ARTCRAFT Newsletter - #2 (June 18, 2000)


    We thought that enthusiasts of the Ampico 'reproducing' player might like to read about an original expression roll which "outdid" itself, when compared to the usual fare. Normally, this writer expresses extreme disappointment with most of their commercial arrangements, but today a 'far-better-than-average' release of 1924 was performed on the Brewster pedal Ampico: NAILA Waltz, arranged by Dohnányi upon ballet music by Léo Delibes ... and "played by Mieczyslaw Münz". (Well ... arranged by staff musicians Delcamp and/or Susskind "from" a performance by Münz -- and played, indirectly, by a Pianolist in the Summer of 2000.)

    There's a reason why this particular roll achieved musical results which (almost) paralleled our modern Interpretive Arrangements, for NAILA belonged to a group of rolls which were "promoted with" the Ampico - a choice collection of titles which "showed off" the instrument in the retail store and "closed the sale" (to quote from the company's original literature). LIEBESTRAUM by Liszt and PIQUE DAME Overture by von Suppé were also among these special arrangements which emphasized the better attributes of the 5-step + 2-speed crescendo design of the expression system.

    When not being used for showroom floor demonstrations, rolls such as NAILA were boxed up to start the typical customer's Ampico collection, a potpourri of selections which appealed to the taste spectrum of the 'Twenties. Depending upon how much the new Ampico owner wished to spend, these 'Readers Digest' parcels were grouped in lots of 15, 25, usually 50 and on occasion 100 ... all arrangements which took the generally bland Ampico into the realm of spectacular performance - something which their other 4000 or so arrangements often did not! NAILA had the 'Selected Recordings Service' (roll subscription) label with the explanatory text, plus bluish tint labels designating it as part of the "FAVORITE TWENTY-FIVE" ... something which came with our Fischer Baby Ampico in the 'Sixties, an electric bungalow upright with a fine piano tone ... but absolutely no hand controls for the Pianolist to operate. (The roll was placed into the top of the instrument, where the Tempo Control operated from a 'springy' automobile choke cable ... for readers who are old enough to recall that manual linkage feature on vintage automobiles!)

    [Those who bought the Ampico "FAVORITE FIFTY" in 1927 received rolls with gold labels ... which are impressive, even today, when one encounters a copy with a pristine box, still sporting a shiny example of this promotional packaging!]

    NAILA Waltz - Ampico #56336 - introduces all sorts of sweeping arpeggios laced with liquid crescendo effects, most requiring the #1 + #5 holes in the tracker bar, which operate the faster speed for the musical effect. While the construction of this expression arrangement might "slip by" one listening casually to an electrically-powered Ampico player, the pedal instrument (known as the 'Marque Ampico') talks to the operator in a fashion unique to the pedal expression player. Every crescendo, each fermata (pause) and all the stylish runs - often with chord inversions - literally took this '26 Brewster upright through the entire range of the piano's inherent dynamics. While the writer, as a pedal Pianolist - operating the player with the expression system turned off - could achieve these same results, it's something short of astounding when one can move his/her feet and achieve a musical performance which would turn all heads in a prominent musicale, as in the case of this particular 'reproducing' roll. Of course, the manual interpreter has the 'edge' since he/she is not limited to 5 lock-and-cancel steps (P.P., P., M.F., F., F.F.) with a crescendo effect to slide up or down from these fixed levels. Still, the automatic expression system performed amazingly well, especially when one realizes that absolutely no musical knowledge was necessary in order to achieve such good virtuoso playing in the pneumatic player medium.

    When a roll is played by yours truly which suggests few changes (via remastering), then applause is due. Outside of the totally mathematical trills - which could have graduated striking BEYOND the automatic expression - and a couple of places where the ritardando (or pause) was a bit affected, the intensities and the sustaining pedal effects met the modern performance standards. This roll definitely has none of the "ham" which marred some of the original Ampico rolls discussed in Issue #1 of our Studio Newsletter.

    [You might want to read some of the text in Issue #1 of our Newsletter, devoted in part to a series of old Ampico expression rolls. On one performance session, a 'Twenties QRS Roll provided the 'musical relief' from what was, by and large, a dreary series of old 'reproducing' rolls. See for that information.]

