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, …


Music of the Spheres, Player Roll Style: Astro Cantus iPhone App Plays the Universe

In the latest take on sonifying data in musical form, iPhone app Astro Cantus plots star data from the universe as musical notes. It turns the the sphere of heavens above the Earth into a massive piano roll. Co-founding developer Rocky Alvey, according to the creators, dismantled a music box as a kid, and that music box notion (yet again) is a big part of the concept here. What’s notable is that the app’s sonification does indeed represent not only the stars themselves but some of the data – spectra of the stars are translated into pitch. And there are …