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Glossary

   The explanation of the terms listed below refer to their usage in the field of Mechanical Music. Many of the descriptions are from the book The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments by MBSI member Arthur A. Reblitz, published by the Mechanical Music Press, Woodsville, New Hampshire; copyright 2001. They are used here with permission of the author and publisher. Permission is granted for writers to use a limited number of brief excerpts provided credit is given to the MBSI web site, the title of the original work and the author. Written permission is required for all other uses. German nouns and words that are also names of places are capitalized.


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accelerator. Device which quickens the operation of an expression mechanism, altering a crescendo, decrescendo, or other volume level change from slow to fast. Used by Hupfeld, for example, in the Pan orchestrion.

accent. To increase the loudness or intensity of a note or chord within a group of otherwise softer notes. Important notes in a melody may be accented by playing them louder, or by adding a percussion instrument such as an orchestra bell or xylophone, for example.

accompaniment. The part of a piece of music or section of an instrument that plays a subordinate part to the more prominent melody and countermelody sections. * German: Begleitung.

accordion. A portable hand-held reed instrument with bellows which are expanded and contracted by arm movements and which is played by means of a keyboard or buttons. Accordions fitted with pneumatics that play the keys and buttons automatically from behind are a popular feature of many Belgian dance organs. * European spelling: Accordeon.

accumulator. Coin mechanism in electric pianos and orchestrions that keeps track of the number of coins that have been deposited and turns the motor off after an equivalent number of songs have been played.

aeoline pipe. Delicate, bright string pipe used in certain German orchestrions; smaller scale and softer than the violin or cello. For example, many Hupfeld Helios and Popper orchestrions have a rank of louder violin pipes, and another rank of softer aeoline pipes.

aerophone . An instrument in which sound is produced by the vibration of air, as in an organ pipe.

air motor. Suction-operated (or rarely, pressure-operated) motor used for turning music rolls, or for other devices. * Also: wind motor or vacuum motor.

air. One tune or melody in a musical program.

airbrake. The fan fly on the endless screw of the governor.

alto violin. Low violin pipes in certain German fairground organs (e.g., Bruder, Ruth), which bridge the musical gap between the highest accompaniment and lowest melody pipes, for example.

amplifier. Expression device which increases the pump suction level by decreasing the amount of atmospheric pressure normally bled into the system. Used in Ampico, Coinola, and certain other instruments.

anvil. The piece of steel protruding from the bottom of a cylinder musical box comb tooth which holds the damper pin and damper in place.

arbor. The central shaft in the cylinder of a musical box.

arpeggio. To play the notes of a musical chord one after another in sequence, within a piece of music. (Normally, all notes of a chord are played at the same time.)

arrangement. The distinctive way in which musical parts are written and performed in support of a certain melody or theme. A composer creates an original melody and often arranges the supporting accompaniment and countermelody parts, instrumentation, percussion parts, etc. An arranger does all of this except for creating the original melody. In some instances, two equally great but completely different arrangements exist for different automatic instruments, such as Swanee Smiles for the Seeburg G (arranged by Victor Arden) or the Weber Maesto (arranged by Gustav Bruder).

automatic disc changer. In a disc music box, a device which stores a quantity of discs (usually 10 or 12) and which plays them automatically, either in sequence or by manual selection.

automatic musical instrument. A musical instrument which plays a musical composition programmed on a pinned cylinder, disc, music roll, or other medium, and which usually requires no musical knowledge on the part of the operator. A self-playing or mechanical musical instrument. The term "automatic" was originally used to describe all types of self-playing instruments. Although the term "mechanical" is often used synonymously today, "mechanical" was not generally used originally to describe instruments with sophisticated expression capabilities (e.g., certain large orchestrions, player pipe organs, reproducing pianos). Motive power for an automatic musical instrument may be provided by a hand crank, spring-wound clockwork, a weight-driven system, an electric motor, a water motor, a foot pump, or by other means.

automatic roll changer. Ferris-wheel type device (usually) which stores 2 to 12 perforated paper rolls and changes them automatically, usually in the sequence in which they are placed on the changer mechanism (or, if desired, a particular roll can be selected). Several variations occur, including a device made by Philipps which incorporates extra roll-holding sections which hang below the basic revolver mechanism; and a 10-roll cartridge-type changer unit, called a 10-roll magazine, by Popper & Co., but constructed on different principles from those used in a standard revolver- or magazine-type mechanism. Perhaps the most sophisticated roll changing device was one developed by Hupfeld, which, in its most elegant form, consisted of two 10-roll changers arranged side by side (for a total selection of 20 rolls) and equipped with a device for selecting a desired roll from a distant control panel or wallbox. In America, the Wurlitzer Automatic Roll Changer (capitalized in Wurlitzer's usage) achieved fame, as did the Philipps-made roll changer employed in many Wurlitzer PianOrchestras. For use in a Hupfeld, Philipps, or Wurlitzer roll changer, rolls were made with a wood (Hupfeld) or metal rod in place of the normal tapered end and tab. In the Duo-Art Concertola, a separate metal rod with a hook was attached to each roll, enabling the use of rolls with ordinary end tabs. * Synonyms: magazine system, revolver system.

automatic tracking mechanism. See tracking mechanism

automaton. (plural: automata.) A mechanically-operated figure of a human or animal, often smaller than life size. Automata of the 1880s-1920s typically were powered by a spring motor; many incorporated a cylinder music box or small mechanical organ.


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