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MMD > Archives > July 2007 > 2007.07.27 > 01Prev  Next

"Treasures of Mechanical Music" & Other Projects
By Art Reblitz

"Treasures of Mechanical Music" by Dave Bowers and me has not
been reprinted simply because other projects have taken precedence.
Please let me explain:

Since 1981 when the book was first published, I've been very busy in
my shop, working and supervising employees, restoring over 75 large
orchestrions, coin pianos, reproducing pianos and band organs.  These
are not just cursory pneumatic-recovering jobs, but most have included
replacement of all felts, springs, leather, pneumatic materials and
other perishable piano parts -- including soundboards and pinblocks
when severely deteriorated; restoration and voicing of organ pipes;
cabinet work, re-veneering and refinishing; replating; rewiring; and
accurate reconstruction of many missing components.

I've also been responsible for keeping all of the automatic pianos,
orchestrions and many of the band organs in tune and regulation for
the Sanfilippo and Krughoff Collections (with help from other tuners
when 50 or more instruments need to be tuned in a few weeks prior to
a convention).

Contrary to certain rumors, we're still actively restoring and
servicing automatic pianos and organs full-time today for customers
all over the United States, and I have no intention of slowing down
any time soon!  Our most recently-completed project was to design,
build and write the script for a hands-on band organ display for
a delightful new carousel museum in Burlington, Colorado.  We're
currently finishing a Seybold Piano-Accordeon-Jazz orchestrion for
a collection in Wisconsin, a large Lösche orchestrion with five ranks
of pipes, xylophone and moving scene for the Yaffe Collection, and
a Peerless Arcadian for the Sanfilippo Collection.

In the same time period I've written "Player Piano Servicing and
Rebuilding," the second edition of "Piano Servicing, Tuning and
Rebuilding," the 448-page book "The Golden Age of Automatic Musical
Instruments," the "Victorian Palace" brochure and 200+ interpretive
display signs for the instruments in the Sanfilippo Collection,
numerous magazine articles, portions of the Mechanical Music Press
web site, co-authored the book "The Mills Violano- Virtuoso" with
Mike Kitner, and helped with pre-publication work on a French edition
of my piano servicing book.

I've also arranged over 300 music rolls since 1981, including the
entire music library for the Ramey Banjo-Orchestra.  In other words,
the dog didn't eat my homework, but I've finished a lot of other
projects that have kept my revising and reprinting of the earlier
books on the back burner.

In a posting to MMD regarding "Treasures" a few days ago, it was
constructively suggested that next time I should "verify the data and
get inputs from known and reliable sources."  Actually, relatively
few errors have been found in "Treasures of Mechanical Music."

As for reliable sources, if you have access to a copy, please take
another look at the Acknowledgments on the page facing page 1.  My
references included virtually all of the known and reliable sources
that I could find in 20 years of research leading up to the publication
of this work.

Original sources included hundreds of original factory roll
arrangers' scale sticks from the B.A.B., DeRoy (Symphonia), Mortier,
and Wurlitzer companies.  Dozens of well-known collectors and restorers
contributed information and then proofread material in their individual
area of expertise.  In many instances, several people supplied some
of the same scales, making it possible to cross check for accuracy.
Durrell Armstrong, Bob Billings, Terry Borne, Durward Center, Paul
Eakins, Bill Edgerton, Howard Fitch, Carl Frei Jr., Eddie Freyer, Larry
Givens, Roy Haning, Jan Jaap Haspels, Terry Hathaway, Ralph Heintz,
Dave Junchen, Mike Kitner, Alan Lightcap, Mac McClaran, Arthur Prinsen,
Dave Ramey, Ken Smith, Ramsi Tick and Ozzie Wurdeman were just a few of
those who helped.  For the rest, take a look at the book; the list
reads like a "Who's Who" of mechanical music, as of 1981.

Of course, that doesn't mean a few mistakes didn't creep in.  Since
1981 I've kept a special file in one file cabinet called "Scales Not
in New Book" (referring to "Treasures," not the more recent "The Golden
Age").  That file now contains all the corrections that have been
noted, plus hundreds of pages of variations on band organ and dance
organ scales, a few orchestrion scales that were unknown to me in 1981,
further details on a few large one-of-a-kind reproducing pipe organ
scales, etc.

My book with hundreds of color photos, "The Golden Age of Automatic
Musical Instruments," published in 2001, includes appendices that
contain much detailed information, including the most important tracker
scales and key frame layouts from the earlier "Treasures," plus scales
for major instruments that have surfaced since 1981.  Admittedly, the
scales for organettes, music boxes, and one-of-a-kind dance and
fairground organs aren't in "The Golden Age," but scales for the most
popular automatic pianos, band organs, fairground organs and dance
organs are there.

(Regarding the veracity of information in "The Golden Age", refer to
the acknowledgments, which read like a "Who's Who" of mechanical music
20 years later than the list in Treasures.)

One major improvement in the newer book is that all of the scrambled
orchestrion and band organ scales (in which the notes are not in
musical order) are listed both in tracker bar (scrambled) order and
in musical (unscrambled) order.  This enables the reader to easily make
musical comparisons between things like the scrambled Welte 75-hole
scale and the Hupfeld Helios scale, or the various scrambled Bruder and
Ruth scales compared to the American counterparts made by Wurlitzer.
For those who are musically inclined, this information helps to make
sense out of scales that are otherwise quite cryptic, and it took many
hours for me to verify that I had decoded it correctly.  To date, no
one has brought any corrections to my attention.

If there's enough demand, I'll be happy to see "Treasures" reprinted
after I have time to make the corrections and to add important
previously unpublished scales.  Dave Bowers will also be happy to
have it reprinted if the future brings more than a few requests for it
each year.  We still hold the copyright on the original.  But first,
a preview of my next publication:

For the last two years, I've spent a lot of time finishing my research
for my next major writing project, a detailed history of the Chicago
coin piano and orchestrion manufacturers.  Thanks to Dave Bowers and
the trustees of the Musical Box Society allowing me to study important
literature that Dave donated to the Society prior to its being
archived, combined with photos and information on hundreds of extant
Chicago-made instruments sent to me by collectors over the past 30
years, and information from descendents of people associated with the
original manufacturers, this will be the most detailed history written
on the subject to date.  I have enough material to make it comparable
to the Wurlitzer story told by Dave Bowers in his milestone 1965 book
"Put Another Nickel In."  My new work will be published first as a
series of articles in the MBSI Journal.  Please stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I welcome any corrections to any of my previous books and
will dutifully file them for future reference.  I heartily thank
everyone who has helped with research over the decades, and of course
all the enthusiasts who have bought copies of the books.  Researching
and writing has been a very enjoyable part of my career.

Art Reblitz
Colorado Springs, Colorado

(Message sent Fri 27 Jul 2007, 13:00:24 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Mechanical, Music, Other, Projects, Treasures

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