The player piano "Pianola" as we all know it has provided recorded music in hundreds of thousands of homes for almost one hundred years. The heyday of the instrument was from the end of the Great War through the "Roaring Twenties" - thousands are still in use in 1992. Australia's own Mastertouch Piano Rolls have been manufactured continuously from 1919, providing untold joy for millions of Aussies at sing-alongs in the home, the pub, school or in early cinemas.
HISTORY OF "STEINWAY DUO-ART GRAND PIANOLA PIANO"
The instrument used in this recording was manufactured in 1932, and is a Steinway OP piano. The words 'Duo-Art' refer to a reproducing system (not used in this recording) which faithfully recreates the original artists performance with 16 degrees of touch (or loudness) in each hand, plus accentuation of individual notes within a chord, and of course the sustain and soft pedals. All this information is DIGITALLY recorded on the "Duo-Art" rolls by famous pianists and musicians for enjoyment or education at home. The word "Pianola" is the trade name of the Aeolian Company for a Player Piano, and is often mistakenly used to describe other brands of Player Pianos. The player in this piano is by Aeolian and is therefore a 'true' Pianola. The instrument was originally purchased by a Mr K H Mallach of London S.W.7., an amateur operatic singer who used it to accompany himself whilst singing when no pianist was available! It was acquired by Tony Hilton in 1981 in London in very poor condition, and shipped to Sydney that same year. A painstaking and full restoration was carried out over a five year period. Every part was refurbished, - new strings,
refinished case and frame, even a new decal for the revarnished soundboard. This work was mainly carried out by Mastertouch at Petersham in Sydney, (one of only two music roll manufacturers left in the world) and as a tribute to their craftsmanship, some of their standard 88 note music rolls were played for this recording using the traditional foot pedals rather than the normal electric motor to operate the vacuum pump which is used when playing the "Duo-Art" rolls. Also when pumping by foot it is possible to accentuate the music, which whilst not as stylised as an "automatic" expression roll, is nonetheless extremely satisfying, since the peddler has full control over the result. One June evening in 1992 at Illawong in suburban Sydney, Martin Benge, using a Sony OAT machine recorded Tony Hilton playing this selection of songs on the Steinway Grand Pianola, with Bob MacDonald as Piano Technician and Johnny Rocks as Turner.
HISTORY OF PIANO MUSIC ROLLS, AND HOW THEY WORK
Piano music Rolls - often referred to as 'Pianola Rolls', have been around for over a century. During the early days there were many different systems for playing mechanical musical instruments. The most popular were the 65 and 88 note Piano Rolls. Nowadays only the 88 note variety are produced commercially, as that corresponds to the number of notes on the piano keyboard. There are 88 ports or holes in the brass tracker-bar, (over which the music roll passes) and either by foot-pedalling or electric motor a vacuum is created. When a hole in the roll uncovers a 'port' in the tracker-bar, air rushes in and operates a pneumatic valve, and a small bellows device operates the back of the key by lifting it - (unlike the pianist who operates it at the front by depressing it). By controlling the amount of vacuum or air in the system it is possible to control how hard the note is struck, and the music may be controlled in this way be varying the amount of pressure at each individual note. Since each piece, or 'bit' of information is individually recorded on the music roll, this was truly the first DIGITALMUSIC SYSTEM, so on this recording, the world's oldest digital recording system has been re-mastered onto the world's newest digital recording system. (Mechanical to Electronic) to make it possible for you to enjoy this fine music without having to own a player piano. Enjoy your sing- along to these old favourites!