Last Updated: 10/8/2008


"The Mechanics of Mechanical Music, The Arrangement of Music For Automatic Instruments" by Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume. Published in 1973 by Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume, Chiswick, London. First Edition. Hard cover with dust jacket, 75 pages with with 28 Plates. The book measures 10 inches (25.2 cm) high by 7 inches (19 cm) wide.

Text from the dust jacket is as follows:

"The history of mechanical musical instruments goes back almost two thousand years and the first instructions for making a self-playing pipe organ were written down in the ninth century AD.

It is only within comparatively recent times that the value of these instruments and the important part which they play in musical history has come to be understood and appreciated by musicologists, historians and collectors alike. It is possible today to listen to a barrel organ playing music which was originally set on its wooden barrel several hundred years ago (the oldest surviving barrel organ in playing condition is in Salzburg and dates from 1502). The importance of such a musical interpretation is very great for it affords a direct opportunity to listen to music and styles of musical embellishment which ruled at the time the barrel was pinned. It predates all other forms of music recording and can shed a great deal of light on the differences between our present-day interpretation of early music and the form of interpretation which was generally acceptable to our distant forefathers.

The first practical treatise on how to set music on an organ barrel was that written in 1775 by Father Dominique Joseph Engramelle. His writings were expanded three years later by a Benedictine monk, Dom Bedos de Celles, who not only described in copious detail how to transcribe ordinary musical notation into the wire pins and staples of an organ barrel, but added a valuable treatise on musical ornamentation. His terminology was somewhat archaic but his instructions, in the form of highly-detailed engravings, were remarkably thorough and are as practical today as they were two hundred years ago.

MECHANICAL MUSIC is a modern treatise on how barrel pinning was undertaken and is based directly on the original French. It includes in entirety Dom Bedos' outstanding illustrations showing graphically, in the form of sections of the organ barrel, how a musical score is treated by the barrel-noter.

The instructions given in MECHANICAL MUSIC are such that they can be applied with equal facility to the arrangement of book music for fair-organs, paper strip music for organettes, or even player-piano rolls.

Shortly before the First World War, the Leabarjan Company in the United States produced a home perforating machine with the aid of which anybody could punch out their own music rolls for player pianos. Although naturally referring to the Leabarjan perforator, long, long since defunct, the booklet published by this company not only gave a fair amount of detail as to how the machine worked, but contained a lot of sound, practical information on how to set out and cut piano-rolls at home. These instructions are also reproduced in MECHANICAL MUSIC.

MECHANICAL MUSIC is a unique book, bridging as it does the gap between those books which describe the instruments of mechanical music, (such as those by the present author published by George Allen & Unwin, Crown Publishing Co, and A S Barnes) and the standard books of reference on musical history and instruments.

As a piece of fascinating reading, MECHANICAL MUSIC tells in full the, secret which was so jealously guarded by those musical engineers of the past - the Italians called it `the secret of the clock-face'. As a documentation of a hitherto unconsidered aspect of music, MECHANICAL MUSIC is without doubt a valuable reference work.

Above all, for the practical reader who wishes to experiment either in 18th century musical embellishment for keyboard music, or in the arrangement of music for a self-acting instrument (be it organ or piano), MECHANICAL MUSIC is an indispensible handbook.

Two complete musical scores for pieces of 18th century music are included, combined with comprehensive instructions how to pin these on a barrel. The same instructions will serve for punching cardboard music. So detailed are these instructions, illustrated by the original 18th century engraved plates, that no musical knowledge is needed to set out the music. There are 28 fine-line engravings ten of them double-page - providing pinning information and illustrating the tools and techniques used.

1. How Organ barrels are Pinned
2. How Piano Rolls are Made
3. Making your own Piano Rolls
Appendix Music for Mechanical Organ

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