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MMD > Archives > November 2017 > 2017.11.13 > 01Prev  Next

Can Serinettes Teach Song Birds To Sing?
By Paul Tuck

I think there's little doubt that serinettes were indeed used to
teach song birds to sing, as demonstrated by a superb automaton,
'La leçon de chant', to be found in the Gelis collection at the
Musee Paul Dupuy, Toulouse.

Made by Robert-Houdin and dating from 1844, it was acquired by
Gelis from the widow of Robert-Houdin's son which may explain why
it is in such good condition.  Being at the museum a couple of
years ago, I made a video of sorts which can be seen here: 

Mark Singleton's 'Colibri' may well be unique, although about
thirty years ago I restored something similar but which was larger
and rather more conventional.  It had an automaton bird but no
'sifflets' and with a mandoline arrangement, the combs having the
normal range of tuning with no pretence at imitating birdsong,
although there were quite a few trills I seem to remember.  One
tune which it played was of course 'The mocking bird'.

One suspects the 'Colibri' was a special order from Dawkins/Rivenc,
who did make some strange things.  I have seen at least two of their
music boxes which had the comb and cylinder accompanied solely by
a very large drum / tambourine centred behind the movement.


Paul Tuck

(Message sent Mon 13 Nov 2017, 14:47:51 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Birds, Can, Serinettes, Sing, Song, Teach

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