ARTCRAFT Newsletter - #6 (May 8, 2001)


Hello Player-Piano enthusiasts,

    We have several announcements to make, before launching into this edition of the Newsletter.  First, Microsoft's Listbot service will closing down, soon. We have already moved Newsletter #1 to a new department on the ARTCRAFT Website - ... and you'll be able to access all the backissues there. (One improvement is that the issues are in HTML, so benefit from bold/italic typefaces ... plus the links to the photographic Web page are direct connections.)

    Second, the 'marathon' of new and replacement ARTCRAFT Rolls, shipped from Play-Rite in California, has finally ended. We were receiving cartons which held about 1-M rolls every two weeks, beginning in August of '00; the last shipments arrived in March of '01 ... and, since the incoming rolls backed up on us, approximately 3-M copies from our Masters were boxed by production run and taken to the Boothbay storage building - about 11 miles from the Wiscasset Studio. Once our Searsport trailer-cottage is reopened for the Season - on May 15th - then we should be perforating at both locations and become more efficient in handling the many valued backorders for ARTCRAFT Rolls. As most readers already know, we have rebuilt an inventory which should last until 2010 -- ten years from now!

    Third, all the new releases are here, so it's a matter of typesetting, processing and getting the logbooks set up for each production run, as the titles are taken - in groups of 8 copies - from the storage building to Wiscasset, for editing/stamping operations.

    Play-Rite has temporarily disassembled their production perforators, which has stalled the release of the Ampico titles already in progress. We estimate that it will be another 1/4 to a 1/2 year before they are able to duplicate the rolls in this format. Meanwhile, the acclaimed CLEOPATRA RAG - created for a West Coast foundation in '88 - is here now, as an ARTCRAFT title, both in the original Ampico edition as well as a brand-new 88-Note roll, recently scored with the Aeolian Soft Pedal as well as for Themodist accent perforations, for pedal and electric instruments so equipped. (If you have a player without the solo system, it's a simple matter to "read" the 'double' accent holes and pedal accordingly, to emphasize the melodic line.)


    Prior issues of the ARTCRAFT Newsletter dealt with the "nuts and bolts" - the 'mechanics', as it were - of roll making, with particular focus on what makes our Interpretive Arrangements so different from the run-of-the-mill, formula rolls of the past.

    This time, we have decided to explore the "marketing" methods used by the piano manufacturers, since they have a decided bearing on roll discussions today. Our editorial treatise in THE PIANOLA NEWS called "DEAD HEADS ON PARADE!" - - has already chronicled the methods by which the pneumatic player action was somehow equated with an artist's performance and that the rolls were sold as 'recordings' - as if they were audio. (The Player-Piano is an arranged music medium, so any linkage between a keyboard artist and the pneumatics operating piano keys via a player action is at best, highly questionable. Fingers and rolls-running-pneumatics are totally different things, each with attributes and limitations of their own, when examined objectively.)

    We are pleased to open this Newsletter with perhaps the corniest (or icky) Aeolian advertisement which ever crossed our desk ... one which might even border on nausea, for some of the readers!

    Usually, Aeolian had the "royal patronage" style of campaign for their players ... or the instrument is shown in a fancy decor ... along with rhapsodic texts about the various aesthetics which would be brought into the home, via the rolls and the use of a Steinway - or one of their own proprietary piano brands. If a "Godowsky in your home" was being proffered, the PRE-RADIO sales approach was this: a) you bought a fine piano, usually an Aeolian product; b) the player was electrically-pumped and was of "an improved type" which transcended their pedal players and c) the Duo-Art feature brought the 'art' of specific musicians into your home musicale.

