The Series of 9 Pianola Concerts at Searsport
July & August, 2001
See this Illustrated Web page — http://www.wiscasset.net/artcraft/concerts.htm
[The reviews, which follow, were submitted to The Mechanical Music Digest, as a series of 9 E-Mail postings. The Digest is referred to as the "MMD" in the subsequent texts.]
The Player-Piano concerts, which ware described in great detail, were assembled in "descending order" for the several Newsletters which presented them, grouped together. If you wish to read this series of 'stories' about our peformances at Searsport Shores — and how we "grew" along with the unique conditions presented by a forest/seaside cmapground setting — you can access each of them in chronological order, below. Each successive ARTCRAFT Newlsetter will present the texts, which were originally E-Mail messages, transmitted from our cellular 'phone to the newsgroup.
PIANOLA Concert #1
PIANOLA Concert #2
PIANOLA Concert #3
PIANOLA Concert #4
PIANOLA Concert #4 - Searsport Shores (7-21-2001)
[Return to the PIANOLA Concert Menu]
Hello MMD readers,
The fourth, in our series of nine Player-Piano concerts, attracted the largest audience - so far - and was, clearly, the best received.
We opened with a short description of Maine's own pianist-composer-entertainer, Glenn Jenks (of Camden), and then started the program with his lively number, THE WRONG RAG - featuring both the keyboard score (perforated "interpretively") and the Pianola variations, following them. My eccentric chords in the finale, arranged for the player action - which dominate the center of the piano keyboard - surprised and delighted the audiences, as they always do in public situations.
(In fact, Glenn - when the roll was being arranged under his auspices - laughed heartily when he heard my pneumatic substitutes for what would be a virtuoso touch under his talented fingers. This is why the pneumatic player must not just "repeat" or "quote" what an artist plays, since the flexibility of the human touch transcends the most sensitive Pianola action. On the other hand, an arranger can elect to use the technical attributes of the player design, and by introducing extra notes or countermelodies, the 'concept' of a specific artist can be achieved. The graduated staccato closely matched the Jenks' keyboard attack, and so THE WRONG RAG - even though some passages would be impossible to duplicate by a live pianist - conveyed the essence of his bouncy, effervescent performance style.)
Following THE WRONG RAG, we contrasted that arrangement
with the NEW KING OF RAGTIME Medley-Overture, based upon a 'sheet music
transfer' Kimball roll, but with a) graduated perforations, b) a new sustaining
pedal score, and c) the music being changed in the order of presentation,
along with an
Introduction and bridges ... composed in The ARTCRAFT Studio to make 6 complete compositions into a continuous musical entity. (If you are familiar with those rather elusive 'brown paper' Kimball arrangements of the past, they tend to be "cut and glue" exercises, since each number is often not connected to the next composition.) Our roll opened with THE MAPLE LEAF RAG - buried in the middle of the droning Kimball edition! - and continued with CANNONBALL RAG, POWDER RAG, TEMPTATION RAG and finally two winners by James Scott: FROG LEGS RAG and HILARITY RAG.
(The ARTCRAFT version of FROG LEGS RAG has staccato striking, which is appropriate for the subject matter, in my opinion, whereas the Kimball original had the "organlike" connecting keys, the sin of using notation scores and graph paper methods, when arranging player rolls.)
Since my "reading" of the lyrics for Gershwin's THE
BACK BAY POLKA went over so well last week, this time we selected THE BOSTON
MEDLEY, reciting the lyrics by Tom Lehrer for FIGHT FIERCELY, HARVARD!
- a wimpy "fight song" - while unfurling the roll into an open archives
box. (Refer to the
paragraph about THE BACK BAY POLKA in my article about Pianola concert #3 - of June 14, 2001 - for a description of the 'show-and-tell' music roll activity.) Michael Potash produced this roll for a Boston player club convention in 1989, selecting both the music and supplying rubber stamps for the 3 melodies, which included M.I.T. (based on an older college song) and THE MTA (the Kingston Trio's reworking of an old train wreck number). Since most of the enthusiastic audience already knew the words about "Charlie", who couldn't get off a Boston train, there was little need to recite those lyrics. THE BOSTON MEDLEY concluded with another variation-reprise of the Lehrer "fight song", to a rousing wave of audience applause. (For those who are not familiar with the Lehrer piece, some of the phrases are "Wouldn't it be peachy if we won the game?", "Show them our prowess, do" and "Let's invite the whole team up for tea" ... all set against what sounds like a typical "give 'em the axe" style of college melody.)
