Monday, August 22, 2005

"Sea-sick swellings and diminishings"

Before I tell the fascinating history of the Hammond Novachord, let me share a "comment" I received in May from someone named "konbinisan," for those of you who didn't get to read it:

"The site The Roots of Lounge (, now also known as Beyond The Roots of Lounge, has been using the phrase 'Roots of Lounge' as a trademark since 1996." Kind of puts the "short" in "short and sweet."

It seems that, at the time, my URL included "rootsoflounge."™ That's right--my URL. Followed by "" No doubt, "konbinisan" didn't want anyone ending up here instead of there, and I can understand his or her concern. I mean, who would want to end up here? So, of course, I changed my URL. I'm a nice fellow.

Now, I consider a post like the post in question to be anonymous. I mean, so what if someone uses a "name," if it isn't the person's real name? And something just tells me "konbinisan" is an assumed name. ("nasinibnok," backwards.) A fake name, no profile, no way to write back--that's anonymous, in my book. And everything I just said is trademarked, so don't be stealing my definition of "anonymous."™ My lawyers are standing by. I know, because I hear the meter ticking.

Anyway, last night I went to Roots of Lounge™ and read that site's "About This Site." Seems that there's been a problem with people stealing content from the site and that ROL™, though it hates to be "all Type A about it," had to take serious measures. Such as leaving that note at my blog.

No offense to ROL™, but, to be perfectly direct, the day I need to steal something from that place is the day that, hopefully, someone shoots me in the head.

The Hammond Novachord (see was not a big success. It wasn't even a small success, even if the thing weighed 1/4 of a ton. But, according to many sources, it was the first synthesizer ever made, and it helped inspire Robert Moog to create the sounds he created. The Novachord was introduced at the 1939 World's Fair by Collins H. Driggs, American composer Ferde Grofe (Grand Canyon Suite, Metropolis, Death Valley Suite, the pop song Daybreak), and two other "Novachord Orchestra" members. Speaking of American composers, Elliot Carter stopped by the Ford Building while the NO was demonstrating Hammond's new synthesizer, and he was delighted:

"At the Ford building, I found... Ferde Grofe and three others at three Hammond Novachords and a Hammond organ, playing plushy arrangements of Old Folks at Home, and so on, with arpeggios, and sea-sick swellings and diminishings. They show just what the Novachord can do, how inhuman its breathless flutes and gutless violins can be."

Carter was down on "electrified music" in general, so it was inevitable he'd love and cherish the Novachord, which sounded like a video-game soundtrack stuck in "Pause." But I love the sound, even if, in addition to what I just described, it evoked a giant, mutant bee dying inside of a paper cone. It reminds me of the "piano" patch on my Korg Poly-800, for what that's worth (about $200 on eBay, I found out).

And here are four 1940 numbers by Novachord-introducer Collins H. Driggs, all from shellac. I have to wonder if When Day Is Done was arranged by Grofe, as it closely follows Grofe's 1927 arrangement for the Paul Whiteman Concert Orchestra™: When Day Is Done, Collins H. Driggs, Novachord solo, 1940. Estudiantina (Emil Waldteufel, 1883), Collins H. Driggs, Novachord solo, 1940. (From the French composer who gave us the waltz The Skaters.) Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, Collins H. Driggs, Novachord solo, 1940. Song of the Islands, Collins H. Driggs, Novachord solo, 1940.

Yup--lounge-style Hammond Novachord solos from 1940. Keep telling yourself that lounge music started in the early 1950s. Say it, again and again. ("It, again and again.") No, no, no....



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee - I realize that you do not
repost these selections once they
are gone. However, I would be glad
to pay you to put all of your
Novachord records on a CD. Is
that possible? If so, could you
post an email address where we can
discuss this? If not, could you
direct me to a good source for the
Collins H. Driggs records? Thanks.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Lee Hartsfeld said...


My e-mail address is in my profile. Just click on my photo....


10:06 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

Hi Lee! I'd TOTALLY love to hear the Novachord solos you have once posted, it seems as though they have passed on for the time being... If they are posted anywhere else, might you point me in their direction? I'm at Totally fascinating stuff, I'll bet! Thanks!


3:17 PM  

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