Mechanical Music Hall

Today Elrik Mer­lin presents a var­ied pro­gramme of music from, on, and some­times by, machines.

And we mean musi­cal machines in the broad­est sense, from glass har­mon­i­cas, Vic­to­ri­an musi­cal box­es and the mighty Sym­pho­nion, to steam organs, pianolas and bar­rel pianos on the one hand, but touch­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of ear­ly com­put­ers and syn­the­sis­ers on the oth­er.

We will be fea­tur­ing a wide col­lec­tion of piano rolls from the ear­ly 1920s, along with some of the music that would have been heard in the bars and speakeasies of the peri­od, on instru­ments like the Wurl­itzer Organette (which com­bined organ pipes with a play­er piano).

How­ev­er, despite the inclu­sion of some music from elec­tron­ic instru­ments, this is not real­ly a pro­gramme of clas­sic elec­tron­i­ca — although there is some — and a fair amount of the mate­r­i­al is in a fair­ly tra­di­tion­al vein, includ­ing record­ings of mechan­i­cal instru­ments of the Vic­to­ri­an era that might have been heard in the par­lour, pub­lic house or at the fair­ground. There are, how­ev­er, good exam­ples of classic(al) synth per­for­mances from Isao Tomi­ta and Wendy Car­los, includ­ing some nar­ra­tive descrip­tions of the lat­ter’s ear­ly exper­i­ments with the medi­um and the more recent Switched-On Bach 2000.

On a (much) lighter note there are elec­tron­ic pieces in a Vic­to­ri­an style from Mag­natune artist Pro­fes­sor Arm­chair, and fair­ly recent elec­tron­ic whim­sy from Jean-Jacques Per­rey, long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor with Ger­shon Kings­ley on some of the ear­li­est syn­the­sis­er albums 50 years ago (yes, it’s real­ly that long).

There is also some of the first “com­put­er music” ever record­ed, cre­at­ed by pro­gram­ming an IBM 7090 and includ­ing a ren­di­tion of Daisy, Daisy that was the inspi­ra­tion for the piece appear­ing in Stan­ley Kubrick­’s film 2001.

If you are inter­est­ed in mechan­i­cal musi­cal instru­ments, par­tic­u­lar­ly fair­ground and street organs, may we rec­om­mend James Dun­don’s Mechan­i­cal Music Radio, which plays this sort of music all the time. Vis­it http://www.mechanicalmusicradio.com/ for details.

Pic­tured: the Tel­har­mo­ni­um, shown in Tel­har­mo­ni­um Hall in 1897: pos­si­bly the world’s first elec­tron­ic instru­ment. No record­ings exist. Image from Wikipedia.


Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin. Please click here to start your play­er if your brows­er is set up to pass streams to an exter­nal play­er. 

You can also lis­ten via TuneIn, either with their web site or via the TuneIn App, or on Online Radio Box — with a com­plete playlist for the past sev­en days.
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