Other numbers performed, last night, were TRIANGLE JAZZ BLUES, THE MEADOW LARK and PANSY BLOSSOMS RAG, the latter featuring our "trick rhythm" in the A-theme, which begins as a subtle effect and blossoms into something that resembles a 'hitch' in the wind motor, with every repeating variation. (This was another composition discovered by Robin Pratt, and in its Interpretive Arrangement form, really entertains an audience, which never suspects the gimmick until it 'grows' to the point of becoming obvious.) THE FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLE BEE (paired with BUMBLE BOOGIE) was brought back to the program, Saturday night, since the roll is always a crowd pleaser; the 'jolt' of the mechanical instrument shifting from Rimsky-Korsakov to the Jack Fina boogie-woogie parody is also something unexpected, for a Player-Piano performance.
SIX VARIATIONS upon a Theme by Salieri, composed by Mozart, was presented in our fourth Pianola recital. I explained how this roll was arranged during the period of the stage play "Amadeus", but that the motion picture hadn't yet been completed when the ARTCRAFT Roll was released for the Duo-Art market. Then, when the movie came along, I was amazed to see that the piece was discussed but not played on the sound track! As expected, nobody could recall Salieri's "Mio caro adone" after Wolfgang had "sliced and diced" the forgettable song into an engaging display of his bubbling variations. One lady in the audience remarked to Lois Konvalinka, in attendance, that SIX VARIATIONS was so wonderful that it "churned her up" and she hated for the music to end. (Once again, the pneumatic Player-Piano - if given challenging rolls and when in control of a Pianolist - has proven that there can be an emotional plane mechanical music. The key to this is the combination of an arrangement perforated to "virtuoso" performance standards PLUS a human interpreter, personally involved with the presentation.)
The evening concluded with a repeat of AMERICAN BOLERO,
the 1935 Nacio Herb Brown composition which was premiered at Pianola concert
#3. (See the previous MMD article about this composition for further information.)
This time, nobody "walked out" on the roll with 5/4 meter, which was perforated
on location, here at Searsport Shores, recently. (See - http://www.wiscasset.net/artcraft/bolero.htm) In fact, the roll not only received a healthy round of applause, but some teenagers sat through the entire performance, eventually receiving our 'Pianola Information' papers from Lois Konvalinka, who had a few extras - in case the campground office ran out of their supply. Several of the group - who were part of a bicycling/tenting tour - had been playing duets on the Kawai console, in
the same recreation hall, so had more than a passing interest in the artistic side of the pneumatic player.
The recital came to an end all too quickly, but that's what happens when the music is engaging and the audience is responsive. Several older men approached me, as the ARTCRAFT Rolls were being reloaded in the waiting VW Camper, saying that they never knew there was an "art" to the operation of a player instrument. That's one of the reasons for my 'going public' with Pianola performances, from time to time, over the past Half Century, since the populace needs to experience the better side of this misunderstood device. The pneumatic player is an educative and interactive instrument, with vastly more possibilities than a passive MIDI solenoid player or an unattended pneumatic 'reproducing' piano. (Those electrically-pumped expression players always need human monitoring, if only for tempo correction. When equipped with Pianola dynamic levers, the 'reproducing' piano often benefits from a little manual control, for the performance to reach its zenith of artistic potential.)
The drier weather, for the past week, brought the '29 Story & Clark 'Reprotone' to greater musical heights, here by Penobscot Bay - on the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, there's always a surprise with an old player. The sliding panel for the pedals came off its track, and an inspection this morning revealed that a wooden strip (a break that was glued years ago) had been the culprit, which prevented the "sliding shut" operation. We are not returning to Wiscasset until Monday, June 23, so that gives us plenty of time to reglue that troublesome part, which - hopefully - will make the opening and closing of the instrument a cleaner operation for Pianola concert #5, next Saturday.
