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Monday, 16 April 2012

World of Mechanical Music in Northleach



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We had friends visiting this weekend, and one of them has wanted for years to visit the World of Mechanical Music, so it seemed like a good excuse for a day out. I wasn't quite so excited by the concept, but actually, it was incredibly interesting and a lovely place to visit. The artifacts on display ranged from the familiar (such as a collection of gramophones) to earlier and rarer experiments in the recording and playback of music, and the guided tour means you get to see (and hear) many different machines in action.

The oldest piece on display was this barrel organ, whose music is laid out using a series of tacks and staples. These catch the pins as the barrel rotates, and each pin is linked to a different length of pipe at the back of the organ. Several songs could be played from each cylinder, by lining the pins up for a different piece of music.

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This method was soon superceded by carefully crafted, fine metal cylinders. These were fitted into beautiful wooden boxes to furnish the homes of the wealthy, often decorated with inlaid wood or painted patterns, although our guide explained that there wasn't always a link between quality of finish and quality of sound!

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Some early precursors of the record player had metal or wooden discs, stamped out with holes to represent the tune.

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Later developments include a number of self-playing pianos, where rolls of paper tape are used to play the keys of a real piano. Some of the paper rolls had been recorded by virtuoso pianists and composers - we were given the chance to listen to Grieg playing a piece of his own composition, and it was quite spooky to watch the keys moving of their own accord.

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As well as being open as a museum, there's an active restoration business here, and most of the music boxes on display are also up for sale... if you have a few thousand pounds to spare. This also means the tour will be slightly different on every visit, as current stock changes; I certainly wouldn't mind going back again one day.

I've also posted some videos of similar instruments if you'd like to see them in action.

And finally, little light entertainment for a Monday afternoon: I've just taken a fun general knowledge quiz about Europe on the Dorling Kindersley website. I'm almost embarrassed to say I only got 15 out of 20 on my first attempt, but geography has never been my strong point and there are some tricky questions like the number of canals in Venice. (At least it highlights the right answer when you get something wrong, so you can learn something along the way.) If you fancy playing the Europe Quiz for yourself, then do come back and let me know how you did!

19 comments:

Rachel said...

We sometimes underestimate the ingenuity of past times, don't we!

Pauline Persing said...

I'll be back. I came across your comment to Jeanne on The Raisin Chronicles. I have the same kind of mind, interested in a multitude of things though I primarily blog about watercolor painting and the natural world around here...plants and critters of various sorts (and my grandchildren when they have a birthday.)

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

It sounds like you enjoyed this outing much more than you expected, it certainly sounds an interesting place.

Rachel M. said...

These old things are so beautifully made, thanks for sharing.

emma said...

I've seen that museum advertised and wondered whether Clive might enjoy it.

And I got 17/20 on the quiz - and think I may be slightly addicted to that DK quiz site!

Jenny Woolf said...

I've wanted to visit this place for a while. I really like the musical museum at Brentford, and many years ago intervewed Frank Holland, the highly eccentric man who started it by rescuing many mechanical instruments in the days before anyone cared about them. Definitely recommend a visit there if you are down in London!

I'm not even going to try the quiz, my geography is diabolical! :)

Jenny Woolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emailman said...

What a cool place! :) I love museums.

I'm with Jenny on the quiz front. I would be lucky to get 2 right haha!!

Rebecca Subbiah said...

that does look like an interesting place sometimes places we think will be boring turn out to be the best

Dave King said...

What an interesting visit - and what a splendid post you made out of it!

becky said...

Nothing like visiting times gone by! Merci :)

Debra said...

This museum looks amazing. Totally something my husband would love.

Jenn "Rook No. 17" said...

Oh Rachel, I must, must go there some day! Pinning your post to my "travel" board.

Jenn

ladyfi said...

What wonderful shots!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

Your post reminded me of the time I visited a similar museum in Rudesheim, Germany. Sadly, our experience wasn't quite as positive as yours. The instruments themselves were fascinating, but the tour guide was downright creepy! :)

Charlotte said...

Sounds like a very interesting museum indeed! Love your photos. I want to take this quiz but its been so long since I've been to Europe I'm scared I'll fail!

Leslie said...

That sounds really fascinating! Then again, I can be a total music geek. Thanks for stopping by on my SITS Day!

Slamdunk said...

I would have been very interested in seeing those barrel organs and pianos. Neat place.

I think I need to study more on Europe though. I only scored a 14/20 on your quiz.

Laura said...

Wow. Not a place I would instinctively like to visit but after reading your post, I would definitely go there. Looks fascinating. Visiting from the Saturday Sharefest at SITS.

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