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Acme siren

The Acme siren is a musical instrument used in concert bands for comic effect. Often used in cartoons, it produces the stylized sound of a police siren. It is one of the few aerophones in the percussion section of an orchestra.

The instrument is typically made of metal and is cylindrical. Inside the cylinder is a type of fan-blade which, when the performer blows through one end, spins and creates the sound. The faster the performer blows, the faster the fan-blade moves and the higher the pitch the instrument creates. Conversely, the slower the performer blows, the lower the pitch.[1]

Iannis Xenakis used it in the '60s in his works Oresteia, Terretektorh and Persephassa.[2]

The siren was used in Bob Dylan's classic album, Highway 61 Revisited.

Acme is the trade name of J. Hudson & Co. of Birmingham who developed and patented the Acme Siren in 1895. It was sometimes known as "the cyclist's road clearer".[3]


  1. ^ "Acme Siren". Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Archived from the original on 28 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-27. 
  2. ^ Xenakis, Iannis; Olivier Messiaen (1985). Arts-sciences, Alloys: The Thesis Defense of Iannis Xenakis, Oliver Messiaen, Michel Ragon, Olivier Revault D'Allonnes, Michel Serres, and Bernard Teyssèdre. Pendragon Press. p. 118. 
  3. ^ "Acme Referee's or Teacher's Whistle". Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
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