This morning, several people stopped by Site No.
52 - where our Salem trailer is located, and the Eurovan Camper is parked
- saying that they didn't attend the concert, but were able to hear ALL
the music, projecting through the open windows of the recreation hall.
That's the beauty of performing here, in idyllic Searsport Shores. You
can entertain a seated audience while at the same time knowing that the
rich, sonority of the player's music will be floating through the pines,
the sea ... and touching all the wooded campsites in the process.
Those who had heard our previous recitals exclaimed that this was the best "mix" of titles, selections which had the broadest appeal. We, on our part, were delighted that AMERICAN BOLERO - which wasn't that satisfactory on the premiere, last Saturday - now entertained all: young and old, alike.
Best wishes from Maine, and still transmitting by
cellular 'phone ...
(signed) Douglas Henderson
PIANOLA Concert #3 - Searsport Shores (7-14-2001)
[Return to the PIANOLA Concert Menu]
Hello MMD readers,
The third, in our series of 9 Player-Piano concerts, began sharply at 7:30 p.m., a half hour after the weekend Lobster Bake ended. Now ... with the Pianola attracting far more attention with each successive musicale, folding chairs were set up in advance and the sign in front of the Searsport Shores recreation hall/office said "Don't Miss!" in large red letters, next to the announcement of the evening's player roll recital.
Two "train" rolls were played, appropriate since Maine is supposedly commencing rail passenger service this Summer, from Portland to Boston ... being one of two or three States that, heretofore, were not part of the Amtrak system.
First, we reprised Scott Joplin's early composition, THE GREAT CRUSH COLLISION MARCH, which - in the Interpretive Arrangement version - switches from a Schubert-like march to out-and-out Ragtime, once the "sound effects" of the engine drivers, steam whistles and the ultimate 'crash' have taken place.
(Lois Konvalinka assisted in the arranging of this
roll, with the timing and the selection of the notes for the giant 14-key
chord which simulates the two engines colliding. The original Joplin piano
solo score had merely a dissonant chord for two hands. The ARTCRAFT Music
Roll has a huge, metallic 'blow' for this important effect, over which
has been superimposed the automatic sustaining pedal in order to achieve
the loudest sound possible, and even the Themodist has been scored - for
instruments so equipped - since one might forget if the solo system were
on or off, thereby risking a muted dynamic. We take no chances for the
Pianolist in missing that crucial, overwhelming accent with this perforated arrangement!)
The second "train" number was a completely different
approach, a modern homage to the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad by Jack
Rummel, PORTRAIT OF A
SILVER LADY. This was a phrased Duo-Art arrangement, but the Story & Clark Reprotone could handle it with ease, since a lever in the spoolbox cuts
the pneumatic stack down from the full 88 keys to an 80-note scale, for expression rolls. PORTRAIT OF A SILVER LADY is a syncopated waltz, with many Ragtime elements, a subtle, haunting homage to the Burlington Zephyr trains, which were ending about the time that the music was composed in Boulder, Colorado. I hadn't performed this for a while, so enjoyed rediscovering the delicate player variations in the melodic repeats, ending with my own staccato arabesque, just before the end, to establish the wistful ambience of the composition. The sensitive player action allowed me to graduate the final chords down to a bare whisper, without even making use of the Soft Pedal levers.
One of the bouncier rolls of the evening was my "HOT"
RAGTIME SONG MEDLEY, based upon the finales of the Vocalstyle Minstrel
Rolls, but augmented
with extra music and linking melodic material. There were 12 songs - all re-mastered for our Interpretive striking - and the tunes included SILVER BELL, MISTER JOHNSON, AT A GEORGIA CAMPMEETING, HELLO MY BABY, WHAT'CHA GONNA DO WHEN THE RENT COMES ROUND? and HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT. The other numbers, which even for the titles could be considered racist today, absolutely sparkle in this instrumental arrangement. Readers who are familiar with the Vocalstyle series can imagine what those snappy numbers are. Stripped of their lyrics, these additional pieces can stand on their own feet, musically. (If you want to read the list of 12 selections, check out this page on our Website, http://www.wiscasset.net/artcraft/rolls3.htm -- and use FIND/SEARCH for the word "watermelon" to expedite your access to that roll description.)
