Hugh Le Caine
Le Caine was brought up in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) in northwestern Ontario. After completing his Master of Science degree from Queen's University in 1939, Le Caine was awarded a National Research Council of Canada (NRC) fellowship to continue his work on atomic physics measuring devices at Queen's. He worked with the NRC in Ottawa from 1940 to 1974. During World War II, he assisted in the development of the first radar systems. On an NRC grant he studied nuclear physics from 1948 to 1952 in England.
At home he pursued a lifelong interest in electronic music and sound generation. In 1937, Le Caine designed an electronic free reed organ, and in the mid-1940s, he built the Electronic Sackbut, now recognised to be one of the first synthesizers. After the success of public demonstrations of his instruments, he was permitted to move his musical activities to the NRC and to work on them full-time in 1954. Over the next twenty years, he built over twenty-two different new instruments.
Between 1955 and his retirement from the NRC in 1973, Le Caine produced at least fifteen electroacoustical compositions and created a score of new devices and also presented his ideas and inventions to learned bodies and the general public. But while Le Caine did get excellent responses from both the learned bodies and the public, he did not get a satisfactory response from industry. Fortunately, a few people did eventually come into Le Caine's life to make him feel his efforts were of some value. One of these people was Israeli composer Josef Tal. In the summer of 1958, Tal had travelled to Ottawa under a Unesco grant to visit major electronic music studios. Tal grew very excited about the instruments that Le Caine had built, but he did not realize what this meant to Le Caine until the next day while Le Caine, Tal, and several technicians were having lunch in a small restaurant. Tal noticed that, not only had Le Caine been rather silent on this day, but on close inspection at the table, Le Caine had tears running down his cheeks and falling silently into his soup. When an opportunity arose, Tal delicately asked one of the technicians about this and was told that Le Caine had felt no composer in Canada had a use for his instruments and that Tal was the first composer who had shown any interest in his work.
In 1962 Le Caine arrived in Jerusalem to install his Creative Tape Recorder in the Centre for Electronic Music in Israel, established by Josef Tal. Le Caine also collaborated in the development of pioneering electronic music studios at the University of Toronto in 1959 and at McGill University in 1964.
He was married to Trudi Le Caine, a notable supporter of the arts in Ottawa.
Though his composition output was small, Le Caine is remembered as one of the great pioneer composers of musique concrète, his best known work being Dripsody (1955), a piece of musique concrète based on the sound of a single drop of water that is permuted and contorted into a multitude of sounds.
- David Keane, “Electroacoustic Music in Canada: 1950–1984,” in eContact! 3.4 — Histoires de l’électroacoustique / Histories of Electroacoustics. http://cec.sonus.ca/econtact/Histories/EaMusicCanada.htm
- alcides lanza and Andrew Lewin-Richter, “On Hugh Le Caine, Electronic Music Pioneer, Part 3,” in Musicworks 83 (Summer 2002), pp. 50–51.
- Le Caine, Hugh. “A report from the International Conference of Composers, held at the Stratford Festival .” The Modern Composer and his World. Edited by John Beckwith and Udo Kasemets. University of Toronto Press, 1961, pp. 109–116.
- Hugh Le Caine, "Touch-Sensitive Organ Based on an Electrostatic Coupling Device", Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, XXVII, 4, July 1955. 781.
- H. Le Caine, "Electronic Music", Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, XLIV, 4, April 1956, 457
- Hugh Le Caine, "Some Applications of Electrical Level Controls" in Electronic Music Review No. 4 October 1967 pp 25-32 
- “Le Caine, Hugh.” Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Historica Foundation of Canada. Accessed on July 20, 2005.
- Young, Gayle. The Sackbut Blues: Hugh Le Caine, Pioneer in Electronic Music. Ottawa: National Museum of Science and Technology, 1989.
- _____. “Le Caine: An Inventor’s Notebook / Carnet sur l’inventeur.” Website. 1999. Accessed on July 20, 2005.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hugh Le Caine.|
- Hugh Le Caine website by Gayle Young
- Hugh and Trudi Le Caine fonds at Queen’s University Archives
- Hugh Le Caine bio by Pablo Freire