Buffalo Convention Sets Piano Roll Standards
Last year Wayne Stahnke and I became interested in tracking down
the convention held 100 years ago which set the standards for 88-note
piano roll hole spacing. We had heard it referred to as the "Buffalo
Convention" or the "Chicago Convention," and it was said to have been
held in 1910 or any number of dates around that year, depending on
whose account you read.
Recently Dave Bowers gave to the MBSI a set of the "Music Trade Review"
(MTR) magazines which he owned. That weekly publication has now been
scanned into digital format by the MBSI, so that it can be searched and
copies can be printed out as PDF files. The resulting scan is very
large, taking up most of a 200 GB hard drive, and the searching time,
if you don't know the approximate date of what you are trying to
locate, can be enormous.
By the power of the computer and the good offices of the MBSI, the MTR
report on that elusive standard-setting convention has been located.
The convention, attended by representatives of the roll-making
industry and by player piano manufacturers, was held December 10,
1908, in Buffalo at the Iroquois Hotel. It was there that, after
a day-long debate, the 9-holes-to-the-inch hole spacing won out over
8-holes-to-the-inch by a twelve to six vote, which was later made
unanimous. Page 31 of the December 12, 1908, MTR issue (v. 47,
no. 24) contains a full-page report on the debate.
Two issues later (v. 47, no. 26, p. 27) an MTR staff writer worries
that the close spacing chosen would make tracking devices on player
pianos necessary, although he admits it did leave room at the edges
of a roll for expression holes.
I will forward to MMDigest the PDF image of the MTR's report on the
convention, which Robbie might want to try scanning and posting to the
Irondequoit, New York
[ Thanks, Matthew and MBSI. A history of the Iroquois Hotel of
[ Buffalo, New York, is given at http://ah.bfn.org/h/iroqH/index.html
[ -- Robbie