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1855 __ The Calliope
Joshua C. Stoddard (1814-1902)
Comment : “Several years ago, Mr. Stoddard, a mechanic of Worcester, conceived the idea that the bells, by the vibration of whose thin edges the 'steam whistle', in music; and after experimenting for some time he succeeded in constructing a series of bells on which the seven notes of the octave could be played by steam. The desideratum was now to produce a valve sufficiently delicate to correspond with the touch of the performer on the keyboard of an organ. [...] The Calliope, then, as now exhibited, consists of a long series of bells, varying in size and lenght according to the tone to be produced and running through four or five octaves. A small wire connects the valve in each tube with a key in a 'finger-board', like that of a piano-forte or organ; and this is a steamboat may be places in the ladies' cabin, while the bells themselves are in a distant part of the boat. A full chord of eight notes may be struck at once, as upon the organ; and it is needless to say that the effect of such a combination of musical tones is remarkably grand and sublime. Think of a steamer with one of these 'mighty musicians' on board, plowing its way up tue Mississippi, and waking those vast solitudes with its trumpet breathings ! Upon the ocean, the Calliope can be heard for then miles, discoursing the 'Star Spangled Banner' and 'Hail Columbia', with accuracy. The action of the valves is so nice and perfect that the quickest tunes, as 'Fisher's Hornpipe', 'Money Musk', and 'Mary's Wedding', can be performed with case, and all the accompanying parts distinctly given. The 'Glencoe' between New York and Albany, has one of these instruments on board, and it is said the boat has doubled her number of passengers by means of it. The Calliope is capable of being played with a crank, as a common hand organ; and in this form will doubtless take the place of the shrill steam whistle on the railroad; but its greater utility will be, it seems to us, as a 'signal' between our steamships on the ocean; and as a 'diversion' to the passengers on their voyages. The consumption of steam by it is said to be quite inconsiderable.”. (The Cincinnatus)The Calliope, named after the muse of epic poetry, was invented by the American Joshua C. Stoddard, who is said to have been inspired by the steam whistles of locomotives. His first instrument (1855), consisting of a steam boiler, a set of valves, and fifteen graded steam whistles played from a pinned cylinder, reportedly could be heard for a range of five miles, and so offended the ears of the Worcester City Council that Stoddard was forbidden to perform it within city limits. Arthur S. Denny, head of the American Steam Music Company, introduced a low-pressure keyboard version of Stoddard's instrument in the Crystal Palace. Denny's more powerful outdoor models supposedly could be heard for a distance of twelve miles. Calliopes like that featured in the 1951 film Showboat were a popular source of water music on the Mississippi and attracted crowds at circuses and fairs. (Joseph Dillon Ford)
Source : Anonymous (1856), “The Calliope”, In The Cincinnatus, edited by the Faculty of Farmer's College, Cincinnati, Vol. 1, November 1856, pp 522-523.
Source : Ford, James Dillon (1995), "From Vocal Memnon to the Stereophonic Garden : a short history of sound and technology in landscape design", a paper prepared for CELA, Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Annual 1995.
Urls : http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/music/musichistory/natchezcalliope.html (last visited ) http://www.steamcalliope.com/calliope.htm (last visited ) http://www.mmdigest.com/Calliope/ (last visited ) http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=1DDECC1D4C48FB1B (last visited ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFgqDSBba1g (last visited )

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