Jean-Jacques Perrey (January 20, 1929-November 4, 2016) was a music prodigy whose fascination with science fiction and new technology led him to electronic music in some of its most nascent forms.
When he met Georges Jenny, the inventor of the Ondioline, a kind of proto-synthesizer, he quit medical school and became a sales representative for the instrument. Using vacuum tube circuitry, the Ondioline had slider switches, which, when positioned in different configurations, could mimic the tone of almost any instrument. Its keyboard was suspended on springs, so that it could achieve a natural vibrato, as one hears on a violin.
Perrey made his way to the U.S. in the 1960s and contributed sounds to the commercial and entertainment industries. (As a sign of his mainstream acceptance, his music has been used in Disneyland and on “The Simpsons.”) As electronics became more sophisticated, Perrey moved from the Ondioline to the Moog. He often teamed up with American composer Gershon Kingsley, and the duo’s albums have provided inspiration to groups such as Stereolab, the Beastie Boys and hip-hop producer Timbaland.