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MMD > Archives > February 2005 > 2005.02.17 > 07Prev  Next


What is an Orchestrion?
By Matthew Caulfield

The definition of orchestrion in Arthur Reblitz's book, "The Golden Age
Of Automatic Musical Instruments" (on p. 407), is a long and detailed
one, listing ten main types of orchestrion.  But I will quote the
beginning:

  "Orchestrion.  Self-contained automatic musical instrument, esp. a
large one, equipped with several different instruments in imitation of
an orchestra.  Usually contains some percussion effects (e.g., drums,
cymbal, triangle, etc.) ..."

I believe a similar definition is contained in the Bowers Encyclopedia.

On p. 397, Art defines a band organ thus:

  "Band organ. (Mainly American usage).  Loudly-voiced self-contained
automatic pipe organ designed for skating rink, carousel, or outdoor
amusement use.  Models with brass trumpets, trombones, and piccolos are
sometimes called 'military band organs.'  Synonyms: fair organ,
fairground organ, carousel organ."

So an orchestrion is not a band organ.  But even if it were, that does
not mean your Style 'O' rolls would play on just any instrument.  What
you have are Play-Rite recuts of O-rolls.  They will play on instruments
designed and tubed to play O-rolls.  I suppose that would be mostly or
entirely orchestrions.

There has been some writing on the virtues and demerits of the various
styles of orchestrion rolls, for example in Craig Brougher's "The
Orchestrion Builder's Manual And Pneumatics Handbook," where he
compares G rolls and O rolls.

Matthew Caulfield (Irondequoit, New York)


(Message sent Thu 17 Feb 2005, 18:43:15 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  an, is, Orchestrion, What

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