One Cultural Indicator concerning Player Piano Rolls
Greetings! In this great hobby we might tend to take player piano
rolls for granted. Compared to a Hupfeld Helios V or a Weber Maesto
Orchestrion, piano rolls aren't much to get excited about. However,
once in a while something comes along to shake those prejudices.
The January, 1999 (egad!) "Atlantic Monthly", page 20, under "Classical
Music" has a short piece entitled "Rolling Along". It relates how
contemporary composer John Adams was listening to recordings of piano
roll music from the l920s.
These renditions of works by Jelly Roll Morton, Gershwin, Paderewski
and Rachmaninoff inspired Composer Adams to create the piece "Century
Rolls" for pianist Emanuel Ax. This new piece will premier on January
8, 9 and 12, 1999 with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
This short article describes the qualities of the piano roll composi-
tions that inspired Century Rolls: "that slightly punchy, highly
I'm a little surprised to find even this oblique reference to our
favorite hobby in a well-known contemporary magazine. I was similarly
amazed to find a long article about band organ restoration on the front
page of The Wall Street Journal some 20 years ago. My only wish would
be that there were many more such references to automatic musical
instruments in the popular media!
[ See earlier letters about this composition in MMDigest 981209
[ and 981210. It is enjoying many premiers! ;) -- Robbie