Hello MMD readers, A few days ago I submitted a posting in
MMDigest 2000.03.12, "Piano300" Exhibition at Smithsonian Institution.
The publicity machinery at National Public Radio, mentioned in the
article, has been augmented by news spots in the broadcast media,
with Time Warner cable television affiliates being the primary avenue
at this time. Today, CNN ran a "Piano300" overview, featuring the
curator, Patrick Rucker (whose web page has a good biography:
http://www.piano300.org/bios/rucker.htm) playing some of the
instruments, highlighted by a couple of Liszt passages.
The low point of the CNN spot had to be the upright player-piano.
"It's not working any more," said the announcer. The camera then
focused on a sorry-looking leader for an Imperial Industrial Co.
(QRS) roll, while the voice-over continued with, "But here's what it
would have sounded like, playing a roll made by Scott Joplin."
Not working anymore? "Piano300" is a year-long exhibit which began at
the Smithsonian only a few days ago. Certainly they could have borrowed
a player from an AMICA member in the vicinity, or one of the many
collectors in the area, or, better still, spent a few weeks rebuilding
the one they have in the exhibit of 25 instruments. (It's a
conventional 88-note pedal player, which should be a straightforward
While the Disklavier wasn't played (since in the company of
pianist-curator Rucker there would be no competition!), the electronic
keyboards were shown by the roving video camera.
Thus, it appears that the visitor to "Piano300" will be shown an
array of splendid keyboard instruments, but when it comes to players,
the primary style -- featuring a pneumatic player action -- is passed
off as "not working any more". I would suspect that a MIDI solenoid
player performance is a finale for the daily tours!
Pneumatic players don't vanish, as some of the solenoid player
promoters like to proclaim through innuendo. They get built and
rebuilt, decade after decade, and they are still "with us" -- or
I wouldn't be heading for my 50th year in this niche musical craft
business of roll arranging!
Perhaps somebody in the Greater Washington area can lend a hand to get
that not-working-any-more player upright functioning before the year is
over. After all, pneumatic players, still being built today by Story &
Clark under the auspices of QRS, are here, an intriguing part of the
automatic piano scene. Electronic instruments, if history is any
example, are rather short-lived and destined for a landfill eventually.
Let's hope that "Piano300" injects some life into that lonely player
Regards from Maine,
Artcraft Music Rolls