This month's DJ MP3 compilation comes from once and future DJ David Suisman of the Inner Ear Detour, who, in between searching for the greatest trousers in North America, made this collection for our 2002 fundraising marathon. It's called Machines Vs. Music and David described at the time this way:
Musicians - who needs 'em? Just to prove it, here's a collection of music performed exclusively or partially by automated machines, from music boxes and orchestrions to mechanical manipulations by Conlon Nancarrow, Pierre Bastien and others.
Click below for the MP3s:
Malignon Music Box - Belo si celebri (MP3)
From Rossini's Semiramide
Conlon Nancarrow - Study Number 40b (MP3)
For modified Ampico reproducing player piano
Maxime de la Rochefoucauld - Alentour (MP3)
Percussion performed by automates activated by low frequency noise; humans play along.
Mills Violano-Virtuoso - Dreaming of a Castle in the Air (MP3)
These machines extended the player piano idea by adding to it a "player violin," which was played by four mechanical "fingers" (which, alas, did not really look like fingers) and "bowed" by four small celluloid wheels.
Pierre Bastien - Petite Piece Detachee (MP3)
Humans accompany machine-played six-stringed kora, which provides the tuning and tempo.
Paul Haines / Carla Bley / John Oswald - Funnybird Song (MP3)
Carla Bley wrote this music to accompany a poem by Paul Haines; John Oswald arranged it and constructed the music box on which it's performed here.
Debain Antiphonal Mechanical Piano - Dizzy Dittons (MP3)
It is said that Napolean III's wife, Princess Eugenie, owned one of these early mechanical pianos. The one recorded here dates from circa 1851.
Remko Scha - Sweep (excerpt) (MP3)
Sabre saws, ropes, metals rods, and electronic guitars - no humans.
Regina Music Box - Weiner Blut (MP3)
The Regina Music Boxes played interchangeable musical discs, not cylinders. Here's a version of Johann Strauss' Vienna Blood.
Eubie Blake - Wang Wang Blues (MP3)
A 1921 piano roll doctored up with extra "fill-ins" (ie, "holes") to give the effect of hearing three hands playing at once, not two.
Jesse Crawford - Trees (MP3)
Recorded onto piano rolls in the US in the 1920s, Crawford's performance was played back in England on a WurliTzer Cinema Organ fitted with a rare WurliTzer R.J. Roll Player.
Chiappa Barrel Organ - Daisy Bell and Oh Mr Porter (MP3)
Some organ grinders solicited money to make music, others solicited money to stop. In the long history of street music, the most mercenary of the organ grinders sought out the homes of the sick (often there was straw strewn on the street outside their houses, to dampen the sound of passing traffic), and the organ grinders would play outside their windows until being paid off to leave. The Chiappa Barrel Organ was produced by a London firm established by Giuseppe Chiappa and his three sons around the turn of the twentieth century. The instrument in this recording belongs to the collection of the fabulous and eccentric Musical Museum in London.
Joe Jones - Xylophone (excerpt) (MP3)
An automatic xylophone, played by a mechanized cork-beater, from 1976.
Paul DeMarinis - Etaion Shrdlu Wax Cylinder (MP3)
The sound of a blank phonograph cylinder, recorded over twenty times in 1995. In one channel, the sounds of the record surface noise, in the other, rumblings from the machine's interior mechanisms.
Matt Heckert - Salt Train (MP3)
Mechanical sounds scupltures, recorded in a former salt warehouse in Tirol, Austria.
Gyorgy Ligeti - Poeme Symphonique (MP3)
Ligeti's 1962 composition for 100 metronomes.
Bremond Bell Music Box - La Donna e Mobile (MP3)
From Verdi's Rigoletti.
Additional Mechanical Music Links:
Mechanical Music Digest
Keith Harding's World of Mechanical Music
Story of the British Fairground Organ
Musical Museum of London
The Seeburg Celesta Super Orchestrion