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Recording date on a Welte-Mignon roll label

How do you know a publication date? For most books, simply look for the copyright or edition information at the beginning. For mass produced modern CDs, check the edge of the disc surface for the “p date”, or maybe it will be in the booklet inserted into the container. But what about piano rolls for reproducing and player pianos? Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound’s Player Piano Project faces this question. The publication date certainly isn’t stamped on the label, yet we need it.

Theremin demonstrating his instrument, Stanford University, 1991

Earlier this year, I reported on recent work the Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) had undertaken to preserve video footage of Leon Theremin's visit to Stanford in 1991. In addition to participating in a symposium during his visit, hosted by the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Theremin was also the guest of honor at a concert held in Frost Amphitheater on September 27, 1991 during the Stanford Centennial Finale Weekend. The video footage preserved by the ARS earlier in the year unfortunately only included part of this notable concert. It was found to be missing some key performances, including an arrangement of Rachmaninov's Vocalise, featuring Theremin's daughter Natasha Theremin playing the vocal parts on her father's instrument, accompanied by Max Mathews conducting the orchestral parts with his radio batons. This footage was presumed lost...until now. 

Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound just received its latest shipment of important material for the processing of the Player Piano Project: new boxes. To provide the best security and archival conditions (like temperature control!) for our piano rolls, they will be stored at SAL3, a high-density preservation facility in Livermore, California. Patrons interested in researching particular rolls will still have access, simply contact the Archive of Recorded Sound and we will request the rolls be shipped here for you to use.

Paddy Moloney and Seán Potts. cover of Tin Whistles.

The Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) has recently begun cataloging Irish folk music recordings donated by the family of Thomas Quilter. The collection features items representing a significant span of Irish and Irish-American music from the 1910s to the 1980s and a progression in performance practices leading up to and including the revival of Irish traditional folk music.

The Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) recently deposited two significant collections into the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR), the Terry Smythe AMICA Collection and the Stanford Soundtrack Collection.

Playasax and rolls

In November 2014, I posted a blog detailing a very small roll (4.5" wide) that staff at the Archive of Recorded Sound had uncovered among the reproducing piano rolls in the Denis Condon Collection of Reproducing Pianos and Rolls. It was discovered that the roll was designed to be used with a toy, a type of player saxophone called the Playasax, produced by Q.R.S. I am very pleased to announce that the Archive, just yesterday, acquired an actual Playasax along with four additional rolls, thanks to a generous donation by Kristine Sturgill. This donation will make up the Otto M. Slater Playasax Collection, named in honor of Mrs Sturgill's father, who passed away earlier this year. 

Jubilee Hall, Fisk University

A recent score arrival highlights an interesting musical connection between Stanford and Fisk Universities. Salute, a fanfare for four b-flat trumpets and optional percussion by the American composer Walter Piston (1894-1976), was written for the Thirteenth Festival of Music and Fine Art at Fisk University in Nashville, held in 1942. The piece was commissioned by Harold C. Schmidt, Director of Choirs and Chair of the Music Department.

Edgard Varese

The Archive of Recorded Sound has recently processed two notable collections, covering very different musical genres. 

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