Piano Roll Scanner Project (PRSP)

Work on the Player Piano Project (PPP) continues at an impressive pace. Recent achievements include the completed cataloging, by Project cataloger Alyssa Hislop, of the Welte Mignon rolls in the Denis Condon Collection of Reproducing Pianos and Rolls, which can now be viewed in Searchworks; a full house at the project’s listening party last Friday; and most recently the launch of a subproject entitled the Piano Roll Scanner Project (PRSP). The PRSP formally marks the start of the digitization phase of the PPP. 

The project team for the PRSP is comprised of staff from both the Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) and Digital Library Systems and Services (DLSS) departments within Stanford Libraries, along with piano roll scanning experts from both the USA and UK. 

The principal aim of the PRSP is to design and build a roll scanner that Stanford Libraries’ Digitization Lab can use to scan the ever growing number of rolls now held by the ARS (which currently stands at over 12500 rolls), starting with the 7500 rolls in the Denis Condon Collection of Reproducing Pianos and Rolls. The project hopes in time to make these scans available via Searchworks, along with a MIDI version of each roll that patrons can either download and play on their own MIDI enabled device or listen to via virtual instrument software. 

The PRSP project team spent much of the early part of the fall quarter investigating existing scanning solutions, to discover the different approaches already being used and to build upon prior experience and successes. Following this investigation, the team settled on building a slightly modified version of a scanner design by Anthony Robinson, who’s method of scanning is generally regarded by many to be the most advanced currently in existence. Modifications will include the ability to scan different widths of rolls and possibly the use of a higher resolution camera that can capture 300dpi images in either color or greyscale.  

With a core design settled on, the project team are now working to pull together people to physically build the scanner. This has resulted in a truly collaborative effort, involving faculty, staff, and students from different departments across Stanford. The hardware for the scanner, with the exception of the camera, is being designed and built by Monica Caravias, a Mechanical Engineering graduate student working as a teaching assistant at Stanford’s Product Realization Lab. Anthony Robinson is kindly also assisting with this part of the build. Research into the imaging components of the scanner, namely the choice of camera and image capture software, is being led by staff from DLSS, specifically Tony Calavano and Stu Snydman. Research into tools that can be used for extracting the musical content from the rolls, to convert to MIDI or for more detailed analytical work, is being spearheaded by Craig Sapp from the Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities (CCARH), part of Stanford's Department of Music. The PRSP is therefore utilizing examples of the incredible range of knowledge and skills found within the Stanford Community, something the PPP has hoped to employ since scoping the project a number of years ago. Finally, the project is being managed by staff from the ARS. 

Further updates will be posted to this blog about the PRSP as the work continues.   

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