An ongoing project by Andrei Smirnov
Via Generation Z: "The late 1920s was also the period in which sound was being developed to accompany films and animations in Russia. In 1929 one of the leading experimental Soviet filmmakers, the painter, book illustrator and animator Mikhail Tsekhanovsky (1889-1965) was involved in the production of the first Soviet sound movie Piatiletka. The Plan of the Great Works. When in October of that year the first roll of film was developed, it was Tsekhanovsky who voiced the idea: 'What if we take some Egyptian or ancient Greek ornaments as a sound track? Perhaps we will hear some unknown archaic music?' He was referring to the shapes and outlines of vases and how these could be used as if wave forms to generate sound. It was at this precise moment that technology of synthesizing sound from light, called the Graphical Sound techniques were invented and, possibly the first electronic soundtracks ever created.
The group with whom he was working included the talented inventor and engineer Evgeny Sholpo (1891-1951) who was already working on new techniques of so-called performer-less music, but the most outstanding participant in the project was the aforementioned composer Arseny Avraamov. The next day they were already furiously at work on experiments in what they referred to variously as ornamental, drawn, paper, graphical, artificial or synthetic sound. It was Avraamov who completed the first artificial sound tracks in 1930 and by 1936 there were four main trends of Graphical Sound in Soviet Russia: hand-drawn Ornamental Sound (Avraamov, early Boris Yankovsky, 1905-1973); hand-made Paper Sound (Nikolai Voinov, 1900-1958); Variophone or automated Paper Sound (Evgeny Sholpo, Georgy Rimsky-Korsakov); and the spectral analysis, decomposition and re-synthesis technique (Boris Yankovsky). Yankovsky's idea was related to the separation of the spectral content of sound and its formants, resembling the popular recent computer music techniques of cross synthesis and the phase vocoder. It was certainly one of the most radical, paradigm-shifting propositions of the mid 1930s. Researchers involved in Graphical Sound had to overcome enormous technical and theoretical (as well as more mundane) difficulties during its short existence. The results of their work were surprising and unexpected, and ahead of the group's time by decades. However, collision with the state was fatal. In less than ten years, all of their work had ended and was almost instantly forgotten."
Thanks to Lena Willikens!