I did one of my "lyric reading" sessions for the
audience, something that dates from my old player club convention days,
where a roll was unfurled and allowed to fold in a zig-zag style into an
open archives box, below. This was George Gershwin's little-known gem,
THE BACK BAY POLKA, written
for a 'Thirties RKO picture, deleted from the film and revived by Ira in the 'Forties for a Betty Grable movie - a posthumous musical, featuring
songs eliminated from his brother's Broadway and Hollywood projects. THE BACK BAY POLKA was all about Boston snobs (in the 19th Century), but many
of Ira's witty lyrics apply to the snoots of our own time. Rerolled hastily, with my index fingers being the roll chucks - and thumbs serving as the rewind drive - the staccato arrangement was then performed on the Reprotone, to healthy applause at the end. That refrain, "You can't get ahead, unless you're dead; you can't get ahead, unless you're dead; You can't get ahead in Bos-ton" captures the crowd every time!
The 1935 Nacio Herb Brown composition AMERICAN BOLERO
- arranged on the cliffs of Penobscot Bay, right here - was premiered at
last night. (See http://www.wiscasset.net/artcraft/bolero.htm for pictures and information.) Again, the 1929 Story & Clark player accommodated my every whim, starting at P.P.P. and finally ending at F.F.F. many minutes later, this being something like the slightly earlier BOLERO by Maurice Ravel, with its similar "slow crescendo" structure. Brown is better known for SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, WEDDING OF THE PAINTED DOLL and PAGAN LOVE SONG than his seldom-heard attempt at "serious" music. AMERICAN BOLERO is an odd, but intriguing, mix of two styles, Spanish lyric melodies and Gershwinesqe 'Art Deco' bridges, which repeatedly connect the two basic Latin themes to the next, always slightly louder variations. This number was originally written for orchestra, but the roll was arranged from a piano reduction score supplied by Robin Pratt, who figured that the 5/4 meter might be ideal for working within the sound patterns of the ocean waves, just below. The meter, incidentally, is difficult for the Leabarjan perforator, since it was necessary to break every measure into 3/4 + 2/4,
including many phrased, sustained chords; the antique machine was designed for 2, 3 and 4 beat perforating only, in its day - which ended about 8 years before Nacio Herb Brown composed AMERICAN BOLERO.
The owners of Searsport Shores asked me to reprise
this roll for fourth Pianola concert, next week. It does grow on the listener
... and, having lived with the music for such a long period of time, I
anticipate each extra staccato flourish, lightly introduced into the extremes
of the treble and bass - part of my Pianola arrangement, created to simulate
the effect of an orchestra. I have to admit that the young people in the
audience left about half way into AMERICAN BOLERO, so - as expected - it
didn't meet with their approval, or ... perhaps it was my crack about MTV,
uttered about the same time. (One of my recurrent themes on all
Player-Piano presentations is that there is so much GOOD MUSIC from the past and the present that we don't need to numb ourselves with "no-talent jigglers" who dominate the airwaves via incessant corporate hype.) Those who remained, redoubled their interest in the medium of the player instrument - and my rolls, in particular. Several listeners asked some really intelligent questions, about this special music. We will definitely reprise AMERICAN BOLERO at Searsport Shores again, and - with luck - might have a young group in attendance which possesses a more open mind to 'new' music - even if composed in 1935.
After decades of being in the roll publishing business, I have often found that music I like - such as this "bolero" by Brown - eventually catches on, but sometimes 8 to 10 years later. This happened with my Bach CANTATA 147: CHORALE roll for the Duo-Art and also A BREEZE FROM ALABAMA by Scott Joplin. The latter is a syncopated Ragtime march (at least, in my arrangement!) which modulates through many different keys, making it something that the listeners have to meet half-way in order to appreciate the quality of the score. The Bach roll is based on a 'never-heard' 1935 two-piano transcription by Myra Hess, which exploits the fuller chords that are possible only on a player action.
