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Ralph Deutsch, Digital Music, and More

by Les Deutsch
September 2011

This article is not meant to be a scholarly biography of Ralph Deutsch. Rather, this is a set of personal reminiscences and stories about him committed to paper (at least virtually) at the time of his passing. Ralph Deutsch was my father as well as my teacher and role model. However, his contributions to general society were substantial and are unlikely to ever be known by many others.

My father was a highly personal man. He avoided publicity and seemed to be entirely satisfied by his feelings of self-accomplishment. Even people who believed they knew him well for a long time were surprised to hear of his achievements outside of their limited visibility.

For example, he was known – in a small community – as the father of the digital organ. Simply put, he was the first to develop a real-time playable musical instrument based on digital electronics. Today we take these instruments for granted. Most keyboard instruments today are digital – including those we play on our smart phones. There are literally tens of millions of these musical instruments. They pervade our lives and are heard on nearly all contemporary recordings, motion pictures, and television programs. Yet the senior rabbi who officiated at my father’s funeral, who had known him fairly well for at least 40 years, had no idea of my father’s connection to that industry.

Ralph Deutsch excelled in each of his endeavors. His life spanned a multitude of careers. He was a handyman, a musician, a mathematician, a physicist, a spacecraft navigator, and a professional inventor. I will attempt to explain all of this. I will provide references when they are available. Please treat this for what it is. I sometimes like to say, sarcastically, that the Internet never lies – and I’m making this statement this on the Internet.