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MMD > Archives > February 2000 > 2000.02.02 > 08Prev  Next

Welte-Mignon T-100 Recording System Technology
By Craig Brougher

Ref: 000201 MMD, Speculation on Low-Tech Welte Recordings

Jurgen Goering's speculation about low tech Welte recordings is what
most people have heretofore assumed.  He voices the two main points:

No. 1:  If Welte could do this, why don't we read about it, and,
No. 2:  Piano keys do not travel further down for louder notes.

To answer No. 1, all I would do (if I could), is refer him to the Welte
advertisements I've seen which documents their recording methods to the
degree that they could safely explain without giving away anything,
technically.  Remember, also, that Wilcox and White had a similar
system, capable of instant playback, too.  Both companies document
their technical achievements.  But now we have several eye-witness
accounts and witnesses to those who made the accounts.  Jim Crank has
just testified that he has personally seen a piece of one of the master
rolls printed with electrically conductive ink.

The recording system's idea has been verified, technically.  We only
need to show that it was possible, but in addition to that, we have all
the artifacts as well.  It might be that Jurgen wasn't able to read
that letter.  All the doubting now doesn't matter anymore, anyway.  The
proof is in.  Welte clearly did what they said they could do.

The very early article in the Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instru-
ments alludes to the output of a punched roll.  But the advertisements
I refer to, which came later in the development of Welte Mignon did not
infer, but directly claimed instant playback.

Jurgen said:

> The description of how the mercury trough captured dynamics is highly
> questionable to someone with a working knowledge of the piano key and
> action assembly.  To put it into one sentence, to imply that "the
> deeper the key is depressed the louder the note will sound" is simply
> not what happens in a piano.  If a piano were rigged in such a way, you
> couldn't get the world's top pianists to play on it!  The instrument
> has to have the right "feel" and be regulated properly for an artist
> to really perform.

He's right, of course.  But the carbon rods were tiny, and also no one
said the carbon rods were _rigidly attached_ to the keys, for one
thing.  That means, they could have been hit by the key plungers and
tapped further down into the mercury with harder and harder playing.
If they were attached to the keys, they would have been attached with
some sort of flexible connection, like a spring.  Really no problem,

It is even possible for them to have used rate formulas, the integral
of the "area under the curve" idea and/or by calculating the tangent,
transformed the time of the strike directly and inversely into a
dynamic reading that would translate to dynamics in the same way.
Still no problem by actually attaching the carbon rods directly to the
keys, and you could not sense it at the keyboard that anything was
there! So go ahead and attach them directly.  Technically, the speed of
the key strike could be calculated anyway.  But I doubt they did it
that way.

Clearly, Welte recorded intensities, because they used carbon "rods."
Richard Simonton even brought some samples back with him, which means
they had replacements readily available.  The only reason to use carbon
rods instead of metal wire, and conductive ink on the master rolls
instead of regular ink, is if they intended to not only record the
dynamics, but also play them back into some kind of a machine which
would make the musical interpretation for them.  It was clearly a
proportional control system.

We no longer have the position from which we can call this "low tech"
and "advertising fraud."  We have now as good proof of Welte recording
piano technology as we have about Ampico, Duo-Art, and other factories'
in-house equipment.  We can't lay our hands on any of it.  All we have
are pictures, and not one single artist ever spoke of it, to my
knowledge.  But if Welte was a fraud, then so were the rest of them!
We have more physical proof of the Welte system today, than we have of
any of the others, to my knowledge.

What Welte is proved to have accomplished would still be an engineering
feat today, but the facts are in and it's impossible to deny them.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Wed 2 Feb 2000, 17:08:35 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Recording, System, T-100, Technology, Welte-Mignon

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