Mechanische Musikinstrumente


  1. Wandspielschrank ‘Polyphon’ (2:19)
    [‘Polyphon’ music-cabinet]
  2. Reproduktionsklavier ‘Triphonola’ (4:41)
    [‘Triphonola’ player-piano]
  3. Reproduktionskïavier ‘Triphonola’ (6:55)
    [‘Triphonola’ player-piano]
  4. Schrank mit Sehwarzwälder Flötenuhr (0:58)
    [Cabinet with Black Forest ‘flute clock’]
  5. Polyphon im Mahagonitischchen (1:13)
    [Polyphon in mahagony table]
  6. Schweizer Walzenspieldose (2 :31)
    [Swiss barrel-type musical box]
  7. Wandspielschrank ‘Symphonion’ (2 :11)
    [‘Symphonion’ music-cabinet]
  8. Standuhr mit Spielwerk ‘Eroica’ (1:18)
    [Grandfather clock containing an ‘Eroica’ musical box]
  9. Schrank mit Schwarzwalder Flötenuhr (0:48)
    [Cabinet wiith Black Forest ‘flute clock’]
  10. Schrank mit Schwarzwälder Flötenuhr (2:34)
    [Cabinet wiith Black Forest ‘flute clock’]
  11. Wandspielschrank ‘Polyphon’ (2:26)
    [‘Polyphon’ music-cabinet]
  12. Schreibsekretär mit Uhr und Flötenwerk (3 :11)
    [Bureau with clock and mechanical organ]
  13. Wandspielschrank ‘Symphonion’ (2:06)
    [‘Symphonion’ music-cabinet]
  14. Flötenwerk (3 :15)
    [Mechanical organ-flute]
  15. Christbaumstander mit Musikwerk (1:28)
    [Christmas tree stand with musical box]

Total time: 37:41
CD released by Raumklang, 1997

A compilation of recordings made at the Museum of Musical Intruments of the University of Leipzig, this collection exemplifies the gorgeous and enchanting sounds of german and swiss 19th c. music boxes. These 2 people have a lasting yearning for clockwork-based music. It makes sense, then, complete recordings of Conlon Nancarrow’s player-piano music were made by germans for Wergo label (there’s even a The recordings on the ‘Mechanische Musikinstrumente’ CD include mechanical noises, rewinding clockwork mechanisms, bellows pumping air, etc, all recorded in crystal-like hi-fi clarity. A 18th c. technology, barrel organs and musical steel tongues housed in music-cabinets underwent a revival at the end of the 19th c. and most instruments heard here date from 1880 to 1920. The player piano featured on tracks #2 & 3 replays/reproduces the performance of real pianists (Alfred Reisenauer & Elly Ney). The pianist is gone but the music remains for ever. The magic of ‘recording’ sounds also started in healthy, noble bavarian castles, rich enough to afford the expense. The instruments here play a mix of Händel, Chopin, Weber, Bach, Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Mozart, but the machines render them so weirdly that the original, inoffensive waltzes are transmogrified. Note: I purposedly ommitted the 4 readings in german tracks, since they actually came as an anti-climax amid the magical mechanical sounds.


4 Responses to “Mechanische Musikinstrumente”

  1. 1 April 4, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Great post! I’m a big fan of Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano – hilarious music (and still available from Wergo). I’d love to hear his Arch recordings from the 70s, but they’re out of print a long time already.

    Breuker did a recording with barrel organs back in the 70s which I heard on German public radio many years ago – hilarious stuff!

  2. 2 continuo April 5, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks, L.
    I’d sure like to hear the Arch recordings as well.

  3. 3 Jakob von Gunten September 6, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Beautiful! I’ve always been obsessed with music boxes, automata, barrel organs and victoriana, but I didn’t know this. Thanks again -your blog is fascinating, Continuo.

  4. 4 continuo September 6, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks for your comment.

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