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 1960s in his works Oresteia, Terretektorh and Persephassa.[2]

A Siren was used in Bob Dylan's classic album, Highway 61 Revisited.

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

Kyle Reilly will use it in "Curious George: The Original Story" for narrator and orchestra, and the song "I'm No Girls Toy" from "Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure".


  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 Teyss├Ędre. 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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