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MMD > Archives > May 1998 > 1998.05.18 > 04Prev  Next

Simplex & Symphony Piano Players
By Dan Wilson, London

Glen Deutsch asked about a Simplex piano player.  The Simplexes that
turn up in the UK are 65-note jobs made by the Wilcox and White Co. at
Meriden, Conn., between about 1902 and 1922.

The rolls are suspiciously similar to early Aeolian rolls (the two
firms were close by each other and may have shared roll-making plant)
but are designed to play upwards, so have to be respooled the other way
'round to be played on a Pianola pushup, whereupon all the instructions
and markings are upside down and on the wrong side of the paper.  Like
the Angelus player-piano from the same firm, the instrument used an
early form of plywood to build up the stack, with rather weak glue
which any dampness will have entirely undone.

An offspring machine was the Symphony, which could play Simplex rolls
but also had its own in crocodile-skin-like boxes.  It incorporated a
simple reed organ to which, of course, any piano played had to be
tuned, unless you pedalled it by itself.

The Simplex is not one of those historical survivals to which I natur-
ally warm, I'm sorry to say.  When you open one up everything is
usually rotten or broken or both.  But the Symphony at least has the
merit of being unusual and a commercial risk.  I'm very keen on other
people restoring them.

Dan Wilson, London

Key Words in Subject:  Piano, Players, Simplex, Symphony

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