Long before the advent of the mechanical piano, people listened to the music played by the hurdy-gurdy. The man with the box walked down the street, turned the handle and a crowd gathered around. Centuries will pass, and the principle of operation of the barrel organ will become the basis for creating the mechanism of a new composition, which will be called the pianola.
The device and the principle of operation
The pianola is a musical instrument that reproduces music on the principle of the piano by hitting the keys with hammers. The main difference between the pianola and the upright piano is that it does not require the presence of a professional musician to play. The sound plays automatically.
Inside the attachment or built-in device is a roller, on the surface of which protrusions are applied. Their arrangement corresponds to the sequence of notes of the piece being performed. The roller is actuated by means of a handle, the protrusions sequentially act on the hammers, and a melody is obtained.
Another version of the composition, which appeared later, worked on the same principle, but the score was encoded on a tape of paper. Air was blown through the holes of the punched tape, it acted on the hammers, which, in turn, on the keys and strings.
History of origin
In the second half of the XNUMXth century, masters began experimenting with pianola devices based on the action of a mechanical organ. Before the pianola, a harmonicon appeared, in which rods on a pinned board acted on the keys. Later, the French inventor J.A. The test introduced the world to the cardboardium, where the plank with rods was replaced by a punched card with a pneumatic mechanism.
E. Votey is considered the inventor of the mechanical piano. His 1895 pianola worked by the pressure created by the pianist’s pedaling at the bottom of the instrument. Music was played using perforated paper rolls. The holes in the paper denoted only notes, there were no dynamic shades, no tempo. The difference between the pianola and the piano at that time was that the former did not require the presence of a musician who knew the peculiarities of the musical staff.
The first devices had a small range, large dimensions. They were assigned to the piano, and listeners sat around. At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, they taught to insert the structure into the piano body and use an electric drive. The dimensions of the device have become smaller.
Famous composers became interested in the new instrument. They adapted their works to the pianola by coding the scores on rolls of paper. Among the most famous authors are S. Rachmaninov, I. Stravinsky.
Gramophones became popular in the 30s. They became more common and quickly replaced the mechanical piano. During the invention of the first computers, interest in him resumed. The well-known digital piano appeared today, the difference of which is in the electronic processing of the scores and the recording of encoded sounds on electronic media.
Using the pianola
The heyday of the mechanical tool came at the beginning of the last century. Listeners wanted to choose more pieces, and demand gave birth to supply. The repertoire expanded, Chopin’s nocturnes, Beethoven’s symphonies and even jazz compositions became available. Milhaud, Stravinsky, Hindemith “wrote” works specially for the pianola.
The speed and execution of the most complex rhythmic patterns became available to the instrument, which was difficult for “live” performers to perform. In favor of a mechanical piano, Conlon Nancarrow made his choice, who wrote Etudes for a Mechanical Piano.
The difference between the pianola and the pianoforte could then completely push “live” music into the background. The piano differed from the pianola not only in that it required the presence of a competent musician. Some works required long learning and technical skills of the performer due to their complexity. But with the advent of gramophones, radiograms and tape recorders, this instrument was completely forgotten, it was no longer used, and now you can see it only in museums and in collections of antique dealers.