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The Hammond Novachord was not an organ at all, but rather the first subtractive synthesis synthesizer ever produced. The Novachord has a single, 72-note manual with 12 tube oscillators and five frequency dividers per oscillator. In total, the Novachord contains 163 (!) vacuum tubes.

There is an excellent introductory article on the Novachord on the 120 years of electronic music web site. Alternate link

There is a chapter (which extensively quotes MikeFulk) dedicated to the Novachord in the book Beauty in the B (first edition only, see Bibliography.)

Novachord on WikiPedia


What Does It Look Like?

There are pictures at http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/novachord/.


What Does It Sound Like?

Here are some vintage recordings (courtesy of HalDavis) of Mr. FredFeibel playing a Hammond Novachord. The original recordings are four 78 rpm discs in the Columbia Records Album Set C-76 which was produced probably in the middle to late 40s. (See also http://www.modempool.com/haldavis/novacord.txt.)

(These links lead to streaming MP3 files.) (As of 8/11/2011 some of these links are dead).

  1. Tea For Two
  2. My Heart Stood Still
  3. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
  4. I Want to Be Happy
  5. Night And Day
  6. Rose Room
  7. I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
  8. One Alone

Here are modern recordings made directly from the preamp output of an example recently restored in the UK:

http://www.last.fm/music/D.A.Wilson/Novachord+346+Demo


Dating

MikeFulk provides this information:

  Serial Numbers     Dates of Production
  ==============     ===================
      1 -  360        11/4/38 - 8/25/39
   1101 - 1610        9/15/39 - 1/30/41
   1710 - 1877         2/3/41 - 7/8/42

Novachord Owners

Phil Cirocco undertook the significant task of fully rebuilding his example in 2005 (#1256). He went on to produce a superb CD, "Music of the Electron", which is one of very few modern recordings available of this amazing instrument. The restoration project was documented and can be found at http://discretesynthesizers.com/nova/intro.htm.

Dan Wilson is the proud owner of Novachord 346 (Aug, 2009) which is the only known example in the UK, previously owned by Marc Doty. This was the unit featured in the Sonic State video series "Top 20 Weirdest Instruments" in 2008. It was returned to playable order after 220 hours of initial restoration work in 2009. Soon after it became the source of over 1Gbyte of raw digital audio as the basis for the Hollow Sun Novachord Sample Collection which is believed to be the only professional Novachord sample collection in the world.

Tim Stoel just (as of July, 2005) acquired a "new" Novachord, he's got pictures, and he'll be chronicling his restoration efforts at http://www.novachord.com (Here's a recording of Tim's Novachord, before he'd done much refurbishment. And here's what it sounds like now.)


Other Links

http://www.hollowsun.com/shop/novachord/index.htm
http://www.oldtech.com/synth/HammondNovaC1.html
http://www.synthmuseum.com/hammond/hamnovachord01.html
http://www.organhouse.com/hammond_novachord.htm
http://musicformaniacs.blogspot.com/2006/02/novachord-lost-synthesizer.html

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