The music typewriter is based on the principle of a mechanical typewriter, it has a keyboard, levers which bear the type, and an ink ribbon. In order to be able to write scores with all the necessary characters, however, Schönberg had to extend and change the conventional design. The paper is not inserted into a roller, and a flat surface serves as a writing surface. It can be moved from left to right, upwards and downwards, turned in a circle around a midpoint and can also be tilted. In this way, every section of the writing surface can be reached with the utmost precision. Tilting is necessary because Schönberg designed the print head with a trapezoidal cross section in order to fit three characters on the type bars, and in order to keep the number of type bars – which is still an impressive 120 – within a reasonable limit. If operated electrically, several of these typewriters could be connected with each other. An expert typist, Schönberg believed, could produce small volumes of sheet music within a shorter amount of time, at lower cost and with a clearer print image than was previously possible. With an electric motor and rein­forced type bars, the machine could also be used for music engraving and in principle, if the design were altered, as a scribing machine as well. In April 1909 Schönberg submitted the patent specification which was not queried in principle, although several details were commented upon. His design seems intricate and the complexity of the key characters and dual functions requires the typist’s utmost concentration. However, this piece of equipment is anything but a technical fantasy or a fictitious machine. Arnold Schönberg’s music typewriter dated 1909 was never realised, but the designs show an enormous amount of imagination and mechanical talent.


  • Title: Music Typewriter
  • Creator: Arnold Schönberg
  • Date Created: 1909
  • Physical Dimensions: w20.3 x h33.6 cm
  • Provenance: Arnold Schoenberg, Los Angeles; Gertrud Schoenberg, Los Angeles; Nuria Schoenberg Nono, Venezia, Lawrence and Ronald Schoenberg, Los Angeles; Arnold Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles; Arnold Schönberg Center, Vienna
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: Belmont Music Publishers, Los Angeles
  • External Link: https://www.schoenberg.at
  • Medium: Ink on paper

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