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MMD > Archives > December 1998 > 1998.12.13 > 11Prev  Next

Performing with Apollophone Roll & Record Set
By Douglas Henderson

Hello,  Read the Apollophone text in the current MMD.  We have
one, though it was never restored.  There were 2 types, at least,
by the way: one had two  spring motors, with the gramophone being
_independent_ of the spring-drive for the music rolls,  and the other
was an "either/or" model wherein the owner could play the music rolls
or the talking machine, but not both simultaneously.

Prior to our acquisition of a Melville Clark Apollophone in the early
'Eighties, I used to perform any number of "synchronized with" style
music rolls, mostly under the QRS-Autograph and Cable's Imperial
labels.  These were made to be played in connection with Victor,
Columbia and, on occasion, Edison Diamond Disc audio recordings.
The Pianolist had to 'synchronize' the piano to the recording, which
-- when done correctly -- had the voice plus piano accompaniment, with
the acoustic recording of the piano or orchestra being "drowned-out"
in the process.

Among the pieces I used to perform at The Musical Wonder House were
"I Love a Lassie" with Harry Lauder, "Celeste Aida" with Caruso,
"Lo, The Gentle Lark" (I forget the soprano at this moment -- possibly
Emma Eames who lived in Bath, Maine, at the time!), "Vesti La Giubba"
from 'Pagliacci' with Caruso and "My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice" (again,
I'm foggy on who that the artist was, these presentations being in the
late 'Sixties and early 'Seventies).

This business of manually synchronizing audio records with _arranged_
rolls ("hand-played") is not really new, for the Edison Kinetoscope
pictures shortly earlier required the projectionist to pull a string to
get the talking silent images in synch with the acoustic phonograph
equipment, often placed in the screen area.  I have seen some of these
movie shorts -- from a Scandinavian collection -- and they are terrific
... in many ways more exciting than Jolson years later in "The Jazz

These featured the Peerless Quartette and other Edison artists, often
in a short sketch -- much like the Soundies of the 'Forties (a jukebox
type of movie loop machine).  The Vitaphone which featured Jolson and
other Warner Bros. actors had a mechanically-linked phonograph record
to the silent projector; it was not a manual task in the vein of the
Edison movies and the Apollophone-style presentations.

The paper thickness and the take-up spool diameter all contributed to
out-of-synch performances, which is why the Pianolist is necessary to
get the record and the roll running reasonably together.  With a little
practice, it can be done.

My duets with phonograph records at The Musical Wonder House featured
either a Knabe-Angelus upright or our Henry F. Miller instrument.
A Deutsche-Grammophon with an external horn was placed on top of the
piano and I took it from there.

I believe that many people in the past had the skills and 'feel' of
mechanical things in order to accomplish this kind of theatrical
performance -- which it really is.  You listen and 'adjust' as the song
progresses, much as people listened to automobile engines and automatic
looms, doing "preventive maintenance" prior to a major breakdown.

It's amazing how the mind can be tricked on synchronization anyway.
In discussing her 1935 Third Reich film "Triumph of The Will", director
Leni Riefenstahl said that the marching soldiers were not 'together'
with the music, because all the cameras along the streets of Nurnburg
were independent of each other.  She cut the frames to 'somewhat match'
the beat of the marches.  I never noticed this until I heard her being
interviewed in recent times.  Now, every time a group marches by in
that motion picture, I observe that the feet don't hit the pavement
half the time, in "time" to the marching bands on the soundtrack.

The Apollophone -- and standard player plus gramophone -- perform-
ances are much like this.  If you do a good job recalibrating the two
machines at every other measure or so, few in the audience will notice
that the piano and phonograph are often not really together all the
time.  That's why I said this was a "theatrical" exercise, not
something which could be done without rehearsal and careful listening.

Hope the above has been of some interest to the MMD readers.

Regards from Maine,

Douglas Henderson

PS: To my knowledge no rolls were sold as "for the Apollophone" via box
labels.  The rolls I've seen and used just had the 'artist' on the
label and the serial number/title/brand of the phonograph record to be
used in connection with them.  Most were of the ballad style, so that
the pianolist's synchronization efforts would be simplified.  I doubt
if the "Mignon Polonaise", for example, was published for this kind of
roll-plus-record performance, for this reason!

Artcraft Music Rolls
PO Box 295, Wiscasset, ME 04578

(Message sent Sun 13 Dec 1998, 18:54:05 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Apollophone, Performing, Record, Roll, Set

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