    [Premise "b" was absolutely correct, and Aeolian often issued pamphlets for their retailers which stressed how the Pianola levers - in the hands of a musically inclined person - could OUTPERFORM even their finest pedal player actions. Premise "c" was the beginning of palming off an arrangement - usually by W. Creary Woods, if classical music - as an 'artist recording' ... but, in the early years, the Duo-Art was seen as something of a "musical educator" ... viz. a keyboard instrument for hand playing, for use with the Duo-Art expression rolls and eventually an interpretive medium wherein the listener got personally involved. He or she could 'cut in' or 'override' the expression arrangement to create an individualistic performance. This is where the "duo" in Duo-Art originated, i.e., a Pianola which was both "performing" and "interpretive". A typical 'Teens description for the semi-automatic part of the player was "The Duo-Art roll 'guides' the Pianola through its fingers of air". Today, we - at ARTCRAFT - just consider the Duo-Art as an ingeneous method of "tugging" on the same hand levers which the accomplished Pianolist has at his/her disposal, but ... since the Edwardian Era is over,  the instrument should be considered for what it is, as a mechanical design.]

    The Duo-Art promotion which we are presenting, represents a departure from the usual ones before radio and electronic audio recording methods. It appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on October 9, 1920 ... a few months after The Great War (W.W. I) had ended and not long before KDKA in Pittsburgh became the first commercial radio station.

    The Aeolian Company decided - in this verbose advertisement - to give the magazine readers a taste of what it was like to be a New York City debutante, a "finishing school" girl whose primary interest in life was to host large parties. (This was not the economic status of the typical Post reader, so the approach was to present an image which - through the purchase of an electric player - would supposedly let the customer 'into' this closed circle of privileged people.)

    We've put the entire text - as it appeared that Fall of 1920 - on this URL link:  There's a 2nd URL with photographs, in this Issue #6 of our Newsletter. Here, you'll find a picture of the advertisement plus two others, one by Wilcox & White - promoting both their pedal players and the Artrio-Angelus 'reproducing' action. Comments about these ads will appear on this linked Webpage:

    As you read my observations about this unusual Duo-Art player advertisement, we invite you to 'jump' to or alternate with the 2 other windows featuring these visual connections to the Newsletter.

    (Note: if you have the latest Opera browser - Version 5.11, which just came out - you can "cascade" or "tile" any number of URLs, hopping from one to another ... or enlarging specific ones to fill the entire display. Opera is faster than the tubby-and-slow IE or Netscape browsers, and it's FREE. Check out Opera at as this might be something which will speed up your Internet experience. We've made Opera our default browser, along with Eudora 5.0.2 as the default E-Mail application. Anyway, Opera will accelerate your checking the text URL against this Newsletter and the page with the .jpg photographs of the actual historic advertising. Just a suggestion, here!)



    Aeolian offered a cast of characters in their letter to "DADDY DEAR" (not to be confused with "Mommy Dearest" - about Joan Crawford).

    "BETTY" writes a long letter to "DADDY DEAR" from her upscale institution of learning(?): "MISS CASTLEMAN'S SCHOOL".

    We learn that her social rival, "ELEANOR LAWRENSON" has a Duo-Art player, often giving parties for "fourteen couples" -- which translates into 28 people PLUS A GRAND PIANO WITH SIX LEGS in the living room. (You can imagine the scale of the Lawrenson residence from that reference alone!)

    Betty's not only a social butterfly, but she uses "man talk" (as heard in dens, smoking rooms and private clubs) ... suggesting that she's really a MALE advertising copy writer, since a Broadway musical was described as "a corking show". Words like "corking", "ripping" or "dashing" were usually not uttered by rich girls caught up in the social whirl of tea dances (with lady fingers arranged in patterns on silver trays).

    You'll have to read the hammy and maudlin paragraph for yourself, where "BETTY" hears piano music for the first time. It's the old ghost-in-the-instrument routine, but it's preceded by her description of the Winter sunset, which can only be described as a text soaked in bathos or treacle!

    "BETTY" has bad vision, apparently, since she never noticed that the typical grand piano doesn't have that many legs ... nor that there's a six inch case spacing between the pin block and the keyboard cover, so "ELEANOR" shows her the 'secret' ... for it's an electric Player-Piano, with a roll hidden inside!

