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MMD > Archives > April 2001 > 2001.04.20 > 06Prev  Next

FS: Rolls for John Smith Busker Organ
By Ed Gaida

It has been two years since I ordered the plans for the John Smith
organ.  In that time I have built a number of them with all sorts of
modifications and changes to dimensions.  My efforts and comments are
available in the Archives section of this august journal.

No matter how exotic or simple an automatic musical instrument, without
music you have a machine that takes up space and stares at you.  Anyone
in this hobby/business knows this and the large number of roll
re-cutting projects attests to this fact.

Long before I completed the first organ, I had ordered masters from
Melvyn Wright though his United States agent, Hal O'Rourke.  The paper
masters are printed on fanfold computer paper and require a punch with
a precision indexing plate to get the holes to line up correctly on the
tracker bar.  I was not prepared for the amount of time necessary to
punch a small roll, say, one of 20 feet.

The reward came when I played the roll and heard the arrangement.
Fifty years of listening to perforated music has given me an
appreciation for good arrangements.  The best are those that vary with
each verse and chorus.  Listen to the Duo-Art version of "Doll Dance"
if you need an example.  It is this type of arranging that Melvyn does.
He can take 20 notes and make them sound like 40!

Punching just _one_ roll seemed like wasted effort, and the mechanics
of the punch and die dictate that more than one sheet of paper pass
through it if you want sharp, clean copies.  Commercial perforating
operations either use a heavier paper for the bottom copy or discard
the last two or three sets because of ragged holes or -- I hesitate
here -- hanging chad!

After I posted pictures of the organ construction on my website,
I began to hear from others who had built the organ or were struggling
with the plans... ah, carpenter's drawings.  I encouraged them and in
many cases sold them the parts that are most difficult to construct.
When they finished they needed music.  Some ordered the masters and
once again were faced with what seemed like a monumental task: punching
out music.  In many cases they sent the masters to me and I punched the
rolls for them.  All let me keep the masters and my library of Melvyn
Wright arrangements has grown.

It has been said that you really cannot get a good grasp of the
word "copyright" until you have gone through the process of copyrighting
something.  In my case that was true after I published my first book.
After that, I stopped pirating (a somewhat nice word for stealing)
copyrighted works.  If I was going to sell Melvyn's music, then I would
need to work out an arrangement with him for payment of royalties.
With the help of Hal O'Rourke such an arrangement is now in place and
I am now selling rolls for the John Smith organ.

I have new section devoted to rolls on my website.  You access it from
the main page:

You will find a catalog, more pictures, a cassette tape of eight of
selections (very non-professionally recorded) and a link to Melvyn's
site that has a growing section on the John Smith organ.  It looks like
the instrument is here to stay, so if you need music, let me know.

Melvyn's arrangements run the gamut of musical variety and vary in
length from 16 feet to over 100 feet!  At five feet an hour, you can
see that punching a roll can be very time consuming.  On a recent
visit, Don Teach looked over my roll punching operation and muttered
only half under his breath, "You will soon get tired of this!"  Well,
I haven't, and the comments I have received from those who have heard
Melvyn's music make it all worthwhile.

Not listed in the catalog, but available, is a delightful arrangement
by our own Robbie Rhodes of "La Raspa".  He sent the arrangement in a
MIDI file and I produced it for the Smith organ.

Melvyn receives his royalty on every roll that I sell which is as it
should be.  I do _not_ sell paper masters or MIDI files of his music.
My post on 2000.11.06.10 on my collaboration with Richard Brandle on
scanning and printing of paper masters and conversion to MIDI files
should tell you where I am headed with all of this -- a full scale
reciprocating perforator.  For now, my _free_ time is occupied punching
rolls, one hole at a time.

With the help of John Kleinbauer, who did the electronics, I have a
Midster punch.  It works very well and Bob Essex now has plans and
software for a two-punch machine.  It is simply too slow for my needs.
John, who has extensive background in CNC equipment, has pronounced the
plans and the software the "best".  Bob sent reams of emails to help
both John and I with the project, so if you have the MIDI files, order
the plans and build the Midster.  Just be prepared to wait while it
goes through its operations.  The Smith rolls require _slots_ and not
holes, so the overlapping of punches gives the Midster a real workout
with complex arrangements such as Melvyn's.

If, after reading the pages on the website, you have questions, I am
just a click away.

Ed Gaida

(Message sent Fri 20 Apr 2001, 13:52:55 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Busker, FS, John, Organ, Rolls, Smith

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