Hugh Le Caine

Hugh Le Caine, physicist, designer of electronic-music instruments, composer (b at Port Arthur [Thunder Bay], Ont 27 May 1914; d at Ottawa 3 July 1977). He was trained as a physicist at Queen's and later at Birmingham University (Eng).

Hugh Le Caine

Hugh Le Caine, physicist, designer of electronic-music instruments, composer (b at Port Arthur [Thunder Bay], Ont 27 May 1914; d at Ottawa 3 July 1977). He was trained as a physicist at Queen's and later at Birmingham University (Eng). From his youth he also maintained an active interest in music and electronic instruments. In 1939 he joined the NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL (NRC) in Ottawa, working in RADAR development and nuclear physics. By 1945 he had begun work in his home studio on the sackbut, an electronic keyboard instrument now recognized to have been the first "synthesizer." The NRC opened a project in 1954, directed by Le Caine, to design new equipment for electronic music.

By his retirement in 1974, he had designed 15 new instruments. He carefully considered their musical expressivity, designing them to accommodate the needs of performers, composers and listeners rather than the demands of the technology. He composed a series of studies at the NRC lab, one of which, Dripsody (1955), now a classic of electronic music, uses only the sound of the fall of a single drop of water, transformed by tape-speed changes.

The first electronic music studio in Canada, the second in North America, was opened at the University of Toronto in 1959. Its unique equipment, designed by Le Caine, used innovative methods of sound production, extending the possibilities available to composers, and attracting many from across Canada and abroad. Le Caine published many articles on his work, primarily in technical journals. Recognized internationally for his contribution to the development of electronic music, he was awarded 3 honorary doctorates in Canada.

See alsoELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC.


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