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MMD > Archives > February 1997 > 1997.02.15 > 08Prev  Next

1886 Music Box Plays "Chop Sticks"
By Beatrice Robertson

Music boxes, you say?

I'm currently restoring a cylinder music box which has a delightful brightly-colored tune card with a fellow playing a monkey organ surrounded by a group of children in the upper left corner. This is a tune card I have not seen before, but is fairly typical Paillard style.

What makes this particular music box unusual is the first tune: "The Celebrated Chop" by A. de Lulli. For you piano folks, any guesses? Sure enough, this music box plays a very sophisticated version of "Chop Sticks", complete with glissando. When I called some of the music box restorers, the first reaction was, "You _are_ kidding, aren't you?"

Sorry, it really is "Chop Sticks!" Which, I might add, gets really old when justifying pins! (This involves straightening each pin to align with the comb tooth -- playing the tune over and over for the entire length of the comb.)

I have researched the other tunes on the box and place the date near 1886, which is the date of the last tune I could find. This is the standard way of dating a music box based on a tune card, for those of you who are unfamiliar with music box research. The theory is that music box makers pinned popular tunes on their boxes as soon as possible after the tune was published, to take advantage of its current popularity. But I digress.

So far, I have not found anything about the composer de Lulli -- any information would be welcomed. I did, however, get the following information on the tune "Chop Sticks." In addition to the familiar waltz time tune that we all learned to drive our parents crazy with, there was a set of variations in 2/4 time for 4 hands in 1880, by no less illustrious a group than Russian composers Borodin, Cui, Liadov, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Composer-pianist Franz Liszt also contributed to these variations in the second edition. The tune is called "Cotelettes" ("cutlets") in France and "Koteletten Waltzer" in Germany. (From the Grove "Dictionary of Music and Musicians.")

One of the topics that might be of interest to all the group would be tune selections on music boxes, and the techniques involved in dating various types of mechanical music.

Okay, guys -- I've opened the door. Let's hear from the rest of the music box "lurkers"! I haven't heard a peep from most of you in quite a while.

Beatrice Robertson

(Message sent Sat 15 Feb 1997, 15:32:26 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  1886, Box, Chop, Music, Plays, Sticks

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