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MMD > Archives > May 2004 > 2004.05.29 > 02Prev  Next

Winkel's Componium in Brussels Museum
By Joyce Brite

Christofer Noering asked about Winkel's Componium.  I was fortunate to
see one at the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium.  The
Visitor's Guide to the Museum describes the instrument as follows:

  "In late 19th century orchestrions, there is a rotating cylinder
which, in synchronisation with the piece being played, returns to its
starting point at the same time as the end of the piece being played.
The componium is a variant of the orchestrion incorporating an
aleatoric mechanism actioned by one or two wood cylinders which move
both the keyboard and the registers of the instrument.

  "The componium includes two complementary synchronised cylinders,
both working continuously.  The music, in groups of two bars, is
notated alternately on each of the two cylinders.  While one is
playing, the other is silent.  During the period of silence, the
non-playing cylinder can move to another position, while the other
cylinder plays its two bars.  Inside the instrument, there is a
programmer which, according to an aleatoric position of the inner
mechanism, decides whether or not the cylinder will move to another
unpredictable position.  The componium cannot compose new music but can
play for several million years without using up all of its
possibilities for making variations.

  "The MIM has simulated a componium on computer, thanks to the
sponsorship of Fortis AG."

A picture of the componium may be seen at

I also want to say hello to Patrick Boeckstijns and Bjorn Isebaert who
were wonderful hosts while I was in Brussels.

Thank you,
Joyce Brite
Player Piano and Mechanical Music Exchange

 [ The American Heritage dictionary (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) says:
 [   aleatoric: Music: Using or consisting of sounds chosen by the
 [   performer or left to chance.  Derived from aleator, the Latin
 [   word for a gambler.
 [ Hmmm -- that sounds like jazz!    -- Robbie

(Message sent Sat 29 May 2004, 15:31:44 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Brussels, Componium, Museum, Winkel's

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