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MMD > Archives > October 2011 > 2011.10.11 > 05Prev  Next

Frank Milne, Ampico Piano Roll Artist
By Bob Taylor

Picking up on Bruce Grimes' comments in 111001, it seems there is more
to this story.  I've not read nor do I know where Frank Milne made the
remarks about the "sloppy" crescendo mechanism of the Ampico.  I assume
he made them before working with that system.

In any event, a study of the rolls that Milne made on the Ampico label
reveals that he greatly changed his style of coding as time went by.
In fact, the first rolls offered by Milne on the Ampico show only
rudimentary coding while his later rolls reflect the highest level of

As Milne gained knowledge in the use of the Ampico expression system,
he departed from the standard coding practices that proceeded him at
Ampico.  Most of us think the Ampico B "sub intensity" is for super
soft playing.  But Milne, in his later work, used the "Sub intensity"
in conjunction with other codes to expand the "step" scales.  That
effort gave a total of 24 step levels that combine with the crescendo
to produce a smoothness and precision found in no other system.  I used
the sub intensity in conjunction with other codes when I coded the
Leo Podolsky "new" Ampico rolls in the 1980's for Chicago AMICA.

Milne may have opposed the merger with American piano and may have felt
initially that the crescendo was sloppy, but it is obvious that he soon
found out his evaluation of that system was wrong.  The fact is, there
is nothing sloppy about the Ampico crescendo.  Also, huge errors in
tempi of 20% have little discernible affect on the performance.

Opinions often change after taking a closer look.  The late Milne rolls
suggest that he thoroughly enjoyed coding for the Ampico system as he
did it with great understanding.  He taught us just how good it could
be on his late popular rolls.

Milne was a roll production genius.  The late Kay Harmes spent hours
researching Milne and interviewed his widow.  He gathered pages of
facts only to have them stolen from his vehicle.  The loss was tragic,
but Kay had shared those stories with me and many others, so the loss
was not complete.

My autographed picture of Frank Milne hangs right above my Ampico
Spinet in my popular music room.  Yes, I am a fan.  An evening spent
listening to his rolls, on Duo Art, Welte, Ampico or 88-note is time
well spent.

Bob Taylor

(Message sent Wed 12 Oct 2011, 00:26:41 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ampico, Artist, Frank, Milne, Piano, Roll

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