I must start this out by saying that I've never heard the Stahnke
system so I can't comment on the musical quality that he's able to
produce. I've read glowing reviews from many people that I respect so
I'll give it the credit for being able to beautifully play a piano.
So, why do we want to listen to and restore these instruments? What
is the delight of hearing _automatic_ music? Is it the music or the
ethereal joy of the wonder of the antique technology that is making it?
The wonder of how a piece of paper encoded with holes can create music?
Yes, collecting piano rolls is expensive and takes a lot of space, and
they sometimes tear and you have to spend hours repairing them until
you can play them. Yes, as time goes by some of them are no longer
able to be repaired, and no recuts are available of many pieces of
music. It's part of collecting a working antique.
I will not give up my paper. I don't care how lovely something sounds,
I want to know that air is rushing around making my piano play the most
incredible music possible.
The intrigue starts when visitors come to my home and notice the
rolls behind the piano. They ask, "What's that?"
I always reply that it's piano sheet music. "Aren't you familiar with
it?" It is always a delight for my guests to hear what comes next.
I ask you -- would it have the same magic if I pressed "Play" on a
computer? Would the intrigue be the same? It would be dismissed as
a computer gadget and not taken seriously.
I've been to many places -- hotels, a few restaurants and even Fry's
electronic store -- where modern pianos are played. No one stops to
listen to them. I've never seen someone ignore a roll-played piano.
(Well, I have had a few, but they are rare.)
As for the quote, "technology marches on and we're keeping up with
the technology", well, I can only say that I would rather have a MG
roadster from the 1950s than one made using a new car. And when I will
have the money to do so, I want to buy a classic car to drive -- I would
never consider even looking at one that the insides were ripped out and
replaced with a modern engine and transmission. The mere idea makes me
shudder, and the same for replacing an antique reproducing mechanism
with a modern player. (Adding one to a non-player gives me no problem
Tel Aviv, Israel