The town of Oberlin is commemorating the impact of Oberlin student and resident, Thaddeus Cahill (1867-1934), with a banner in his honor displayed on the corner of College and Main. Cahill grew up in Ohio, and studied the physics of music at Oberlin College. He was an early believer that music could be made with electricity. Cahill became a prominent inventor of the early 20th century. In 1897, he invented theĀ Telharmonium, the first electromechanical musical instrument.

Cahill banner in Downtown Oberlin

The original design of the Telharmonium weighed 7 tons, and the third and final design weighed up to 200 tons. The performer would sit at a control console to play the instrument, which was installed in a concert hall called “Telharmonic Hall” across the street from the Met Opera in NYC. But the instrument’s actual mechanism was so huge that it filled an entire room in the basement beneath the hall. Wires from the control console were discreetly fed through holes in the floor and into the lower room. Cahill’s Telharmonium was the first musical synthesizer. – MC

Telharnomium interface
Telharnomium mechanism