NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1876 __ The Player Piano
Comment : The earliest version of the player piano was introduced to Americans at the Philadelphia Exposition. The player piano is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic mechanism that plays on the piano action pre-programmed music via perforated paper rolls. The idea of automatic musical devices can be traced back many centuries. The idea of using pinned barrels to operate percussion mechanisms (such as striking bells in a clock) was perfected long before the invention of the piano. These devices were later extended to operate musical boxes, which contain a set of tuned metal teeth plucked by the player mechanism. The earliest practical piano playing device was probably the Forneaux Pianista, which used compressed air to inflate a bellows when the barrel pin opened a valve. This bellows struck the piano key and so played the note. The acceleration of developments leading to the pneumatic 'player' device started in the 1840s and began to reach some recognizable device in the 1870s. The start of the player period can probably be seen as the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia, USA. At this exhibition were a number of automatic player devices, including the Pianista, that contained the elements which would lead to the player. The earliest description of a piano playing device using perforated paper rolls was Claude Seytre's French patent of 1842. The concept was sound, but the device described was impractical in the way it read the roll and operated the piano. In 1876, John McTammany exhibited a working player in Philadelphia that used a paper roll read using sprung fingers whose slight movement triggered a mechanical player device. This operated a reed organ. McTammany had been experimenting since the mid 1860s, and went on to be one of the key names in the early player industry. He claimed to be the inventor of the 'player', but not the 'player piano' - an important distinction. [...] The player piano, first demonstrated in 1876, used a punched paper scroll that could store an arbitrarily long piece of music. This piano roll moved over a device known as the 'tracker bar', which first had 58 holes, was expanded to 65 and then was upgraded to 88 holes (generally, one for each piano key). When a perforation passed over the hole, the note sounded. Piano rolls were the first stored music medium that could be mass-produced, although the hardware to play them was much too expensive for personal use. Technology to record a live performance onto a piano roll was not developed until 1904. Piano rolls have been in continuous mass production since around 1898. A 1908 U.S. Supreme Court copyright case noted that, in 1902 alone, there were between 70,000 and 75,000 player pianos manufactured, and between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 piano rolls produced. The use of piano rolls began to decline in the 1920s although one type is still being made today. The fairground organ, developed in 1892, used a similar system of accordion-folded punched cardboard books. (Compiled from various sources)
Urls : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Player_piano (last visited ) http://www.pianola.org/history/history.cfm (last visited ) http://cnum.cnam.fr/CGI/fpage.cgi?P84.4/399/100/432/0/0 (last visited )

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