A few more ARTCRAFT Rolls were performed, last night,
including my always-popular arrangement of Gershwin's RIALTO RIPPLES RAG.
something of a "closing theme" for the evening to end with LION TAMER RAG, based on the effervescent audio tape that pianist-composer Mark Lutton sent to me. (Those who were at the previous musicale usually request it again, so it just seemed natural to make that music roll the final number for the programs.)
Our Reprotone now sports a heavy, black piano cover from Schaff Piano Supply in Illinois. This was ordered shortly after the concert series began, but arrived only a few days ago. The instrument is protected by lined material and is unobtrusive in its appearance, when covered, so I no longer have to worry about people monkeying with the piano, when we are gone. The kids can play the Kawai console, nearby, if they need a keyboard at hand, anyway.
This concludes the first three Pianola concerts in Searsport. There are only six more to go, for the "music roll season", here on the scenic shores of the Maine Coast.
Our message - once again - should reach the Mechanical
Music Digest through radiotelephone means, since the hall's pay 'phone
is still out of order, for the second week running.
Best wishes from our trailer by the sea.
Regards, (signed) Douglas Henderson
ARTCRAFT Music Rolls, Wiscasset, ME
PIANOLA Concert #2- Searsport Shores (7-7-2001)
[Return to the PIANOLA Concert Menu]
Hello MMD readers,
Greetings from our trailer in Searsport, Maine - as we are preparing for a "four day return" to Wiscasset (and an attempt to catch up on the backorders for ARTCRAFT Music Rolls).
Last night - Saturday, June 7, 2001 - marked the second in our series of Play-Piano concerts at Searsport Shores, in their large recreation hall, which opens, through the pines, to Penobscot Bay. Again, our '29 Story & Clark Reprotone player gave an audience the full potential of the pneumatic player action's domain, from barely audible pianissimo passages to thundering cascades of chords in the sforzando realm.
We opened with PIANOLA RAG, our arrangement of the Bill Krenz 1950s composition, featuring Pianola variations and a 'hot' keyboard attack simulation. (This is not to be confused with a "Brand X" arrangement of the piece, released some 20 years later, which pretty much played back the printed notation score.)
Next came THE CHICAGO MARCH - a major rogram roll
project conceived by musician Robin Pratt, for the AMICA player club convention
of 1992. (This
features not only Player-Piano variations galore, but also a homage to The Chicago Fire, complete with Mrs. O'Leary's cow, the kerosene lamp and a
chorus of E. T. Paull's THE BURNING OF ROME - with a leitmotif of CHICAGO [That Toddlin' Town] superimposed over the descending chromatics.) I told
the enthusiastic audience how ironic it was, when THE CHICAGO MARCH roll was completed, that the 'Windy City' was experiencing a flood, caused by
those coal ash tunnels under the river.
The 2nd musicale reprised THE ELLINGTON MEDLEY, to show the whisper-like playing that a well-regulated player upright can provide - in connection with our interpretive method of perforating. (If you have heard this roll - either as an 88-Note or Duo-Art arrangement - MOOD INDIGO features an uncanny legato effect, due to my juggling sostenuto for the chords against a calculated use of the pneumatic sustaining pedal. The effect works on all players, including those with a sluggish pneumatic for the dampers. There's a trick that I learned, decades ago, from Howard Lutter arrangements - during his "brown box" Welte-Licensee days at Kohler & Campbell.)
Another title on the program was GOING TO PIECES: Part I, the Pianola with variations; Part II, a simulation of a no-talent amateur Ragtime pianist - who eventually has a musical nervous breakdown!; Part III, a re-mastered "Pete Wendling" (Kortlander) saves the day by bringing back the Player-Piano. Moral: a good roll is preferable to a third rate keyboard pianist!
