I have purchased many recordings from both Chris Carlisle's web site
and from the Carrousel Music company, all of which I have enjoyed.
These and a few other purveyors represent a pretty good cross-section
of the different areas of mechanical music, but I fear that these
suppliers are as useless to the general public as they are useful to
I took particular notice of Brian Smith's original posting because of
the line, "How are children going to learn about automatic music if
they are all locked away in collections?"
This is an excellent point. I won't discuss the difficulty of finding
instruments in public which actually operate, because I could probably
spend years raving like a lunatic about the scores of instruments
languishing in conspicuous disuse.
The question pertinent to that point is, what recordings do children
have available to them once they do hear an instrument they enjoy?
My favorite recordings are those I have picked up at places I've
visited and heard the instruments in person (Glen Echo Park, Knoebels,
Clark's Trading Post, Seabreeze, and the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round come
to mind). I'm disappointed that Knoebels seems to be phasing out their
offerings of 15-20 recordings, Clark's phased out their recordings
maybe five years ago, and so on.
I think the best chance a child has to fall in love with mechanical
music is to hear a great instrument at a carousel or elsewhere and
bring a recording home with them. A child who is visiting a park with
his or her family and is enjoying hearing a band organ might ask for
a recording of it if it is available on the spot. He or she isn't
likely to do a Google search at home to find the companies I mentioned
above or any other, which is why I view those companies mainly as
resources for the enthusiast community.
Maybe a child who brings a recording home and listens to it during the
winter will ask to go back to the carousel or whatever location the
next summer Maybe that child will end up talking to the instrument's
operator and learn something about it, and so on.
I don't mean to apply my experience to all children, or to engage
in wild supposition about how people ought to become interested in
mechanical music or anything like that. I only know that I became
interested in mechanical music through a lucky series of events much
like what I described above.
When I was very young my mother took me to Glen Echo Park to see a
puppet show there and I happened upon the carousel, where I loved both
the carousel and the sound of the band organ. She bought me a few
tapes of the organ, which I promptly wore out in my kiddie tape player.
Soon after, my mom took our family to Clark's Trading Post, which she
wanted to visit because she had always passed it on the road as a young
girl. I don't think she knew about their collection of orchestrions
(who would, the way they advertise?), but I spent every quarter in sight,
fell in love with them, and also bought a few tapes there. These tapes
kept me warm to the instruments through the winter, and only then did
my family begin looking elsewhere for recordings on the Internet. One
thing led to another, fortunately. I'm fortunate to be employed at
Glen Echo working with the carousel and band organ and to spend time
every summer visiting instruments around the Northeast.
I was maybe 5 or 6 when I received those first tapes; I'm now 16 and
would like to be part of the next generation of instrument historians
and restorers. I'm in the process of converting those first tapes
I received (what's left of them after heavy playing) to MP3 files, and
I still tingle when I hear "Don't Bring Lulu," "If You Knew Susie,"
"Russian Lullaby," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and my other favorites from
way back then. I sure hope some more children can find access to these
great instruments through recordings.
Dover, New Hampshire (for the summer)