Wednesday, October 17, 2018

This man is having a bad day


Joe is playing a sort of modified orchestrion, which is an organ played with paper rolls like a player piano. This rendition has something of the 1812 Overture about it. For some reason the instrument is called an American fotoplayer, an odd name for something acoustic rather than visual. In this case, his highly physical enhancement of the piece is downright maniacal. These keyboard instruments were popular in the parlour in the early 20th century. They provide such a workout that it's a wonder Joe isn't more slender.

I have a fascination with mechanical musical instruments - I could go on and on, but I have to be somewhere - their hokey artificiality, out-of-tune-ness, and outlandish methods of propulsion, such as the steam-driven calliope popular with travelling circuses and Mississippi steamboats. Like bagpipes, which also utilize hot air, they're outdoor instruments, too deafening to be played in the parlour. These were instruments on the move, in circus wagons or on steamboats (or marching bands in kilts). 

It was technology of a sort, though analogue/manual. Obsolescence interests me, for reasons which kind of frighten me, sometimes. Like so many of my generation, I am slouching not-so-slowly in the same direction.

Joe has an entire YouTube channel of fotoplayer performances (link below). They are extremely intense, even noisy, so listen to them at your own risk.