I noticed that one of the Internet postings concerned the making of a
"killer test roll" for the Duo-Art.
We have in the works - actually started some time ago, but interrupted
- a 2 (possibly 3) roll set for the Duo-Art, being prepared for the
ARTCRAFT label. This is the result of my '45-years-plus' spent on
making these expression rolls AND using the Pianola levers to a)
interpret Master Rolls 'before'/while they are scored and b) "beef-up"
the myriad lackluster Aeolian expression arrangements by overriding the
settings with the versatile hand controls.
One thing to keep in mind are the many variables in pumps, soft pedal
types (3) [and the 'boost' to Accomp.], as well as the "in-performance"
nature of the music ... yet still able to play admirably on a variety of
uprights and grands.
My rolls concentrate on the PIANO (its action and the voicing of the
hammers) since it's necessary to "adjust the piano to FIT the player" on
any VIRTUOSO Duo-Art arrangement.
This is why Ampico and Duo-Art went the 'Muzak' (background music)
route, as it covered up for the lack of standardization in the many
Pianola variables ... and mushy music never taxed the instrument that
much. [It also explains WHY the in-house demonstration rolls were
vastly more exciting than the releases sold to the general public. If
anything, these special rolls prove that the makers "knew they could do
Some of the EARLY Duo-Art Test Rolls had those teal-green lines (i.e.
Aeolian's standard ink) crossing the rolls ... with lines like "Steinway
uprights after this point only" and the like. These were produced in
the days of the 72-flap & 12-flap pumps ("steamboat") and the early
rotary pumps, each with their own "impulses/minute" rate - and often
without a hammer rail lift on the grands plus no graduated pneumatics.
It gives one a headache to think of the design differences which will
influence an arrangement on different pianos. This is why we took the
"Interpretive Arranging" route years ago: concentrating on the STRIKING
FIRST (graduating that according to 'performance' needs, down to a 1/4
perforation overlap) and then adding the expression score. Cutting to
128th of a note standards is the key to making virtuoso Duo-Art rolls.
If one wants a quick Duo-Art "tester" - try the ARTCRAFT Roll of
LINNMANIA-MARSEILLAISE - fully described in our URL -
Monsieur Heffer, my agent in Paris, collaborated with the Swedish
composer for a wild set of variations upon the French national hymn.
This was done with the limitations/advantages of the Duo-Art action in
mind, and the roll does 'everything' in the fields of wide dynamic
range, chord size and tonal spectrum that one could ever hope to
expect. The roll was created for demonstrating the NEW French-built
Duo-Art players during the Bicentennial in 1989.
Nice to see that others are considering a sequel to that bland and
inefficient commercial Test Roll by Aeolian. It was created to "flutter
the keys" enough to sell a piano, and that was just about all.
Visitors to our museum (The Musical Wonder House) used to describe
full-scale special test rolls at Wilcox & White - on senior citizens'
tours from Meriden CT in the 'Sixties - for testing SPECIFIC
installations of the Wm. Knabe and other fine pianos. I'm certain that
Aeolian in Garwood NJ had a far better in-house Test Roll for the
workers' own use ... a roll which transcended the ones which the public
and music stores used.
Regards from Maine,
(signed) Douglas Henderson
ARTCRAFT Music Rolls
Wiscasset, ME 04578