In 1816, an Austrian by the name of Johann Nepomuk Maelzel set up a factory in Paris and began manufacturing a clever new mechanical device that he called a metronome. Maelzel had actually stolen the design from a Dutch inventor, but that never much got in his way, and helped by the enthusiastic endorsement of Beethoven, among others, Maelzel successfully marketed his metronome all over Europe and the United States. The Maelzel metronome is what’s called a double-pendulum device. It’s got a metal shaft that swings back and forth, with a lead weight fixed to the bottom of the shaft and a sliding weight at the top whose position determines the speed of the swing and the frequency of the ticks. Interestingly, the design of the Maelzel metronome, including its pyramid-shaped wooden case, has never gone out of fashion. It’s true that all sorts of compact, super-accurate electronic metronomes are now available, but exact replicas of Maelzel’s original model can still be found sitting on pianos all over the world.
A Minute with Miles - a production of ETV Radio made possible by the JM Smith Corporation.