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This rhythmicon was made by Leon Theremin in New York, New York, about 1931. This instrument is the earliest electronic rhythm machine. It produces various drumbeats or rhythms using a unique mechanism of light sources and rotating perforated-wheels. A keyboard is used to produce a repeated single rhythmic note. Multiple keys produce overtone series of notes. Amplification with a loudspeaker produces the audible rhythmic output.

The instrument was used by Joseph Schillinger in his 1940-41 recordings. Joseph Moiseyevich Schillinger (1895-1943) was a composer, music theorist, and composition teacher, known for the Schillinger System of Musical Composition.

Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1931
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 38 1/8 in x 19 1/4 in x 24 1/2 in; 96.8375 cm x 48.895 cm x 62.23 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Schillinger
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Electronic Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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