) consisted of two units, in front of which the performer stood: the principal one had a ‘pull-wire’ operated by a ring for the right index finger, while the left hand manipulated controls on the other unit; a movable pointer above a dummy keyboard indicated the pitch. In the single console of the third version (1929) for a seated player the pull-wire was replaced by a horizontal wire ribbon controller (ruban) incorporating the finger ring, in front of a dummy keyboard. The fourth version (1930) featured only a functioning keyboard and the fifth (1933) combined this with the ribbon controller. The right hand plays both the ribbon and the keyboard, of which each key is capable of slight lateral movement, microtonally shifting the pitch and enabling the performer to create a vibrato. Wide glissando sweeps and expressive portamentos are achieved by sliding the ribbon laterally by means of a ring for the index finger. The sound is produced by a beat-frequency oscillator, based on the heterodyne principle of a radio receiver; a further similarity may be seen in the movement of the pull-wire and ribbon, which, like that of the tuning dial in analogue radio sets, serve to open and close the interleaved plates of a variable capacitor inside the console. The left-hand controls, accessed from a pull-out drawer (see illustration), feature switches and potentiometers that govern articulation, dynamics, envelope and timbre.

The instrument has been manufactured since 1929, briefly by Gaveau in Paris and from about 1931 by Martenot’s own company, Laboratoire des Ondes Musicales Martenot (since the early 1950s called La Lutherie Electronique) at Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. Following the more compact sixth version (1953) a transistorized version was introduced in 1974 and a digital one (designed by Christian Deforeit) in 1993. Non-professional models include one combined with a radio and turntable (c1950) and three simplified school models: with ribbon alone (c1950), with keyboard alone (1953) and with fewer controls (1980). Of striking design, the loudspeakers include three types based on resonated objects: the palme (sympathetic strings), the diffuseur métallique (tam-tam) and the diffuseur à ressorts (stretched coiled springs). The ondes martenot may be said to be one of the most successful electronic instruments developed before the synthesizer. Following Martenot’s death the Association pour la Diffusion et le Développement des Ondes Martenot (ADDOM) was formed in 1981 in Neuilly-sur-Seine.


M. Martenot: Méthode pour l’enseignement des ondes musicales (Paris, 1931)

B. Disertori: ‘Le onde Martenot: lo strumento nuovo d'una nuova èra’, RMI, xliii (1939), 383–92

M. Martenot: ‘Lutherie électronique’, La musique et ses problèmes contemporains, Cahiers de la Compagnie Madeleine Renaud – Jean-Louis Barrault, no.3 (Paris, 1954), 69–75; repr. in ibid., no.41 (Paris, 1963), 77–85

M. Martenot: ‘Künstlerische und technische Merkmale des elektronischen Musikinstruments: Zukunftsperspektiven’, Musik–Raumgestaltung–Elektroakustik, ed. W. Meyer-Eppler (Mainz, 1955), 72–7

F.K. Prieberg: Musica ex machina: über das Verhältnis von Musik und Technik (Berlin, 1960), 214–22

T.L. Rhea: The Evolution of Electronic Musical Instruments in the United States (diss., George Peabody College, 1972), 62–7; rev. as ‘Martenot’s Musical Waves’, Contemporary Keyboard, iv/10 (1978), 62 only; repr. in The Art of Electronic Music, ed. T. Darter and G. Armbruster (New York, 1984), 30–32

S. Vicic: The Ondes Martenot: a Survey of its Use in Selected French Compositions 1928–1950 (diss., U. of Western Ontario, 1984)

J. Loriod: Technique de l’onde électronique type martenot/Technique of the “Martenot” Electronic Instrument (Paris, 1987)

J. Laurendeau: Maurice Martenot: luthier de l’électronique (Montreal and Croissy-Beaubourg, 1990)

T. Bloch: ‘The Ondes Martenot’, Experimental Musical Instruments, viii/1 (1992), 8–12


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