His name may not be well known outside of professional circles, but his work still resonates today – whether on the dance floors of techno parties or in the dark cinema hall.
The composer Oskar Sala, who died in 2002 at the age of 91, was involved in a revolution in music that was no longer only produced on conventional instruments in the 20th century, but also electronically.
Born in Thuringia in 1910, Oskar Sala was a student at the Berlin Music Academy and met the engineer Friedrich Trautwein there. Sala and Trautwein developed one of the first electronic instruments, the trautonium.
The Trautonium is used for copying and creating sounds. The device can mimic musical instruments, and it can also produce vowels, animal sounds, and synthetic sounds. It is a forerunner of the synthesizer, the most important tool in electronic music. The invention of the trautonium was therefore an important step on the way to techno music, among other things.
Oskar Sala wrote the film music for more than 300 productions. These include the sixties Edgar Wallace thrillers The Curse of the Yellow Snake and The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle. In the same decade, Sala helped turn what was previously considered a harmless animal species into a source of horror – in a milestone in horror cinema.
In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, people are attacked by flocks of birds. Hitchcock was a master of images and his 1963 classic would probably still be scary enough as a silent film. The masterpiece, starring Tippi Hedren in the leading role, unfolds its full, horrific effect with the creepy screams of birds that Oskar Sala created on a trautonium in 1958 in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Fans of Jedi knights and space battles have also come into contact with Oskar Sala: director George Lucas had a Trautonium specially ordered for his 2005 release “Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith”.
This made it possible to create sounds that could not be reproduced on other electronic musical instruments.