The iPod’s 4,000-lb grandfather

Ben Marks of Collector's Weekly says:

We just published an article about orchestrions, which were like player pianos on steroids. Popular in the early 1900s, electric-powered orchestrions were built around a piano or pipe organ and incorporated at least three other instruments, including at least one drum. The big ones were 12 feet wide, 12 feet tall, 5 feet deep, and weighed a couple of tons. The best orchestrions had pipes that were so finely tuned, they could imitate the sound of violins and cellos.

Our article includes numerous quotes from Art Reblitz, who's a mechanical musical instruments author and restorer. Here's a snip:

“Some orchestrions had automatic roll changers so you could play a long program of music without changing rolls yourself,” Reblitz says. “If you didn’t ever have them tuned, they could get pretty bad-sounding, but they were never drunk, like the band was some of the time. You didn’t have to worry if the band was going to show up tonight or not.”

The iPod’s 4,000-lb grandfather


  1. Anyone in the Pittsburgh area (Rob!) interested in this sort of thing should visit the wonderful Bayernhof Museum.

  2. Makers and steampunks could do worse than to look in on the Mechanical Music Digest, where the custodians of many fantastic instruments like this talk shop and wonder where the next generation of collectors will come from.

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