Il Tempo Vola

How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work. How we began to work.

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The History

In 400 B.C., Archytas of Tarentum made a wooden pigeon suspended from the end of a pivot, which rotates by water or steam acting upon it. The pigeon simulated flight long before Wilbur and Orville came along.

The 15th Century carillon is the entire musical entertainment for a Flanders town (straddles Belgium and France). The carillon player or “ringer” relieves his tedium and develops a wood cylinder with pins on it that controlled cogs linked to the hammers striking the bells. How the pins were spaced on the cylinder determined the rhythm produced. The pins’ horizontal position hits the cog(s) to sound the appropriate bell(s). Combining both axes created chords. New compositions mean changing the cylinders or repositioning the pins.

Carillon design was adapted, much reduced in size, and brought inside the home as the music box. Out of that, the miniaturizing proceeded to comb mechanisms. The “comb” is a strip of metal containing individual strips or teeth tuned to a precise range of notes. The pins on the cylinder pluck the comb edge to sound the individual notes to make a song. From such a pinned cylinder came the barrel organ, a “piano mecanique”, the handle piano, the music box and the player piano (where paper roll and tracker bar replaced pinned cylinder and comb).

The long transition to shrinking this mechanism took a lot of time. As the town clock was downsized to become the pocket watch, the carillon shrank to become the music box.

In the 1400′s a German Medieval wall clock driven by iron weights and gears played glass bells struck by tiny metal hammers. Mechanical music came indoors.

In the 16th Century, Gianello della Tour of Cremona, Italy alleviated the boredom of emperor Charles the V with a mechanical lute player that either walked in a straight line or circle while plucking the strings and turned its head from side to side. Articulated soldiers blew trumpets, beat drums and fought on tabletops. Miniaturized mechanical sound and movement had arrived.

In the 18th century, Jacques de Vaucanson built a mechanical duck of gilded copper that drank, ate, quacked, splashed around in water and digested its “food” like a duck! Still no music box. By the 1760′s bellows were added to drive drum and flute.

The highest music box form of that time was expressed in an elaborate French mantle clock that plays five songs especially composed by the likes of Hayden and Mozart. Beethoven was thrilled by the coming of the mechanical era. He once wrote, “Let us thank God for the promised steam cannons and for the already realized steam navigation.” He became fascinated by the inventions of Johann Maelzel (an ear trumpet, automatic chess player, mechanical trumpeter and, by stealing from another, the metronome.) Beethoven agreed to compose a piece for Maelzel. It was “Wellington’s Victory”, created for Maelzel’s Panharmonicon, a glorified kind of music box that combined military band instruments with a powerful bellows, all enclosed in a case. The piece was on an 1813 charity concert program, along with marches tooted by Maelzel’s mechanical trumpeter.

Flanders music box makers developed the brass barrel, added dulcimer and refined weight operation, bellows and hand crank. Such automata marked the passing hours as a singing bird in a cage with clock on the bottom of the base.

Around 1780, Jaquet-Droz of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, invented the mechanical singing bird. Sixty years later, its operation was perfected at the Blaise Bontems workshop in Paris, France, later in 1960 called Reuge S.A.

In 1792, a rudimentary organ was placed inside “Tipoo’s Tiger”. It was made of wood and moved the soldier’s arms as the Tiger lunged and “growled”.