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MMD > Archives > November 2001 > 2001.11.12 > 04Prev  Next

Preserving Cultural Heritage
By Craig Brougher

I appreciate Tony Marsico's comments regarding the preservation of
heritage, one-of-a kind instruments.  This too needed to be said.
As Tony stated:

"When you are talking about mass produced cars that are used every day,
crushed down and another car being made, that's a valid point as far
as that goes.  Now change it to a race car of 1915 and make the same

And of course, we cannot.  As I said in full agreement:

"Art can be expertise, or it can be an esthetic product, but art is
one of a kind when it's machinery."

That, to my mind is the point, and likewise, turning a mass-produced
Ampico piano without resale value (as far as its owner is concerned)
into a top of the line Concert Ampico grand which undoubtedly will
receive notoriety and very likely grace the concert stage at some
point, allowing tens of thousands of people to hear it, is quite a
trade-off.  It is also turning a more common item into a one-of-a-kind
item, and hence, a larger degree of art is involved.  The original
system, dating back to the '20's and before does not suffer, nor does
its reputation.  It is enhanced.

As far as preservation goes, I would say that such a reproducing system
will get so much more acknowledgement and appreciation if properly
scaled dynamically to the concert stage, that it will create demand,
rather than denigrate the system and set the original idea back, as so
many so-called "restorations" in their original pianos have done in the

What is a "restoration," then? I have traveled around the country
during the 1980's, restoring recently done "restorations" for owners
who didn't like how their "restorations" continued to play after they
had paid the top dollar for them.  This also included some major
collections.  In every case, regardless what their rebuilder had told
them, valves had not been thoroughly rebuilt and tested, and in many
cases, the pianos were still playing on their original pump covers
and/or flap valves.  (I have never to this day revealed the name of
even one of those rebuilders to anyone, just in case you wondered).

So to my way of thinking, if in fact these otherwise beautifully done
but partially repaired 49 different reproducers which I either repaired
or re-rebuilt represented "preservation of our heritage" mechanically,
then we have been laboring under many mistaken opinions for many years.
We have been listening to "original" instruments that have been but a
shadow of their former selves.  Just for the record, everyone involved
were members of both AMICA and MBSI.  The owners _did_ put their money
where their mouths were.  They got ripped off, just the same.

I think that when you are truly interested in preserving our mechanical
musical heritage, then you will restore them thoroughly, all the way
through, and will not compromise their performance any longer.  Either
expect them to sound just like the artist performing, or keep at it
until it does.

This goes directly to another point I have made, educating ourselves
about the music and the way it is performed.  You do not need to be a
musician to appreciate well- performed music, and when you know what is
good, and why it is good, then you can save yourself a lot of money in
the long run, not to mention that only then do you have any chance of
"preserving our cultural heritage," as far as our music is concerned.
What we have largely done in the past does not qualify.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Mon 12 Nov 2001, 14:33:45 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Cultural, Heritage, Preserving

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