Maurice Martenot

New Hazlett Theater

April 15
7 p.m.

Website

A new documentary chronicling the never-before-told story of a rare electronic music invention is making its Pittsburgh premiere. Screening as part of a new series of music events at the New Hazlett, Caroline Martel’s film Wavemakers tells the intriguing tale behind the Ondes Martenot, an early electronic music instrument invented in 1928 by French musician and educator Maurice Martenot (1898–1980).

Hearing unusual interferences emanating from radio vacuum tubes during World War I, Martenot conceived of an instrument that would turn electricity into music. Producing eerie wavering notes via the varying the frequency of oscillation in vacuum tubes, the Ondes Martenot went on to supply soundtracks to early French films, Hollywood classic Lawrence of Arabia, and contemporary films such as  There Will Be Blood.

Shot in Canada and France, Wavemakers features engineers, artisans, scientists, rock stars and repairmen: an ensemble of characters united in a passionate quest to revive the sophisticated instrument. Blending direct cinema, music and never-before-seen archival material, Wavemakers stars Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, the inventor’s son Jean-Louis Martenot and Suzanne Binet-Audet, considered to be the “Jimi Hendrix of the Martenot.” Pursuing the inventor’s legacy and tracing the instrument’s rare, fragile and almost magical qualities, these aficionados share some of the mysteries behind what has been dubbed the “Stradivarius of the electronic age.” Although production of the instrument was halted in 1988, conservatories in France still teach using the Ondes Martenot.

Following the screening, renowned Ondes Martenot musician Geneviève Grenier will perform a live demonstration of the instrument, inviting the audience to see it onstage.

 

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...