Literature regarding nickelodeon rolls, coin pianos, and orchestrions
In the last few weeks, MMD readers have inquired about coin-operated
piano and orchestrion rolls made by Clark and Capitol. To learn more
about this interesting topic, see the following:
"Music Rolls and Their Makers," David L. Junchen, pp. 714-721 of
"The Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments" by Q. David Bowers,
Vestal Press, 1972. (Still in print.)
"Recollections of P.M. Keast," edited by Art Reblitz, ibid., pp.
721-722. (Taken from a letter from P.M. Keast to Art Reblitz, 1969).
"The Clark Orchestra Roll Company Tells Its Own Story," ibid., pp.
"Recollections of a Music Roll Arranger," edited by Art Reblitz,
pp. 132-135, "Treasures of Mechanical Music" by Art Reblitz and Q.
David Bowers, Vestal Press, 1981. (Compiled from an interview with
P.M. Keast by Art Reblitz, Dave Junchen, Dave Ramey and Tom Sprague,
circa 1970. This contains much more detail than the Keast letter
printed in Bowers' Encyclopedia cited above.)
"Arranging Styles on Clark and Capitol Rolls - An Historical
Perspective" by Dave Junchen, Part 1 - AMICA Bulletin Jan./Feb. 1983,
pp. 60-64; Part 2 - AMICA Bulletin May 1983, pp. 92-95.
These articles are a treasure trove of information on the history of
American nickelodeon rolls and how they were made. They tell about the
talented arrangers at Clark who made rolls specifically for coin pianos
in the early 1920s, versus Clark arrangements adapted from 88-note QRS
and Imperial rolls.
You'll learn all about the little tricks and embellishments used by
Clark and Capitol that give certain rolls from each company their
musical "sparkle." Above all, the articles go into detail that explains
why it isn't fair to form an opinion on any of these music roll brands
after hearing just a few examples.
It's too bad that so much information seems to be lost to new enthusi-
asts. It's hard to believe that 16 years have elapsed since Dave
Junchen's articles appeared in the AMICA Bulletin, let alone 38 years
since the first printing of Harvey Roehl's "Player Piano Treasury."
Finding mechanical music literature that enthusiasts took for granted
in the 1960s can be like a treasure hunt today. Old MBSI and AMICA
bulletins, and the many fascinating publications of the Vestal Press,
to name a few examples, contain much valuable information on mechanical
instruments and their music. Many valuable older publications are now
out of print, but may be found by contacting other enthusiasts, posting
a request in the MMD, or using one of the Internet book search
I heartily recommend the following materials on player pianos, coin
pianos and orchestrions to the new enthusiast. Perhaps other MMD
contributors will suggest their favorite books on music boxes, repro-
ducing pianos, fairground organs and other instruments, and literature
printed outside of the United States.
The more of these old standards that stay in circulation, the sooner
the MMD will be able to spend less time "reinventing the wheel" and
more time stimulating fascinating new discoveries!
"Player Piano Treasury," Harvey N. Roehl, The Vestal Press,
1st edition: 1961; 2nd edition: 1973.
"Put Another Nickel In," Q. David Bowers, The Vestal Press, 1966.
"The Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments," Q. David Bowers,
The Vestal Press, 1972. (Still in print.)
"Treasures of Mechanical Music," Art Reblitz and Q. David Bowers,
The Vestal Press, 1981.
The "Journal" and "News Bulletin" of the Musical Box Society
The "Bulletin" of the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors'
For other collectors' groups around the world, some of which have
published fine literature for decades, see the "Musica Mecanica"
web site at: http://www.cnam.fr/museum/musica_mecanica/