Talking about military technology and music technology in the same breath might sound somewhat strange, but a closer look reveals that they often are of similar origin.1
Some writers, like Friedrich Kittler, were busy trying to find military origins in many different devices of communication technology.2
In some cases Kittler is undoubtedly right, in others his arguments are too far-fetched or wrong. As an example the vocoder has, contrary to Kittler, no military origins and the way, German bombers were guided to Britain by radar during the Second World War, does not reflect the origins of stereophonic technology. But there are other inventions and devices used in music which do have military origins.
The first half of the twentieth century was chosen for good reasons, because during that time electricity and electronics spread rapidly, being applied in many different areas. In the 1920s and 1930s there was a sizeable number of ‘music engineers’ who developed electrical and electronic musical instruments, but were also busy researching and developing in other areas like telephone and telegraph technology or technology for detection and intelligence.3
They worked as independent inventors, as physicists and engineers in corporate laboratories, in government and public research organisations or sometimes as officers in military laboratories. As in many other fields, the principle of ‘dual use’ also applies to music and military technology.4
In the same way as a factory for locomotives can be transformed into one for military tanks or vice versa or as an artificial satellite can be used for military or civil purposes, acousticians researching on the acoustic improvement