Sunday, December 8, 2013

We never liked musicians anyway




Here it is, the musicianless musical instrument: an auto-eroticon, if you will, self-stroking or pounding. These all seem to have clever, if fusty-sounding names like maestoso and orchestrion and hark back to a time when people wanted to hear something musical without bothering to hire one of those sloppy, usually inebriated boors who knew how to play.

And so, an art form was born, melding the technology of automata (first built in the medieval era, with a very few, very freaky surviving examples) with things like organ pipes and drums. The mechanics of these things, sometimes visible like sewing machine workings, are truly incredible. Somebody must have worked it out. Restoring them was a process in itself, kind of like working on a '61 T-bird on the weekends.Where they would get the parts, I don't know.

The videos I've posted today are things I found years ago, then lost (couldn't find the name of the place anywhere, then when I randomly hit on it, 71 videos jumped out at me). They're taken at a place called the Siegfried Mechanical Musical Cabinet Museum in Rudesheim, which is in either Germany or Switzerland depending on your bias. The contraptions have a mildly Bavarian flavor to them, most of them, and some of their heartily Germanic ha-ha-ha anthems are so hearty they are personally disturbing.

I can see these things loaded on circus wagons or in the village square to celebrate an execution or something (because people really did - my parents told me once that it was considered festive in their day to go see a hanging). They were a way to bring people together to hear some truly hideous music, without having to pay anybody to play it. Does it get any better than that?


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