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MMD > Archives > June 2001 > 2001.06.02 > 05Prev  Next

The Fascinations of Mechanical Music
By Matthew Caulfield

Folks' fascination with replication, and my failure to feel the same
fascination, got me to thinking about what attracts a person to this
hobby.  I'm sure the relative force of the attractants differ from
person to person.

Mechanical musical instruments have many aspects, both technical
and esthetic, which tug at the heart and engage the inquiring mind.
How would you rank these possible appeals in your case:

  The pleasure of the musical sounds produced
  The intrigue of the mechanics/pneumatics/electronics of its operation
  The appeal of its antiquity and history
  The rarity of an instrument, and the cachet of owning it
  The value as an investment
  The fun of operating it and seeing it enjoyed
  The fun of building and maintaining it
  The appeal of the musical repertoire available

Personally, I'd rank these factors, from most to least influential,
as follows: sound,  operating fun, mechanics, repertoire, rarity,
antiquity, investment, maintenance "fun."

As you can guess from this, I'd never sink much money into producing a
replica if I could avoid it.  There must be some middle ground between
historically accurate replication and all-new but unproven design.

Building an organ may be pure fun, but the "fun" of maintaining it is
diminished by a constant dread that something will stop working and my
awareness -- which I'm sure the average listener doesn't share -- of
the least little malfunction, hesitation, or misbehavior of the beast
that I own (or that owns me).

The carousel people get all teary-eyed about "original paint" just
because it is old and original.  They forget that, if and when Dentzel
or PTC or Illions repainted one of their machines, they probably used
some variant of their "original" scheme.  Those old-timers didn't
approach their work as a museum enterprise but as a business, the
purpose of which was to produce goods for profit.  Replication is
often good and necessary, but not replication just for the sake of

Matthew Caulfield

(Message sent Sat 2 Jun 2001, 12:58:31 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Fascinations, Mechanical, Music

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