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User interface of Oramics composition machine, consists of: a set of 35mm films (center) between a pair of sprockets with tensioners (right and left), a drawing board for composition (center), and a pair of the film scanners (left label) and the PMT pre-amplifiers (rear units) which convert the drawing on the films to the control signals for the output sound (pitch, timbre, amplitude, etc).

Oramics is a drawn sound technique designed in 1957 by musician Daphne Oram. The machine was further developed in 1962 after receiving a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation. The technique, similar to Yevgeny Sholpo's "Variophone", involves drawing on 35mm film strips to control the sound produced.

Oram's composition machine consisted of a large rectangular metal frame, providing a table-like surface traversed by ten synchronised strips of clear, sprocketed 35mm film. The musician drew shapes on the film to create a mask, which modulated the light received by photocells. Although the output from the machine was monophonic, the sounds could be added to multitrack tapes to provide more texture.

The original machine was exhibited at the Science Museum in London between 2011 and 2015.[1][2]

The technique has similarities to that used by Canadian filmmakers Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, some of whose films featured sounds created by drawing or printing various patterns, such as triangles and circles, along the optical soundtrack area of the film.

Oramics was also the name used by Oram to refer to her studio and business interests generally.


Oramics' waveforms drawn on a glass plate by Daphne Oram. The round curves produce softer sounds, while the jagged spikes translate into harsher sounds with harmonic elements.
Oramics' composition (control parameters) drawn on 35mm film strips. Note that it is reconstruction in 2011.
Waveform Scanners (bottom) consisted of several sets of the cathode ray tubes (CRT) and the photomultiplier tubes (PMT), are for scanning the waveforms drawn on the glass plates to generate sound source signals.
Pitch Controller circuit board (on the top of scanner) controls the scanning speed of Waveform Scanners by pitch control signal. The light-gray colored 2P sockets on it are for plugin the optional electronic components.
Note: similarly, the amplitude control circuit should be exist on somewhere.
Sound of Oramics (video)
Recorded sound by Daphne Oram

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External links[edit]

BBC News