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MMD > Archives > January 2017 > 2017.01.19 > 06Prev  Next

M. Schulz Aria Divina 16-step Recordo Player
By Andrew Barrett

This is in response to Mr. Bernt Damm's email in 170116 MMDigest:

> Is a Schulz Aria Divina worth saving?
> Does anyone have some rolls for it that I could obtain?

Dear sir,  Although I have not yet personally played or heard a Schulz
piano (yet), I understand that as musical instruments they have a very
good reputation.

The grand and upright Schulz pianos of which I've heard were
medium-high grade instruments (with of course even the "low grade"
pianos built 100 years ago usually of higher quality than most of the
"low grade" pianos built today).

Also, the Aria Divina Recordo-type expression/reproducing system was
supposed to be one of the rare late 16-step Recordo systems, with
the four expression holes used in combination obtaining 16 different
expression levels, plus the automatic bass and treble split hammer
rail, and automatic sustain pedal.

Cable made a 10-step Recordo system for the Euphona, with matching
Imperial Automatic Electric rolls; and H. C. Bay made a 5-step system.

I have never heard an actual "Aria Divina" play, and hope if someone
is reading this who has both a fully restored (and voiced, regulated,
and tuned!) one, and also access to both a video camera and audio
recording equipment which _doesn't_ automatically flatten out dynamics
(auto-gain control, found on too many camera mics), that they could
please post a video to YouTube or equivalent of one of these wonders
in action.

The only 16-step Recordo I've yet heard (and only Recordo I've so far
heard play in person -- they're rare) is the A. B. Chase upright
foot-pumped player retrofitted with a home-made(?) 16-step Recordo
system by the Bannister brothers of Riverside, California.

I heard this piano about two years ago and it played great -- I didn't
know those rolls had so many dynamics in them!  Of course not all the
coding in all rolls was great, but at least when the QRS Recordo rolls
were played, it sounded surprisingly good and the dynamics made musical
sense.  A. B. Chase made fine quality pianos so the good piano also
helped a lot with the sound quality.

I would say that, especially given how rare Aria Divinas are in general
(I only see maybe two of them on Craigslist for sale per year), and are
probably _super rare_ rare in Australia, please get it, save it and
restore it; you won't regret it.

There also is/was a 73- or 76-note "Marionette" Schulz Aria Divina
baby grand for sale on Craigslist recently in upstate New York that,
although a short grand piano with short bass strings, also ought to
sound great and is probably also a super rare instrument (the only
other one I've heard of extant was turned into a Duo-Art).

If you get this piano and let me know, I will send you the half dozen
or so late QRS Recordo rolls I have on my shelf right now (right after
I get a friend like Robbie Rhodes to scan them, <hint hint>) and then
you'll have something to play.

I think I have several other Recordos but will need to dig for them,
or they might be too early to have the 16-step coding.

If you want to pay shipping for the rolls, fine, but I'd rather send
them Priority Mail (or whatever is the International equivalent) than
Media Mail (which is probably not available internationally anyway),
since Media Mail once destroyed an LP I bought off eBay several years
ago (completely smashed -- run over by a truck with a tire tread; no
tracking, insurance, or any other recourse for compensation; luckily
the LP was not one of a kind), and of course I'd eat the extra cost
of the shipping for peace of mind.

First, I'll check with the Billings "Rollography" to see if the numbers
indicate whether they're the late 16-step coding or the earlier kind.

I hope someone has a list of Recordo piano owners somewhere so that
if/when a recutting project gets off the ground, there is a ready group
of customers.  I would imagine that the long chain perforations of the
Recordo expression coding don't make the edges of the extant old rolls
too stable.  With more rolls available, that should hopefully spur
people to save and restore more of these wonderful old musical beasts.

Andrew Barrett
Costa Mesa, California

(Message sent Thu 19 Jan 2017, 09:19:34 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  16-step, Aria, Divina, M, Player, Recordo, Schulz

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