Guy Lochhead, 28/08/10
Sala was a physicist and musician who studied under Friedrich Trautwein, the inventor of the trautonium (one of the earliest electronic instruments). Sala built the first travelling ‘Concert Trautonium’, and scored many films (including the horrendous bird screams in Alfred Hitchhcock’s ‘The Birds’), but his greatest achievement was the creation of the mixtur-trautonium, which he worked on from 1949- 1952. This revolutionary instrument allowed the execution of ‘subharmonics’ – a symmetric counterpart to overtones that until then had existed only in theory. He was active in sharing his love of electronic music, and gave lectures to young people all over the world. He was physically very fit, and walked the long walk from his fourth floor apartment to his studio daily until two weeks before his death, aged 92. Though he was keen to share his knowledge of electronic instruments, he never taught anyone else to play the mixtur-trautonium, meaning the knowledge of how to build and play the instrument is, for now, lost. A year before he died, he bequeathed his whole property to the German Museum in Munich, who have established an Oskar Sala foundation which will complement their already important collection of early electronic instruments. Sala is an inspiring man. Include ‘My Fascinating Instrument CD’, a compilation of his own compositions, dating from 1955-1989.