    This was the first playing of NAILA Waltz in about 25 years, having opened a marked carton of rolls in the ARTCRAFT roll storage building. It's not a selection one would wish to play daily, being frothy and "cute" in a virtuoso manner ... but it definitely is something one can use to impress a visitor (when not playing our Interpretive Arrangements). Obviously, The American Piano Co. knew a good thing when it had a composition that "sold pianos". NAILA was produced in several versions, including a snappy Fox Trot arrangement. The "played by Ornstein" roll of Liszt's LIEBESTRAUM was issued in no less than 6 different arrangements, changing in a) paper speed travel; b) note sostenuto (perforation elongation); c) sustaining pedal scores; d) intensity settings; and e) crescendo scoring. Did Leo Ornstein really play LIEBESTRAUM that many times for the Ampico?  Hardly. The staff artisans merely 'updated' the piece with another arrangement whenever their expression players were supposed to achieve a 'better' musical effect, or when there was a major conversion from the 2-crescendo models to the 1-crescendo system (for both scale halves), starting in 1929 with the grand piano series. (Artist "Münz" had nothing to do with the roll that the Brewster was playing, for this was sophisticated programming via perforations, using the total resources of the Ampico expression system.) You can see why we elect to use the word 'reproducing' with qualifying quotation marks or apostrophes, depending upon the sentence structure!

    The novice 88-Note Player-Pianist, who achieves the basic accents and imparts a 'fuzzy' texture to such romantic music can - with practice - achieve effective results with this particular kind of arrangement. (The Waltz, incidentally, also appears in the "dream sequence" of LE COSAIRE by Ludwig Minkus, of the Russian Imperial Ballet; there was a collaboration between the French composer and the lesser-known writer of St. Petersburg ballets, so melodies by Drigo and others often appear in these pastiche dance scores, from time to time.) However, the pedal Ampico - or the ubiquitous electric model - does full justice to the swiftly changing dynamics, especially with the myriad crescendo effects. Only a skilled Pianolist, with honed 'roll reading' abilities and a total command of the instrument can rival or surpass the automatic expression score. Therein lies the potential of the pedal Ampico ... when used with stellar rolls: past/present. After learning the 'fixed' automatic arrangement, one can switch off the Ampico feature and play it in the 88-Note mode, experiencing every subtle effect as the valves and 'feel' of the action, as it "communicates" with the interpreter ... in the personal way that only a manually-controlled instrument can.

    Generally speaking, anybody with a minimum of musical aptitude can outplay the average commercial Ampico roll. This roll - from the "FAVORITE TWENTY-FIVE" - is unusual, so it's worth a second look - if only to savour what good expression arranging and tasteful perforating meter can achieve. It's too bad that the entire Ampico library never measured up to the standards of this ... and other rolls in the boxed 'numercial' series designated as "favorite recordings"!


    During the three year period when I frequented the old Bronx, New York factory, where QRS 88-Note and QRS-Recordo 'reproducing' rolls were still being made (the latter still being recut, but no longer arranged after the mid-'Thirties), the second floor plant was a strange place ... totally frozen-in-time. The methods were still based on pneumatic reading, reduction Masters on heavy stock (with sprockets, like a motion picture film) and these, in turn, operated large multi-roll duplicating machines - apparently designed during the days of Melville Clark, since many aspects suggested the "wide" 15 1/2" rolls the earlier company produced, from the Apollo Concert Grand (88-Note), to Solo-Apollo (88-Note with a 'theme' scale, often with the Art Apollo expression system) and the orchestrion rolls such as the Seeburg H arrangements for the wonderful 'Masked Marvel' solo instrument. [Note: both 65-Note and standard 88-Note player action scales were used for a variety of purposes on the Melville Clark/Clark Orchestra Roll machinery, differing primarily in the 6 holes/inch verus the now-standard 9 holes/inch which began after a 1910 international conference in Buffalo, New York.]

