To facilitate research, study, and access to the historical piano rolls in its collection, the Stanford Player Piano Project is designing and constructing a piano roll scanner capable of scanning all of the various types of piano and organ rolls that have been collected to date. This new scanner is based on the work of Anthony Robinson, who is working with the Project to expand upon and improve his earlier design. Monica Caravias, a graduate student at the Stanford Product Realization Lab, is designing and building Stanford’s scanner in close collaboration with Anthony and under the direction of Prof. Craig Milroy. This is the first in a series of reports on the progress of constructing the scanner.
Blog topic: Sound recordings
Copies of numerous items from the Archive of Recorded Sound's Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Collection (ARS.0056) will shortly be on display at Bechtel International Center Conference Room at Stanford University, as part of an exhibition entitled Women's Power to Stop War: Celebrating 100 years of Peacemaking. The exhibition, to coincide with Women's History Month and International Women's Day, will run March 1st - March 13th 2016 and is free to the public.
There will also be an Exhibit Opening Event on Tuesday (March 1, 2016) from 5:30-8pm in the Conference Room at the Bechtel International Center.
The producers of Riverwalk Jazz, the popular public radio program dedicated to presenting, preserving and promoting classic jazz, recently issued their acclaimed live production of “Porgy and Bess: A Jazz Transcription” on CD. The original program masters, recorded in 1992 on analog quarter-inch tape, were paged from the Riverwalk Jazz collection held by the Archive of Recorded Sound and digitized at the Stanford Media Preservation Lab for the release.
Over the past year this blog has covered a wide variety of piano roll topics: conjoined rolls, archival storage issues, publication dates, illustrations on rolls, piano roll lending libraries, Welte-Mignon at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and Hupfeld piano rolls. Many thoughtful comments from members of the player piano and mechanical music communities came to us through email, blog comments, or in-person visits during our listening parties.
On September 2nd, 2015, I had the great privilege of conducting an oral history interview with John Chowning, Professor Emeritus at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Chowning, a pioneer in the world of computer music, is perhaps best known as the inventor of Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis. His discovery was eventually licensed to Yamaha who integrated it into a number of instruments, most importantly, the DX7, the world’s first mass-produced digital synthesizer, released in 1983. The DX7 is generally regarded as one of the most important musical instrument inventions of the past 50 years, and was widely adopted by artists across multiple genres in the 1980s. My interview with Chowning is now available via the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). Chowning and I principally sat down to discuss Leon Theremin’s visit to Stanford in 1991, which Chowning organized and oversaw. Stanford University Libraries recently digitize video footage of this visit which included a day long symposium at CCRMA and an evening concert in Frost Amphiteatre at which Theremin, Max Mathews, and many other notable figures from the world of electronic and computer music at the time performed. However, Professor Chowning and I also discussed additional topics including Chowning's background in computer music, his history at Stanford and the inception of CCRMA, and his close personal and professional relationship with Max Mathews.
The most visually striking part of a Welte-Mignon purple seal roll is its colorful leader. Seen below, it proudly displays the various awards that the company received from fairs and exhibitions around the world.
This includes the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), held in San Francisco to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal and demonstrate San Francisco’s recovery from its 1906 earthquake. Held from February 20 - December 4, 1915, the fair welcomed over 18 million visitors in the current Marina District of San Francisco. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the PPIE, which the Bay Area celebrated with events and exhibits throughout 2015.
What was the role of Welte-Mignon at the PPIE? Did the company have its own exhibit? Could visitors watch the perforation of new rolls, learn about the recording process, or just enjoy a musical demonstration?
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.