    After a several numbers "played by Paderewski" (a.k.a. W. Creary Woods, the Aeolian staff arranger) - "each touch of his fingers" ... "each tone shade" ... "each phrase of his interpretation was made to live forever" - "ELEANOR" tells "BETTY" to dress for dinner. [You can already detect that this was no ordinary household for a Post subscriber, can't you?]

    The girls head off to Broadway to experience a forgotten 1919 musical called BUDDIES, and the next day "we three girls" pop into Aeolian Hall and buy a Duo-Art roll #1636 featuring two dance arrangements of unmemorable songs from the show: ALTOGETHER TOO FOND OF YOU and I NEVER REALIZED are the numbers, both "played by Frank Banta" (which means Rudy Erlebach, staff arranger, who also did some of the earlier "played by Geo. Gershwin" rolls). The medley is called "quaint and dainty" but it's one of those frozen-settings and LOUD, droning Universal arrrangements ... perhaps softened by the presence of 28 people dancing (while absorbing the sound waves emanating from the grand piano) -- or maybe the lid was closed! "Dainty", the popular rolls from that day were not.

    More people in the "BETTY" circle are introduced: "JIM" (Lawrenson, Eleanor's brother) and cousin "NAN" who gets only a passing reference. "JIM" brings along two unnamed college friends ("buddies?") so we have three couples for socializing as the piano sales pitch takes form.

    It so happens that "JIM" has a well-trained tenor voice, so he uses Duo-Art accompaniment rolls ... which are a performance illusion, since the soloist accompanies the machine. It's great for the listener but can be difficult for the singer or violinist, since the player keeps on going and has the pauses built in, which make no adjustment for the live performer. Duets with player rolls of any kind can be exciting, but they are always due to "accompanying the accompanist", while making the theatrical appearance of being the other way around!

    Now, "BETTY" and her group just happen to have tickets for Carnegie Hall, so they hurry over to spend 2 hours at a Josef Hofmann recital ... enjoying the same music ever more at home, since they are near to the rippling piano keys. (Great job, Creary on those "Hofmann" rolls!)

    It's about this time that "MUMSIE" is brought into the discussion. She's dead, but ... if "BETTY" had a Duo-Art, she could put her head on the shoulder of "DADDY DEAR" and enjoy the music that mother played - perhaps before the 'flu epidemic of 2 years earlier (being 1918)? "MUMSIE" used to perform MELODY IN F by Rubinstein and TO SPRING by Grieg. Can't you just visualize "BETTY" leaning on "DADDY DEAR" and after the last strains of "Hofmann" (Woods) or "Grainger" (Woods) playing these 2 pieces, respectively, the silence is broken with the sounds of: "clunk" (rewind gear pneumatic), "gnash" (nonsynchromesh Aeolian transmission is thrown into reroll mode), "thudda-thudda-thudda" (roll races over the tracker bar with the chafing sounds of the paper rubbing on the metal spool flanges), "buzz" (electric motor shutoff switch operates) and a final "flap-da,flap-da, flap-daaaaaa" sound as the leader slaps around in the spoolbox.

    How this loving pair could conjure up the ghost of "MUMSIE" after that, is a real stretch of the imagination!

    Finally, "BETTY" moves in for the kill. She wants a Duo-Art, just like "ELEANOR" has ... so that she can give big parties on the weekends, too. Moreover, she wants it by Easter Vacation from "MISS CASTELMAN'S SCHOOL". We'll let you read the closing lines for yourself, but it isn't hard to imagine a party girl playing up to her "DADDY" during this period, which actually ended the Edwardian lifestyle - for the privileged - and ushered in the Jazz Age. Flappers were about to replace this kind of society girl, but poor "BETTY" didn't know this. "DADDY" was a year away from the depression of '21, which wiped many family-owned businesses. (After the second warning, in '27, came '29 which stopped this kind of party living ... but Aeolian was still giving the Post readers a glimpse of how electric players would elevate the typical middle class household, which didn't really represent Curtis Publications audience. Country Life Magazine, it was not!)

