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Triola Mechanical Zither
"Triola" Mechanical Zither
by John Wolff (020513 MMDigest)

A "Triola" roll-playing mechanical zither in reasonable working order was sold at Christie's auction in Melbourne recently for a hammer price of $950 Australian.  Add 17.5% for Christie's and 10% of 17.5% for the government, and the final price was close to $1200 Australian.  Although that is only about $600 American (at the current exchange rate), it sure feels like $1200 to us Aussies.

Of the 19 rolls sold with it, there were only ten additions to the list which I posted in MMD 2000.03.09:

1216  Hallo, la demoiselle du telephone (R. Stolz)
1221  Hail, Power of Love
1228  Einst spielt ich, aus "Czar und Zimmermann" (Lortzing)
1229  Pilgrim's March from Tannhauser (Wagner)
1328  O Taler weit, o Hohen (Mendelssohn)
1330  Stolzenfels on the Rhine
1358  A night of Romance (Horatio Nicholls)
1364  No One's Ever Kissed Me - Song One-Step (Phillip Braham)
1372  Alice - Romance (J. Ascher)
1394  Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen (Praetorius)

Would any other Triola owners care to contribute their roll details to this list?

For those interested in what a Triola sounds like, I have attached a MIDI simulation of "Rule Britannia" from Triola roll number 1125.

Recall that the Triola mechanism only plays the melody strings, and the operator has to play the accompaniment himself.  The melody part for this file was transcribed from an original roll using my home-made optical scanner, which I intend to write more about later.  The scanning software produces a playable MIDI file which was edited manually to remove the tempo compensation.  (The Triola rolls gradually increase the note lengths by about one-third from beginning to end to compensate for paper build-up on the take-up spool).

The bass and chord accompaniment were then added manually according to the instructions printed along the edge of the roll.  Finally, the tremolo effect was added using a program called "miditrem", from a set of very useful freeware MIDI utilities by Guenter Nagler (now at The result sounds a lot cleaner than any Triola I've ever heard, and is really not too bad.

For comparison, I have attached a rather rough MP3 file of a rank amateur attempting to play a real Triola - I obviously need a lot more practice!

John Wolff
Melbourne, Australia
14 May 2002 10:06:45 +1000

wolff_Lorelei.mp3 (135 kb - MPEG audio, 24 kbit/sec, 22050 Hz, Mono)
wolff_RuleBrit.mid (17 kb - MIDI file)

13 May 2002

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