Musser’s Rhythm Machine

Musser’s Rhythm Machine

The Musser Maestro Marimba Metron

(2002-13-01) Donated by Perry and Nancy Preusch.

Clair Omar Musser designed and built his “Musser Maestro Marimba Metron” as an accompaniment instrument to his solo mallet performances. The instrument plays thirteen electronically-generated “tempi figures” including ten standard dance rhythms such as the bolero, waltz, rhumba, cha-cha, tango, samba, and beguine. In addition to the ability to produce both electronic metronome pulses and duple meters using five different drum and cymbal beats, a wide range of individually activated percussion instrument tones is also available.

The percussion tones, operated by pressing or striking the buttons, include bass drum, two tom-toms, two temple blocks, woodblock, claves, and maracas sounds, along with two real cymbals that are mounted inside the case and struck by solenoid action. Nancy Preusch recalls that Musser struck these buttons with his mallets, causing noticeable abrasions to the painted wooden framework.

Musser personally used this instrument, commonly referred to as his “Rhythm Machine,” not only for performances, but also for teaching in his studio at Northwestern University and in his music room at Studio City, California. As it is built with end frames of the same design as his Canterbury marimba, it apparently dates from 1949-52, and was manufactured using vacuum tube electronic technology from that era.

Musser’s “Rhythm Machine” measures 18″ wide, 34″ deep, 32″ tall (frame only), and 35″ tall (frame plus wheels). The upper platform panel where the buttons, switches, and dials are located is 8″ wide by 28″ long.