Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monarch TM-20: Marcel Breuer's microphone?

In 1919, Weimar, Germany, was home to the most famous fine art/design school there ever existed. Until 1933, it would be relocated two times, until the pressure of the Nazi regime caused it to shut down. It would turn into a center of artists, lecturers and teachers that would be known up to this day, such as Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, and Piet Mondrian. Their names may not be commonly known to everyone outside of the design world, but certainly many of their works and pieces are. Who has never seen a Breuer’s Wassily chair, if not only in a magazine? (Curious note: although many might think the name was given by Breuer to honor his Bauhaus colleague Wassily Kandinsky, it was actually given by an Italian manufacturer in the 60’s, because Kandinsky was one of the first to have a post-prototype model).

Marcel Breuer's Wassily chair
Coinciding in time with the boom of industrialization and the concept of mass production, along with the start of the Art Deco style, it was only normal that I remembered of Bauhaus as soon as I saw the Monarch TM-20 for the first time. If there ever was a music & technology department at Bauhaus, this microphone would have certainly been created there. Its lines are pure Art Deco, and just like the other microphones of its time, the design is a modern wannabe that became classical for us today.

 Back in the 1950’s/60’s, a lot of smaller manufacturers shared the same microphone body of others, just changing the name plates. That happened with Shure and Stromberg-Carlson, with Electro-Voice and Ampex, and many others. I don’t know exactly how and why that happened, but it’s pretty common to be confused by trying to find out who made what microphone first. This is the case with this Monarch TM-20. I have a Lafayette 99-4581 that’s practically the same, except for the base. They were both made in Japan, and information on them are equally hard to come by. All I know is that its design is pretty distinct, and certainly stands apart most of the vertical and/or oval shaped microphones of the time. The DS rarity scale: 9/10.

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