MIDI and Mechanical Music
In the mid 1980s
we were working on the sound for a Derby-Game project. It seemed that
the way to go was to use MIDI for the race music rather than that tinny
repeater-sound that was the norm at the time. We took a Commodore-64 ™
computer and a Roland MT-32 ™ synthesizer and wired them to the games start
and stop buttons. We also made sure that we had a decent sound system;
a good stereo amp and relatively large, full-range speakers. When we
opened, the results were fantastic! Our guests were dancing, singing,
and, in general, having a grand old time; not to mention, playing the game
over and over! Needless to say, the derby
had a great season.
Shortly thereafter, a
Small Merry-Go-Round arrived. After a weekend of the ride operating in excruciating silence, it was
obvious that it needed music. We struggled for a few weeks with repeater tapes of band-organ music that started out sounding poor and then got worse,
when occurred to us that we had the perfect band-organ system; one like we used in the derby game!
After an evening on the keyboard, the results could have brought tears to your eyes! The children were singing and swaying to the music, and at that moment we realized that we had brought the band-organ into the next century! Think about it. It is mechanical music, just like in days of old. Only, instead of paper rolls, there are computer files. Instead of a band organ that needs constant servicing, there is an electronic synthesizer that sounds like a band organ. We even de-tuned it slightly (pitch-bend) to make it sound even more authentic.
In pursuing this idea further, we also realized that there exists a vast library of already-digitized music, created by turn-of-the-century masters in the form of paper rolls!
(Much of which is in the
public domain) After some experimentation, we had a device that read the holes in the paper (we used Wurlitzer 165 rolls) and converted that information into MIDI
data including all the nuances of stops, swells and bells.
Now, with more sophisticated equipment and more
realistic synthesizers the music is more wonderful than ever! We have
even recorded these songs onto music CDs and MP3 files!