    One final observation about this particular "BETTY" to "DADDY DEAR" ad should be cited. It concerns the absence of a reference to piano brands (Steinway, Steck, Weber, Wheelock or Stroud, etc.) while an upright is shown with the Metrostyle Pointer, in a vertical position (for manual Pianola interpretations). We never see the six-legged grand piano which "ELEANOR" used as the centerpiece of her social engagements, just an upright. Prices weren't discussed either, which is unusual for this kind of Aeolian promotion. And - most importantly, there's no mention that one can use the Duo-Art for greater musical effect by operating the Pianola levers. Instead, the player is presented as a "pseudo-phonograph", with a reference to the Aeolian-Vocalion, the gramophone and records made by the piano-organ company, until '24, when that part of their business was sold off to the Brunswick enterprises.

    This whole discussion of "MUMSIE" reminds me of AUNTIE MAME (both the book and the Rosalind Russell movie) by Patrick Dennis. [Skip the Lucille Ball musical film, even though the music is pretty good. She wasn't the "Mame type" and the film bombed, justifiably.]

    Remember the 'Upson Downs' house in Darien, Connecticut? The line "Aryan from Darien" and the disgusting references to Muriel Puce? Muriel was going to a finishing school where the "girls were all top drawer" and studied "English Lit and like that". Aeolian was definitely trying to attract the Muriel Puce market, back in 1920.

    [Note: if our foreign readers and domestic Pianola fans have not read AUNTIE MAME - or seen the definitive movie by Rosaline Russell - it's time to catch up on the bygone lifestyles of that period. Treat yourself to some hilarious entertainment!]

    Postscript to the "MUMSIE"+"MURIEL PUCE" topic: We've seen automobile bumper stickers in Connecticut which say "The Girls from Glastonbury are ALL 'Top Drawer'" - a community which isn't that far away from Darien! (We often wonder how many people read that line on passing cars and are unable to decipher the innuendo reference to AUNTIE MAME.)

L. Douglas Henderson - ARTCRAFT Music Rolls
Wiscasset, Maine 04578 USA
May 6, 2001

    The 2nd linked URL (Webpage), beyond  [suggested for reference while reading my comments above, regarding the 1920 magazine advertisement], is

    This additional photographic URL has pictures of piano ads and further commentary, including the image of the original Aeolian layout - as it appeared in Saturday Evening Post. Check it out!


Closing remarks:

    Again, we will be dividing our time between the Wiscasset Studio and 'ARTCRCAFT North' (our seaside trailer in Searsport, Maine) - perforating new Master Rolls at both locations. If you can't reach us by telephone at (207) 882-7420 in Wiscasset, try writing us via E-Mail:   We have been on-line via laptops connected to cellular 'phones since 1997, so read and reply to the Internet mail daily, when at either address.

    If you have any "Ampico friends" you might suggest that they subscribe to this Newsletter series, since all announcements about the NEW rolls will appear here first. Bulletins for re-release of CLEOPATRA RAG (for Ampico) and the other titles which are here, will be sent out by this Internet method as well.

    We are going to "clear out" the many boxes of old commercial rolls at the Boothbay storage building, since the 'Year 2010' supply needs more space. Thus, we are getting involved with eBay and already have an illustrated Webpage which you might check out -   If you are interested in hand-picked, often very rare, and good condition "old rolls" - many for special instruments such as the National - watch the eBay site for ARTCRAFT offerings, soon. There will probably be a Bulletin for the first offerings, once we get set up for eBay selling on a box-by-box basis ... a sideline to our primary activities for making NEW Interpretive Arrangements and augmenting the performance potential of the Player-Piano.   As we said above, Microsoft is deleting "year old" Newsletters from their server, so we've started our own Archive Department (with HTML versions of the periodicals) here -

    With two locations running, soon, and three Leabarjan perforators ... this should be a productive Summer season, coming up.

    Musically yours,
        (signed) Douglas Henderson - May 7, 2001

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ARTCRAFT Newsletters and ARTCRAFT Music Rolls are published by L. Douglas Henderson
ARTCRAFT Music Rolls, PO Box 295, Wiscasset, ME 04578 USA
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