    Buying QRS from the QRS-DeVry Corporation, in 1931, was a calculated risk for Max Kortlander ... since the music roll branch of the former piano company had diversified into gramophone records, neon tubes, radio speakers, toy reed organ players (QRS  Play-A-Sax, etc.), 35mm cameras, 16mm movie projectors, radio tubes, radio speakers and a host of other products which really didn't relate that much to the business of arranging and publishing player rolls.

    Otto Schulz had just purchased the American Automatic Typewriter Co., which went bankrupt, adding a "tune selecting" patent that came from a Seeburg auction, and this became - after years of struggle - the lucrative word processing machine, the Auto-Typist ... a player roll machine that operated a typewriter using the familiar electric Pianola components, but encased in a 'desk cabinet' which often hid the equipment from view. Schulz' family business was M. Schulz, which owned a variety of piano factories, including Brinkerhoff and Weser, builder of highly efficient player actions ... but, as Otto wrote in a personal letter to this writer in the 'Seventies, "After I came out of college and joined the family's piano business, there was a 30% drop in sales annually, until by 1930 it was all gone."  Being a pneumatic whiz - and friend of Ed Link (who ran a coin-operated player and orchestrion business) - he used his talents for the pneumatic equivalent of 'computer letters'. The Auto-Typist lasted from 1933-1975 as a business, closing with his retirement and the advent of IBM typewriters switching over to magnetic cards in 1969 ... which ended their tie-in with office machine sales. Sales of the Auto-Typist fell drastically from that period until the voluntary closing of the Chicago area plant some 6 years later.

    Schulz, Link and Kortlander all came from the player action and "tinkering" period of American music: pneumatic/mechanical developments and a streamlined production of them. When Link continued after the demise of players, he used his interest in aviation to develop the 'Link Trainer' - once used by the military as well as a coin-operated device in amusement parks during the 'Thirties and the 'Forties. When Schulz closed Auto-Typist, he had developed "keyboard testers" for Smith-Corona typewriters ... pneumatic pistons that operated the keys of office machines, and which - like the Link airplane simulator - relied on many designs developed during the heyday of the pneumatic player actions. Similarly, Max Kortlander thought that with a name like "Imperial Industrial" (Imperial being part of the old Cable Co.'s music roll line, purchased about 1923 by QRS under the previous management), he could branch out into other lines - especially those which involved office equipment. Remington had a pneumatic typing machine for a time, not as reliable as the Auto-Typist, called the 'Robotyper' and the Kortlander enterprise did any number of player harmonica rolls as well as those for the J. Chein Co.'s 'Melody Player' ... and again, in my time, their 'Pianolodeon' toy of the early 'Sixties.

    What kept QRS going so effectively in the 'Thirties were the sundry 'reproducing' (expression) roll libraries which he and the QRS-DeVry Corp. had acquired, starting with 'Recordo', then Angelus (formerly Artrio-Angelus) ... and finally the Welte-Mignon Licensee, a Kohler & Campbell product for many years. The QRS-Artecho 'reproducing' rolls - also called Apollo by Wurlitzer - were an early 'Twenties development involving a partnership of several different companies, which is why the instrument had several names, including the Celco Reproducing Medium. There was still a small market for new 'reproducing' players in the 'Thirties, plus a LARGER demand for rolls to keep the second hand instruments playing - for resale, on the showroom floors. (Think how many repossessed expression players were on the market in the early years of the Great Depression; updated with a collection of rolls, they could be used in hotel lobbies, played at radio stations - for musical interludes - and resold to those desiring a 'reproducing' player at vastly lower prices the second time around. Meanwhile, the 'Recordo' player - an "open to the industry" concept - continued to be built by Wurlitzer, Janssen, Kohler and others - using leftover parts from the 'Twenties and/or creating new mechanisms for the changing times. (These included the Janssen Colonial-style secretaries, which featured a 'Recordo' player in the desk section and often an AM radio which was built into part of the bookshelves above! Such "musical furniture" continued to be produced in limited quantities until 1938 ... all requiring a source of supply for the expression rolls: QRS under Kortlander.)