ROBERTO CLEMENTE by David T. Roberts was one of the highlights of the latter part of the musicale. Again, the sensitivity of the Reprotone player was exploited ... and the "triumph" finale, running in a series of majestic chords (some beyond human finger technique) rapidly faded into a pianissimo "sigh" during the final measure - another example of the player's dynamic flexibility, when a roll is cut with graduated striking effects, including the staccato.
There was one non-ARTCRAFT Roll featured, last night: DOODLE-BUG by William Hartman, of the Cable Co., composed for the Gulbransen Player-Piano in 1919. This hilarious demonstration roll - given out during a Buffalo piano trade show - begins with "Little Mary" flubbing YANKEE DOODLE, followed by a precise player rendition. Then, the instrument imulates a ukulele (my one chance to employ the newly rebuilt mandolin rail!), an organ and a harp, with "Brother Bill" supposedly 'ragging' YANKEE DOODLE and "Father" playing a six-hand Gulbransen arrangement which superimposed DIXIE. It was a tacky roll, and fun for all who heard it.
Closing numbers returned to the artistry of Interpretive Arrangements, and the final selection was LION TAMER RAG, based on pianist-composer Mark Lutton's audio recording.
Many people picked up the descriptive paper (sent in text form to the MMD a few days ago, for a posting), so stayed to ask questions, some even asking to look inside the '29 upright, after the presentation. We are heading home for much-needed work in Wiscasset, but will return to Searsport Shores on Friday, with an entirely new all-ARTCRAFT program ... and a new audience.
Once again, we heard comments from the listeners that their old player instrument didn't sound like the Reprotone, and the conclusion was - of course - that they junked the family player because of bad rolls, viz. boring, repetitive arrangements which connected the chords like organ music. Too bad: they should have junked the old rolls and kept their piano, for use in our time, when challenging arrangements were finally available.
Masanobu Ikemiya has asked me to write a review for "The Mississippi Rag" about the 2001 'Ragtime Review' by his Arcady Music Festival. This year, there were four oustanding pianists, three of which are composers in their own right: Glenn Jenks, Masanobu Ikemiya, Mimi Blais and Scott Kirby. Doing so will be a delight, since this was a powerhouse of talent, from start to finish! I'm not sure if we'll ever experience such back-to-back talent again, here in Maine. (We attended the Bucksport part of the tour, in the 1916 Alamo Theater.)
Once more I have to use the cell 'phone for transmitting this posting, since the campground's pay telephone modem connection is still broken down. (Thank goodness for a backup system, in this case!)
(signed) Douglas Henderson - ARTCRAFT Music Rolls
PIANOLA Concert #1 - Searsport Shores (6-30-2001)
[Return to the PIANOLA Concert Menu]
Hello MMD readers,
Our '81 air-cooled Volkswagen Vanagon Camper pulled our Haulmark piano trailer up the Maine Coast, about 100 miles, and the 1929 Story & Clark 'Reprotone' player was installed in the recreation hall for the July-August performance season of 9 concerts. My first Saturday night presentation took place, and the size - along with the intelligence - of the RV audience, here, was really amazing. The instrument didn't get tuned until today, Sunday, but that didn't seem to matter to the listeners, which ranged from senior citizens to a baby in a stroller, pushed up to the player (and who remained quiet yet transfixed for about 3 or 4 music rolls).
I was amazed at the level of interesting questions which the group asked, at various times during my hour long performance - excluding MERENGUE by Frank French, the encore which the group requested. They wanted to know what the foot pedals and the levers did ... how rolls were created ... and frequently asked why my arrangements sounded better than what they used to have on their family's player, before it was hauled away. "We just couldn't get good rolls," said one lady - who had probably overdosed on J. Lawrence Cook formulae - "so the piano had to go." Many came right out and said that they would have kept their player if rolls sounded like what they had heard on our instrument, here, last night.
