Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On a Final Note...

When we purchased our player piano, it came with 170+ player rolls – some dating back to the ‘teens’ of the 1900s.
If you’ve never seen one of said rolls, they’re quite interesting. They look like the old-time official perforated cards that the government used to send out. Yes, I’m that old . . .
The piano generates suction, which pulls the roll in. Then these holes allow the suction to break in very specific places, causing the corresponding note to play. Yeah, it makes no sense to me, either. And it has been explained and explained. Look! A squirrel!
All I know – or care – is that when you insert the roll in a certain way, flip this lever, and pump the pedals, music emerges.
Nice music.
Music that no human being – unless he is equipped with four hands and/or thirty fingers – could play.
An aside here – Husby and I, while in Buffalo, New York, visited the last of the piano roll makers, QRS. And actually watched one of their musicians play out a new roll. And I use the world ‘play’ deliberately. He was seated at a large apparatus that vaguely resembled a piano. On steroids. It was hooked by numerous appendages to another apparatus that was marking a long strip of paper.
The whole process was fascinating. And busy enough to keep even my attention.
Back to my story . . .
As I mentioned, our piano has to be pumped to work. So, you have to work to make it work.
You realize just how much effort it takes when you’ve played three or four rolls in succession.
Whew!
Fortunately we had lots of eager feet and legs.
I remember, years ago, when I was on one of my fitness kicks, I asked Husby for an exercise bike.
And he bought me four new rolls for the piano.
Now I can see his reasoning – beautiful music AND lots of exercise – then, I wasn’t as impressed.
Our player piano has been the focal point for our family for an entire generation. Tonight, I’m introducing the next generation.
You’ll probably be able to hear us . . .

12 comments:

  1. I WISH I could hear you all!

    That clip was fascinating. I had no idea that music for player pianos is still being made (yep, I checked Mr. Google for that, since the clip was from the 80's). It blows my mind, in a good way :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you can hear us. There is only the breadth of a continent between . . . :)

      Delete
  2. It is amazing isn't it? And, when moths get into those rolls, the tunes become very, very different.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. EC ... this sounds like a post ...

      Delete
    2. Hey! Wait! I didn't put a note there . . .
      Jenny's right, EC. Sounds like a post! :)

      Delete
  3. The Catholic church in Milk River had one in the basement for years. We used to play it whenever there was a function there. Too bad it was lost when the church burned down so many years ago...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm . . . why didn't I know about this? Mom! George never lets me do anything!!!

      Delete
  4. I have always been fascinated by player pianos ... and to me it just seems that it must be magic that makes them work!

    ReplyDelete
  5. we had one of these for a while when I was little - it was like magic back then but we weren't a musical family so it didn't stay long. I quite envy you all singing along loudly and probably a lot more melodiously than we did! Great series Diane :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Leanne! Here's to the unmusical creating music! :)

      Delete
  6. I saw one of them in an old hotel once and I was fascinated. I tried to think of a way to sneak it in for my piano lessons which I hated and now I hate that I hated them. If that made any sense at all.

    ReplyDelete

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