“It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time”*…
Deirdre Loughridge and Thomas Patteson, curators of the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments, explore the wonderful history of made-up musical contraptions, including a piano comprised of yelping cats and Francis Bacon’s 17th-century vision of experimental sound manipulation: “Cat Pianos, Sound-Houses, and Other Imaginary Musical Instruments.”
* Johann Sebastian Bach
As we tickle the ivories, we might spare a thought for Johann Nepomuk Maelzel; he died on this date in 1838. Remembered these days as the inventor of the metronome, Maezel was well-known in his own time as an inventor and impresario. He was especially well-known for his automatons– clock work trumpeters, chess players, miniature song birds, and the like that he exhibited widely. In 1804 Maezel invented a kind of “player orchestra,” the panharmonicon, an automaton able to play the musical instruments of a military band, powered by bellows, and directed by revolving cylinders on which the notes were stored. The “instrument” was admired across Europe, and earned its creator the post of imperial court-mechanician at Vienna, and the friendship of Beethoven (whom Maezel convinced to write Wellington’s Victory [Battle Symphony] Opus 91).