Among the titles performed were: A BREEZE FROM ALABAMA,
PICKLES & PEPPERS RAG (based on audio recordings by Masanobu Ikemiya)
and LION TAMER RAG. Ragtime and toe-tapping music definitely attracted
a good audience, especially since the owners of Searsport Shores opened
the large windows, which faced the campsites leading up to the cliffs of
Penobscot Bay ... and the music brought more people in to see what the
performances were all
about. Among the non-Ragtime numbers were ON THE TRAIL, Grofé's MISS MISCHIEF, Gershwin's THREE PRELUDES and the not-yet-released arrangement of THE CARIOCA (perforated from an analysis of the RKO soundtrack from "Flying Down To Rio"). One of the major facets of my first recital was the ELLINGTON MEDLEY, featuring MOOD INDIGO ... played in a muted yet crisp style via the responsive Story & Clark action along with careful pedaling
and use of the 2 soft pedal graduation levers.
What makes these weekly Pianola concerts so different from my prior experiences, is that one runs into the same people, who comment, the next day, about this or that feature of the evening's program. This is a level of feedback which transcends that of a typical audience, dispersing into the darkness, even on a successful presentation. I'm also elated that so many young people were attracted to the piano, a sign that electronic "beep" styles of music might have droned themselves into oblivion, in some family circles.
Next Saturday, there will be a new audience - for the most part - and Ragtime rolls will definitely dominate the performance, even more than they did for this initial concert.
If the audience's reaction is any indication of the general public - that is, those with the intelligence to gravitate to the sphere of acoustic pianos - then the fact that old commercial rolls played a role in player "phase out" can't be underestimated. Rolls which were boring, repetitive and lackluster must have been the reason for the demise of the player, while the standard pianos rebounded in the 1930s. A typical comment was, "Each of your rolls sound so different, but ours - when we had a player - all sounded the same." They sure did, considering the factory formulae of those days!
Lois Konvalinka was in attendance, and added a few comments, here and there, about our experiences with one night stands, when appearing with the Arcady Music Festivals (on Ragtime shows) and other public occasions where we "arrived with our own piano".
Special credit goes to Robin Pratt, who "discovered" this elusive Story & Clark late-model player, and then rebuilt it ... originally for the Moxie Festivals in Lisbon Falls, Maine. That the 'Reprotone' can transpose 'reproducing' rolls in 3 keys and full-scale 88-Note ones in 5 keys, makes it the ideal instrument to be in a traveling situation. I can take any title from the Studio shelf and not worry about it being an Ampico or Duo-Art roll, nor do I have to tape up the tracker bar. The piano has a rich, full bass ... experienced primarily by the audience, but I usually have Lois roam about the hall or auditorium, earlier, in order to get a bearing on the dynamics and the projection of them. For those who have not heard this diminutive piano (4' 2" high), without the special piano tray fitted with rubber wheels and brakes, the sonority is similar to a Baldwin Hamilton or Howard upright of the 1930s, especially in the richness of tone.
(signed) Douglas Henderson - at Searsport Shores
Editorial about our "concert articles" and the Mechanical Music Digest
[Return to the PIANOLA Concert Menu]
If you have read through the prior text of this two-part Internet mailing, you should have a good idea of what our Saturday evening "Pianola Concerts" are like. Each weekly performance, lasting 1 1/4 hours, gains a larger and more enthusiastic audience.
Since only ARTCRAFT 'Interpretive Arrangements' - with variable staccato and a simulation of "keyboard attack" - can hold an audience's attention for that length of time, we are presenting our own sparkling rolls in this series of 9 Player-Piano musicales.
I've been transmitting the 'day after' reviews from our seaside 'cottage-like' trailer, on Penobscot Bay, using the glitchy nature of a radiotelephone. Each article was written for the Mechanical Music Digest (MMD), but ... the texts were rejected by by Editor Rhodes.
The articles, for our Pianola concerts were rejected by the Editor, based on the excuse that a) "they are all the same - that's enough for the MMD" and b) "the average subscriber isn't that interested in musical articles" - and just "likes the sound" of their instruments playing, period. [I translate that into 'background music' OR they are NOT really listening to the perforated musical performances.]
This is his right, of course, as an Editor, but I do think that many people would have enjoyed reading these articles instead of having them censored because of "all the same" content, which isn't true if one READS THE TEXTS, featuring different music roll presentations.