    Max told me that every few years they'd assemble a lot of 200-500 'reproducing' titles and run them through the perforating machines. Often these were for export purposes, where a dealership in New Zealand or Argentina, for example, sold "everbody" the same brand of expression player, creating a solid but limited market for more products. Brochures for Artecho and 'Recordo' were printed until 1941, along with the typical ones for 88-Note rolls. Up through the 'Fifties, Imperial Industrial published a seldom-seen 'broadside' called "Favorite Selections" ... and this contained many gems from the old days, as well as the M-series 88-Note rolls (recycled from 'Recordo') and QRS-Recordo rolls, featuring everything from Kortlander's DINNER MOSAICS through Ferdinand Himmelriech's arpeggio-laden transcription of Boccherini's MINUET. Many of these were adapted from earlier Welte-Mignon rolls and also the Wilcox & White Artrio rolls, and most were far better than the predictiable 'singles' which had been churned out by J. Lawrence Cook for several decades.

    When I was "there" - following a long period of correspondence and exchange of open reel tapes (this being before Cassettes!) in the 'Fifties - QRS was marketing duplicated copies of OLD medley and/or 'reproducing' rolls, but only short-playing, thin 'singles' - patterned after the playing time of 45 rpm records. At that period there was no interest in resuming medley rolls of Broadway shows, but this changed with the next managment, which moved the operation to Buffalo, New York - where it remains today.

    Most commercial rolls, especially those of popular music, have a "sound". This is the formula, the requirements into which the music was forced for a variety of reasons, from expediency as well as catering to the stepping standards and requirements of the duplicating perforators. This "sound" overrides the nature of the musical melody, in most cases, so a roll of FORTY-SECOND STREET or BYE-BYE BLACKBIRD would have a QRS "sound" ... an Ampico "effect" ... or a Duo-Art "aura", and so on. The 'Twenties QRS rolls were, by and large, designed to work on players in the field, which meant instruments that weren't in top condition; the formulae was influenced by this fact. The Ampico rolls tended to have an organ-like sound, muted Fox Trots that were at home in restaurants as background music. Duo-Art popular rolls, mostly the work of Frank C. Milne in the later days before the Aeolian-American merger, had a tea room nature to them, spritely, inoffensive, staccato arrangements which didn't make waves, but didn't drone as many of the 88-Note roll rolls of the day did. By the 'Thirties, when Mr. Cook became the mainstay of QRS, there was a shift to the piano bar or 'cocktail lounge' sound ... and QRS used it for everything, from BEGIN THE BEGUINE to SOUTH AMERICA, TAKE IT AWAY, from THE MUSIC GOES 'ROUND AND 'ROUND to EBB-TIDE, the formula meant that - save for the melodic differences - the performance arrangement was pretty much the same. (For one who heard the audio recordings 'first', and not the rolls which came from 'sheet music sources + formula methods', the whole aspect of "forcing the music" into specific requirements was something that I never liked from the start. It's what made rolls such a disappointment and a bore, once the novelty of the moving keys wore off.)
However, aesthetics aside, the formula kept the quantity going and the prices low, since this was a "product" in their viewpoint and not the "art form" that Pianola rolls could have been (and are today, with ARTCRAFT arrangements).

    Here are some of the tell-tale aspects of the Imperial Industrial Co.'s rule book. When I didn't follow the "rules", the rolls were rejected by Cook - or he took it upon himself to shorten his arrangement-of-my-arrangement while adding the 'cocktail lounge' striking and chords were were absent from my Master Rolls. Of course, the phony 'artist' business was still in effect in my time, so the 1 of 3 that were released as QRS Rolls say "played by Douglas Henderson" on them when they were arranged without a piano in Washington, DC - using an Estey missionary organ to test chord patterns!  The final version of #9838 YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME was really a Cook roll "based upon" the originals, all of which I repurchased from Herman Kortlander - Max's brother - shortly before the roll manufacturing business changed hands in the mid-'Sixties. Even though I followed the "rules" on #9838, which were a limiting factor in what a musican could perforate, I don't consider this my roll any more than most (now deceased) virtuoso pianists considered their Ampico, Duo-Art or Welte rolls "their performances" ... in spite of advertising puffery to the opposite.

