Hector Sanchez' posting about Regina Sublima rolls took me down memory
lane. I punched many hundreds of feet of Regina Sublima music for the
set of re-cut rolls he is referring to, which were produced back in
winter of 1983 to spring of 1984. I can't believe that was almost 30
It was slow going, one little round punch at a time. It would take me
about 10 hours to punch one tune, and about a week to punch an entire
5-tune roll, if I remember right. This was at $3.00 an hour by the way,
I might add.
We had I think six layers of paper being punched at once to get six
copies of the roll. I know I punched a few mistakes by accident, but
it was not too bad. Rather than fill them in as I was supposed to do
with discarded punchings picked off the floor and then tape over them
which would have been ugly, I just left the mistakes in there. In
those pianos you really can't hear a quick errant note anyway.
The perforator was controlled by a foot pedal, so if you hit it by
accident you got a punch. It was a long process, and as a kid it was
very easy for me to get tired of it and want to go do other things.
The perforator head used compressed air as the motive force to move the
punch, and it had a large diaphragm in the air chamber that was made of
a car tire inner tube, which had to be replaced every so many days
because it would stretch due to the air pressure and the extreme
mechanical forces needed to operate the punch.
To make a master roll, what we did was take an original roll and lay it
out down the hallway floor directly on top of a roll of the new paper
stock that was going to be cut. Then, every hole in the roll was drawn
through with a pencil onto the new paper. This then became the new
master roll which was drawn through the perforator on top of the other
5 rolls of new paper which were spooled on dowels in a rack toward the
rear of the perforator. This stack of sheets was then stapled at the
margins every so many feet to keep the layers all together and in
register as I pulled them through the perforating head.
I worked on about two feet of roll at a time, indexing the single punch
left and right over the roll width until every punch was done. After
a couple feet were completed and every note in the immediate area was
punched, I removed the margin staples for that segment and continued
on. That's why the reproduction rolls have staple bites every few
feet. The finished roll paper collapsed into a huge box on the floor
in front of my feet.
I know several of the rolls were missing major parts of the music.
I had to "compose" the missing bars as I think they could have been
written, and then fill them in to sound like they just grew there.
First, I'd play the incomplete roll on the Sublima into a small
cassette recorder, and then sit at an upright piano and play the tape
while writing new staff notation for the missing parts, which would
later be converted to punches.
I know one tune that is on the re-cuts I named "Esoteric Waltz",
because that title on the original roll label was missing, and I had
to come up with some kind of name, since "Title Unknown" would not
have been acceptable. I had heard the word "Esoteric" that week from
somewhere I guess, and so it became a tune title. Who knows what the
real title of the tune was, and we had no way of finding out, nor did
we care back then.
It was unfortunate that so few copies of the rolls were made. They
were all sold by subscription before they were even completed. I do
know that the first rolls I punched were on heavy white card. In these
earlier rolls we punched each tune separately, and then all 5 tunes
were taped together with regular clear carton packing tape to make a
In later rolls, the paper was a thinner manila-colored stock, and
we did all 5 tunes with no cuts between them, just like the original
rolls. Although these later rolls were nicer looking, in reality the
paper was thinner and unfortunately they did not hold up to use as
well as the earlier, taped together rolls of heavier white stock.
I remember seeing the thinner manila paper rolls being damaged by
the spring-loaded keys of the Sublima on their very first play.
I don't know how I'd go about making new Sublima rolls today. It
would be a lot of work and definitely a labor of love, that's for
certain. I don't know what happened to the perforator, but I bet it
still exists somewhere. I still have the artwork for the tune cards
somewhere. I wonder where all those rolls we made are now?
John Rutoskey - Automatic Music Machines