The MMD has 32 postings about "beer songs" <belch>, several on "water dowsing", others on "cleaning CDs" and even one on "credit card policies with banks" - definitely NOT musical material, and, apparently just what the subscribers want to read -- according to their Editor. (For rock fans, there's even a posting about Billy Joel and his Kurzweil electronic keyboard, which I consider to be a "bogus" piano, a synthesizer.)
The reviews for Pianola concerts #5 (7-28-2001) through
#9 (8-25-2001) will continue to be submitted to the MMD ... and probably
However, they will appear - eventually - on the ARTCRAFT Website as a 'chronicle' of our MAJOR player roll performance project, possibly cross-referenced so that a reader can jump back and forth between the various ("same?") music titles. I will have driven 1800 miles - between Wiscasset and Searsport, Maine - to give these weekly performances ... and the enthusiasm of the audiences makes all the time and cost worth it, for me. (The concerts 'have' cut into my roll shipping, somewhat, and for that I apologize!)
As far as I'm concerned, this is "Player-Piano History": virtuoso performances on a well-regulated (and tuned!) upright ... featuring our 'Interpretive Arrangements' most of the time ... and an entirely different program each Saturday evening. There are 9 concerts, with something to interest every kind of listener. The arranger and the Pianolist are also the SAME person: me! (Has anything else been done on this scale, before? I doubt it.)
As for postings about water dowsing and the "My Vacation: who-I-met-and-what-we-ate" type of text, you know where to search for those ... in the MMD Archives, ha-ha!
Only a few more months separate me from 50 years of roll making. At 63, my enthusiasm has NOT diminished in the slightest. Playing my artistic rolls or creating new ones is always the next focus, here in the ARTCRAFT Studio.
One other thing - Microsoft is closing down their free Listbot service on August 6th. All the past and future ARTCRAFT Newsletters are being posted on our own server, with this address: http://www.wiscasset.net/artcraft/archives.htm
My ARTCRAFT Newsletters are continuing. We have already
transferred the Listbot list - manually - to our own C:\ drives and have
taken out a 2nd address called <firstname.lastname@example.org>. If you are
a subscriber now - or subscribe up to the final date for Listbot - don't
worry; you will be in
New subscribers after August 7th should discover
a NEW set of HTML on our Home Page (http://www.wiscasset.net/artcraft/)
which sets up a "mailto:"
directly to the alternative <rollnews> address. If one wants to unsubscribe, the blank E-Mail message can be used for that also, and no log-in codes will be required.
Guess that brings you up-to-date. Am planning a show-and-tell with antique Moxie bottles for Pianola concert #5 (7-28-2001) and will be playing 3 ARTCRAFT Rolls related to the bitter soft drink (formerly a sexual elixir): JUST MAKE IT MOXIE FOR MINE followed by THE MOXIE ONE-STEP. The third roll is a "prototype" I made from a rare radio transcription belonging to Frank Anicetti, head of the Lisbon Falls annual 'Moxie Festival' - where I used to appear with the same Story & Clark player. This is THE 1941 MOXIE SONG, a catchy 'wartime' piece ... eventually to complete the Moxie Trilogy for ARTCRAFT Music Rolls.
The audiences are so enthusiastic and interactive, at Searsport Shores, that I look forward to the next Saturday program - laying it out in advance, here in Wiscasset, much of the time.
Good pianos playing VIRTUOSO ARRANGEMENTS for sensitive
player actions are such a JOY! (I'm a lucky person to be doing 'exactly'
what I like to
accomplish ... even if it comes out "the same" for some people.)
Best regards from Wiscasset,
(signed) Douglas Henderson - ARTCRAFT Music Rolls
ARTCRAFT Archives: Backissues of the ARTCRAFT Newsletters
ARTCRAFT Newsletters and ARTCRAFT Music Rolls are
published by L. Douglas Henderson
ARTCRAFT Music Rolls, PO Box 295, Wiscasset, ME 04578 USA
Telephone: (207) 882-7420
E-Mail - email@example.com