    Music rolls should run at Tempo 75, in order to "save vacuum" for leaking air motors for the spoolbox + pneumatic stacks that aren't tight. (There goes a chance for great staccato striking!) Staccato should be eliminated unless absolutely necessary, since valves often fail in old age and "We don't want the customers saying 'everything plays but this particular new roll'." Overlap cutting should replace staccato, as in marimba arrangements and the QRS Bluebird Ballad marches of the 'Twenties; these perforations are kind to out-of-regulation player action valves. True jazz rhythm (or 'swing' beat) should be eliminated since it's costlier to have duple/triple meter scales for dotted 8th notes + 16ths (jazz) versus "tied-triplets" which fake this rhythm. [You got the correct beat on old Mel-O-Dee dance rolls, Capitol-Supertone releases and many other independent brands; compare the rhythm of these with something by Cook in the 'Thirties through the 'Sixties, and you'll see how important the correct musical 'beat' really is! A Supertone roll has "snap" and a QRS/Cook arrangement will drone, yielding a bland pneumatic performance.]

    Arrangements should be kept within the range of 65-Notes, in order to play on old pre-1909 instruments which got converted with an 88-Note tracker bar, and 'tees' to divert the dead perforations to notes in the middle of the piano scale. By the time I appeared at Imperial Industrial Co. in 1960, the Aeolian-American Corp. was building a 64-Note player spinet called The Pianola ... so the idea of catering to this diminutive instrument was valid, up to a point -- at the expense of the majority of Player-Piano enthusiasts who enjoyed a range of 80 to 88 playing keys!

    Cook added his "connected note" treble melody lines, which reminded me of organ playing, set against those chromatic 10ths in the bass, always tied-triplet beats. Sixths - that "home show" organist chord pattern - dominated the accompaniment and for variety? a triplet countermelody would tweedle around Middle C on one of the choruses. At times, Max Kortlander revived Victor Arden, J. Russell Robinson and others from the 'Twenties; whether these were just names on roll labels or scores sent to Cook for his use on their arranging machinery (a piano connected to a noisy Master Roll perforator), doesn't matter; the finished results received these same formula effects, bearing his musical stamp completely.

    One thing which was cut out of my Masters was the "instrumental piano solo" - appearing in the middle of the arrangement. Howard Lutter used this extensively on his brown box Welte-Mignon Licensee rolls (also issued under other names, of course!) and they introduced an element of performance excitement in the roll arrangement - as if a pianist were breaking away from the printed page, before recapitulating with a final chorus of the actual piece. Such interludes were a no-no in the "rules" at Imperial Industrial, as well as the trick ending. (Cook insisted in that typical barroom "gush" of 6ths, ending the music - no matter what type it might be!)

    It must be stated, however, that these workers at QRS were just "following a job routine" as they had done in previous days, many having worked for other music roll enterprises along the way. Everything was static, and with the diminishing nature of the field, the procedures were retained but scaled down. "Rules" prevailed at every turn, since the playable 88-Note roll or the spocketed heavy paper one on the arranging piano-perforator, had to be edited rapidly and with procedures that didn't challenge the worker. I remember MISTY being arranged by Mr. Cook when I was there; this went from Master Roll to finished product without ever being played, since formulae of this kind became 'visual' after so many years. If a little (modern) Musette player were used on occasion, next to the large duplicating perforators, it was to check the tracking of the finished rolls ... not for listening to the music over the din of the pneumatic-mechanical equipment.

    Thus, it should be of little surprise to the reader that - after a few years of collecting old rolls - you can pick up a copy of MOANIN' LOW on Ampico, or AMONG MY SOUVENIRS on Duo-Art or THE PRUNE SONG on QRS, and you know what it will sound like without ever putting the formula roll on your player instrument.

    If one relates rolls to motion pictures - as did the old player industry in many innuendo advertising campaigns - then consider this: Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Chaplin, Woody Allen, Buster Keaton  and producer Harry M. Popkin made only a handful of feature films, but most of them are indelible in our minds, even today. By contrast, who remembers the producer or director for the 'flow' of Hollywood movies at Monogram, Columbia, Grand National or PRC? The metaphor of "art form" - in a commercial sense - and "product" is apt in such discussions of the cinéma.

