The Player Piano with Drums and Gunshots: An Oddity of the Silent Film Era [Videos]

If you want wild, futuristic, and inventive, some of the craziest inventions come from the past. The Photoplayer makes today’s music tech look positively dull. Joe Rinaudo has made a business of bringing back antiques, but his 1926 Photoplayer may top the list. Built to add dynamic soundtracks for silent films, the machine is an ingenious contrivance for live music generation. First, it has the ability to run “two decks” – that is, by having two rolls instead of one, you can queue up the next roll while the other is playing. (Okay, so it sort of invented DJing.) Second, …

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Century of Sound: 100 Years After Russolo’s “The Art of Noises”

Today, the 11th of March, is the one hundredth anniversary of “The Art of Noises,” the seminal letter written by Italian Futurist painter Luigi Russolo. That letter became a manifesto for what was then a radical document, suggesting a new approach to sound and music. In it, Russolo cautioned that “the art of noises must not be limited to a mere imitative reproduction.” The Futurists’ efforts were tragically followed by not one but two world wars, making some of their lust for violence take on a different meaning. For instance, from the 1913 letter: 1 2 3 4 5 seconds …

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