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MMD > Archives > January 2012 > 2012.01.08 > 03Prev  Next

Mechanical Music in the Movies
By Bob Loesch

[ Jeff Taylor wrote in 120106 MMDigest:

> The idea of using piano rolls for film accompaniment seems counter-
> intuitive to me, though, since as far as I know there was no way to
> synchronize the music to the action.  Try to imagine "The Sheik of
> Araby" during a death scene!

Hi Jeff.  I'm a theatre organist and have played scores for many
films.  It might seem counter-intuitive to you, but "back in the
day", instruments with roll players were quite common in theatres.
Known as "photo-players", they were normally player pianos with pipes
and other effects so that the pianist could strike, shake, blow,
whatever, whenever necessary.

The "higher-end" photoplayers had two roll carriers, and some could
play proprietary rolls AND ordinary 88-note player piano rolls.  By
1920, they had, for the most part, been replaced with theatre pipe
organs, as organ builders jumped on the bandwagon to try to sell

While an organist with a good theatre pipe organ can play a movie far
better than any roll, still a roll was better than no music at all!
Photoplayers of several makes are well-documented in David Junchen's
book, "Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ", volumes one and two.

Bob Loesch

(Message sent Sun 8 Jan 2012, 19:24:19 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Mechanical, Movies, Music

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