    One wonders what the destiny of the pedal Player-Piano and the electrically-pumped 'Reproducing' player would have been IF a few challenging rolls had been made available to the dedicated music roll public from the 'Thirties onward. The general public had left, for radio, automobiles and other pursuits, but there was still a core of Pianolists who could have accepted improved rolls, ones which shed the industry formulae. Unfortunately, that market wasn't considered. Even as late as the 'Eighties, the industry - small that it was - referred to such enthusasts as "collectors" ... often spoken with mild disdain, as if "customers" (who would tire of the instrument) were the main focus. I was even told on several occasions that people buy about 30 rolls when the player is 'new' to the houshold, and that's the end of them as a customer.

    The 'end' of the new player roll purchaser - including those with Hardman/Aeolian players from 1956-1985 - probably came about because of the "rules" for arranging, but these suggestions of this kind fell on deaf ears at the time. I was 21 at Imperial Industrial and the others were senior citizens. What did I know about this niche field, when compared to their decades of experience? Of course, they understand the industry "as it was" while I represented the new potential, or what I called a Pianola Renaissance.

    If a music roll doesn't build to a climax and introduce new thematic material in the process (or different striking, pedal effects and/or breaks), then the customer has been cheated. Similarly, the roll can also fade into the ether - if the music calls for this diminuendo effect. Something HAS TO HAPPEN in music, just like storytelling.

    While British Meloto and Germany's Animatic series continued to improve in the note-scores for Player-Piano performances, the American rolls fell into a musical rut. The domestic situation was worsened because QRS absorbed smaller companies for the purpose of closing them down. Vocalstyle, U. S. Music Rolls, Paramount, Connorized and other brands were eliminated in this fashion, many having more challenging arrangements in their catalogues than QRS-DeVry or Imperial Industrial Co. ever did. What was the effect of this? Independent piano manufacturers, such as Janssen and Bogart, who continued to build small quantities of new player instruments had "nothing to sell" beyond formula music. This created a secondary downward spiral, since there was really only one brand for the latest music rolls, so who wanted to purchase a new Pianola when the fare was so lackluster and predictable? Meanwhile, even though the storm clouds were rising in Europe, England produced players up to the start of the War and Germany continued with pedal grands at Bluethner and other factories until 1936 ... instruments which did have imaginative arrangements for their few fortunate customers.

    This is all "what if" conjecture, but this writer is convinced - to this day - that a deluxe line of select rolls could have kept the player industry going ... and ready for a full fledged revival after the Second World War.

    It all seems like yesterday, but many of these viewpoints and experiences of mine are now about a Half Century old! Time flies.

L. Douglas Henderson
June 17. 2000
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    That title ought to get some attention!

    Deems Taylor was very active in the American musical scene in the 'Twenties through the 'Forties, writing a ballet titled A KISS IN XANADU (appearing on Duo-Art rolls), composing an opera for Lawrence Tibbett called THE KING'S HENCHMEN ('27), publishing a book on historic movies and appearing as the Narrator in Disney's FANTASIA ('40), beyond being the radio commentator for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra broadcasts ... and eventually a spokesman for the postwar Radio Craftsmen early high fidelity components (remember them?).

    In 1925 Taylor was hired by The Aeolian Company to witness some Duo-Art demonstration concerts at their celebrated Hall ... and, from comparing the excessive text with his other literary works, I should imagine that staff writers turned his "concert notes" into exuberant multi-page rhapsodies about the expression player "reproducing" the artist on an adjacent piano. While about six of these reviews were published in upscale magazines of the time, I have seen two of them: one for Arthur Friedman and another for Ignaz Paderewski. The Friedman event featured the virtuoso pianist playing a duet with a special Duo-Art roll, made for this purpose, of Liszt's LES PRELUDES. Taylor's text claimed that it was impossible to tell the expression player from the live artist, but what fascinated me was the opening statement, in which he quoted a line from H. G. Wells' novel of 1909, TONO-BUNGAY, wherein the Pianola was described as (quote) "a musical gorilla with fingers ... and a sort of soul."

