Nathan Van Cleave is a top man in radio music whose improvements in his home recording machine grew into a prosperous business.

Photos by Bradley Smith

WHEN Nathan Van Cleave started playing trumpet at 8, he never dreamed he’d be conducting a band at 14. When he left Illinois University and came to New York, he never thought in a few years he would be sitting in Carnegie Hall and listening to one of his own compositions being played. When he started to experiment with sound reproduction to improve his music for radio audiences, no one could have ever made him believe he’d wind up with a flourishing manufacturing business. But it has all happened!

“Musiclite” Invention Plays Piano Notes in Color Tones (Jun, 1931)

“Musiclite” Invention Plays Piano Notes in Color Tones

A DISTINCTLY unique invention called the “Musicite,” an instrument which enables you to see sound waves of a note while you are listening to the same tone being played on the piano, has recently been perfected by Philip Grodon, world famous concert pianist.

The device consists of a series of colored lights arranged in openings in a large keyboard attached to the side of the piano, as shown in the photo at the left. These lights are wired to the keys of the regular piano keyboard, so that when a key is pressed to play a note a relay is actuated to light a bulb on a corresponding key on the light keyboard at the side, which is visible to the audience.


I remember this building from when I lived in Minneapolis. It was built by Wilber Foshay, a utility magnate who was later convicted for running a pyramid scheme. Check out the Wikipedia entry for an interesting story about its dedication celebration. Apparently Foshay hired John Philip Sousa compose a march for the occasion but it was only played that one time because his check to Sousa bounced. It wasn’t until some investors in Minnesota paid his bill that it was heard again.

It seems like every time I read about Sousa it has something to with copyright or music piracy.


SUGAR and flour were used in building up the birthday cake model of the Foshay building pictured in the photo at the right. The Foshay tower, built in the city of Minneapolis, was recently described in the pages of Modern Mechanics. The birthday cake held the center of the table at a dinner given in San Francisco to celebrate the opening of the W. B. Foshay building in that city.


JUNIOR can play maestro at the organ—a little reed pipe job about two ft. long that operates via electricity and boasts 27 black and white keys which play sharps and flats, and over two full chromatic octaves with true, full-bodied organ tone. The $20 table-top instrument is made by Emenee Industries, Inc., New York, N. Y. It is made of break-resistant Styron plastic and comes complete with music book and electric cord. It is said to help Junior develop musically.

New Devices Supplant Organs (Mar, 1930)

New Devices Supplant Organs

IN SOME of the churches of Europe new forms of musical apparatus are being installed. These instruments supplant to a large degree the organ, or in some instances supplement the church organs. The radio and phonograph records are now made available for church use through the development of special apparatus.

Primitive vs. Mechanical Music (May, 1929)

Primitive vs. Mechanical Music
STONE age men produced music by tapping a stretched hide. Today we press a button, and presto—music!

The mechanical violin whose mechanism is exposed above is one of the latest advances in the development of mechanical music. Fingering of the violin is done by the M-shaped rod, while the bow is moved by the same mechanism which twists the violin around to present the proper strings to the bow. A perforated roll, shown at the right, controls the machine.

White horsehair is used in making violin bows. Above a worker is sorting horsehair for quality.

Synthetic Music (Mar, 1963)

Synthetic music is being produced in a German film studio by reversing a familiar process. When artists sing and orchestras play before a microphone, their music is recorded as a wavy black line on the sound track. What would happen if an artist were to draw shapes, imprint them on sound film, and play it back? Technician Oscar Fischinger got startling results. Concentric circles drawn in a strip imitated an electric bell, eye-like spots reproduced a bassoon, and a pattern of clots sounded like a xylophone. Variations in sizes and shapes produced changes in pitch, loudness, and timbre.

There’s Music in the Air for Airplane Travelers (Apr, 1940)

There’s Music in the Air for Airplane Travelers
AS THEY fly to their destinations, passengers on planes of a major transcontinental air line can now listen to broadcast radio programs. Stations are tuned in on a master set and the programs are piped to individual loudspeakers housed in padded units that hang over the seat backs of those passengers who desire to listen in.

Music Writing Device Records Notes Played on Piano (Oct, 1930)

Music Writing Device Records Notes Played on Piano

IF STRAY melodies are always running through your mind and you are averse to setting them down on music paper at the moment of your inspiration, you will find this music writing piano, shown with its inventor, at the right, Dr. Moritz Stoehr, a great help in recording the tunes and keeping them in memory for publication.

Herb Shriner’s “INDIANA PIANO” (Oct, 1956)

Herb Shriner’s “INDIANA PIANO”

The Hoosier Boy’s harmonica was born in ancient China.

SOONER or later every boy falls under the spell of a shiny new harmonica and a “new easy method” of learning to play it. Years ago it happened to an Indiana boy named Shriner. Now a new generation of boys is yearn- ing for a Herb Shriner Hoosier Boy DeLuxe ($2.49) or for a Herb Shriner Regular ($1.98). Both come with Herb Shriner’s new easy method outlined in cartoon form.