    What a strange opening for an advertising text which was promoting a pneumatic player which supposedly ran unattended, bringing the art of pianists into one's living room - as if it were a radio or an Orthophonic Victrola!

    Eventually, I secured a copy of the book from a friend - a Modern Library reprint of the 'Thirties - and set upon the task of finding that "musical gorilla".

    It turns out that TONO-BUNGAY was a novel about the fading British aristocracy, the coming of a new Century filled with technology, acid descriptions of shopkeepers and flim-flammers in the late Victorian Era ... all centered about an elixir, a cure-all, called "Tono-Bungay" -- which, over the course of many pages, gets built into a corporate empire, only to collapse in financial ruin. Throughout the narrative, George Ponderevo (the narrator Wells created) floats into and out of emotional ties with Beatrice, a lady of higher station. Eventually, toward the end of the saga, the two meet ... play a 65-Note Pianola (attached to a piano keyboard) ... find a 12-day romance, and part forever. It's the only case where I've seen a player instrument in the middle of a love scene, really.

    What makes Taylor's quote so weird - in 1925 - is that the Pianola was an external attachment for the pianoforte, a heavy instrument with a 65-Note scale that rolled up to the keyboard - playing it with felt-tipped "fingers". The Pianola - and similar piano-players of the day - was an INTERPRETIVE instrument: the rolls were mathematical sheet music transfers, annotated with performance suggestions and all was under the control of the artistic Pianolist, who controlled the vacuum, pedal shadings and the tempi.

    By contrast, the Duo-Art  'Reproducing' Piano (formerly called the Duo-Art Pianola in earlier Aeolian advertising) was an electrically-powered player instrument, but using special rolls with perforations that, in turn, caused graduated pneumatics to "tug" on the human interpreter's control levers for these same functions. Contrary to the 'record/playback' claims of the manufacturer, the Duo-Art merely substituted generalized dynamic 'commands' in the form of marginal perforations for a type of performance which a musician could execute manually - and often with superior results! With the Duo-Art expression rolls, the player was a PERFORMING instrument. (This is where the term "duo-art" originates: "interpretive" and "performing" in the same player action.)

    Why a completely manual player was being compared with the sit-and-listen Duo-Art is something that makes no sense to this writer. Was Taylor being "arty" or just plain idiotic? The focus is on the Pianolist, as outlined in the Wells novel, for he/she brings the perforated music to life. The sales pitch of the Duo-Art - when not being used with the versatile hand-controls - was that it was electrically operated (like the radio or a vacuum cleaner), replayed an artist's own performance (not true!) and that it was a self-acting "listening" instrument.

    Where does the "musical gorilla" fit into the Duo-Art sales pitch? To this day, it doesn't make sense.

    The Pianola - even a Metrostyle model - appears several times in TONO-BUNGAY, primarily as part of the décor of the Nouveau Riche, which was replacing the creaky English nobility. What a surprise it was, in the concluding pages, to discover it was also the focus of a brief romance.

    We've included this part of the H. G. Wells text for you to read, along with photographic pictures and information about 65-Note rolls, which were the major format in the United States and the British Empire from 1899-1909, when the standardized 88-Note rolls replaced them.

    Here's the Website that links to this Newsletter:

    If you have Issue #1 - which features contrasting pictures of 88-Note rolls - but lack the link to its special Internet page, here's that address as well:


    We've enjoyed putting out these 'mailing list' Newsletters, and we also delight in the positive feedback some of the readers have been sending to us. If you are reading this as a .doc (MS-Word) file - often sent to those who haven't subscribed - you can sign up by following the instructions on the bottom of the ARTCRAFT Home Page -

    Our new releases are "coming" ... but ... we are, at this writing, still waiting for the shipments to arrive here in Maine. We'll put out a Bulletin the moment concrete information is available.

    Meanwhile, it's been a pleasure launching this Player-Piano communication, and we hope that the readers will 'double' ... as they have in between the first 2 Issues.

Regards from Maine,
L. Douglas Henderson - June 18, 2000

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