Hey Joe, where you goin' with that pulley in your hand?
December 22, 2013 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Meet "Joe", the hardest working man in show business, as he pulls out all the stops in his virtuoso performance of 12th Street Rag, on what *may* be the world's last surviving Cremona Photo-player [PDF]. On the other hand, it might be just a run-of-the-mill player piano with some extra bells, whistles and car horns tacked on. At any rate, "Joe" is absolutely killing it. Go, "Joe", go!
posted by flapjax at midnite (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just for good measure, here's 12th Street Rag played on an ordinary piano.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:24 PM on December 22, 2013


I'm unclear on why you'd build a player piano that has 88 columns of punches (one for each key) but not add the 5 or 10 more you'd need to replace Joe.

Other than to make Joe look AWESOME.
posted by dmd at 7:30 PM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks Flapjax! Superior quality original youtube link.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:08 PM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Superior quality original youtube link .

Thank you! I looked for it (or a related clip) at YT but came up empty handed.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:26 PM on December 22, 2013


Having that much fun playing around with music has gotta be illegal, immoral or at least taxable.
Go "Joe"!
posted by islander at 9:51 PM on December 22, 2013


OK, with StrikeTheViol's helpful link added to this thread, I can turn this into the kind of post I would've liked to have made in the first place!

First off, "Joe" is Joe Rinaudo, and what he's playing is the "American Fotoplayer", not the "Cremona Photo Player" as I had surmised in the FPP. The instrument is absolutely incredible. You have GOT to watch this clip, in which Rinaudo takes us on a craeful, thorough guided tour of this amazing thing:

Joe Rinaudo Discusses the American Fotoplayer

Awesome.

And you'll note that there are LOTS of YT clips of Joe playing various songs on the American Fotoplayer. I'm off to check 'em out now.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:52 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huell!
posted by sklero at 10:05 PM on December 22, 2013


There's a bunch more stuff on Joe Rinaudo's own website.

The Wikipedia article on the American Fotoplayer is not great, especially as it makes the extremely dubious claim that the thing took 'no musical skill to operate'. As if percussion could possibly require musical skill. Someone should fix that.

This is now the third time in as many weeks that I have been pointed to the videos about the Fotoplayer. Despite these pointers mainly being to the same videos, I have yet to tire of it.

Thanks for the post!
posted by motty at 10:57 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah.

The rabbit hole in question continues: 1, 2, 3.
posted by motty at 11:01 PM on December 22, 2013


dmd, I suspect that Joe is needed because the energy required to plink away at piano keys is nowhere near as high as the energy required to hit a drum with sufficient enthusiasm.
posted by YAMWAK at 12:01 AM on December 23, 2013


dmd, I suspect that Joe is needed because the energy required to plink away at piano keys is nowhere near as high as the energy required to hit a drum with sufficient enthusiasm.

I thought dmd's comment was hilarious, and I assume he himself was aware that a few extra holes in the piano roll probably couldn't necessarily do the job right. But, yeah, to stay on the *literal* track, there's another, probably more important reason why so many of the effects pulleys and buttons and pedals (see Joe's demonstration video I linked to above) are meant to be operated manually. It's because so many of these were for sound effects that needed spot-on timing with the film being projected (a car horn, a smack on the head, etc etc), and that could only have been done by a person, watching the film, there at the red-hot moment. The music being automatically generated by the player-roll could of course be a bit this-way-or-that, timing wise, but those sound effects needed to be ON.

This is all so fascinating and wonderful. And Joe Rinaudo (with his enviable skill, affable personality and obviously genuine love for this instrument and what it did back in its heyday as an accompanying instrument) has become one of my Favorite People! I wanna meet him!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:11 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


> no musical skill to operate

This could have been true to some extent, though that statement is too definitive. Joe's performance in the video is virtuosic. In practice a small town theater could key up the score on the role, and then someone like the theater owner's daughter is trained to pull this cord or that cord when something happens on the screen. The bigger city theaters could afford a more skilled player like Joe. Likely over time the amateur players became more skilled with practice, but a new theater owner could get by without a skilled player at first. It's a case of a machine created to replace skilled labor, but then that machine creating a new form of skilled labor.
posted by stbalbach at 12:53 AM on December 23, 2013


then someone like the theater owner's daughter is trained to pull this cord or that cord when something happens on the screen

i'm head over heels in love
with the theater owner's daughter
have you seen how she pulls those cords?
hey, man, you really oughtter!
she pulls 'em hard, she pulls 'em tight
she pulls 'em like a pro!
and when she's done? you'd best believe
it's off to bed we go!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:08 AM on December 23, 2013


We need a new adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, starring Joe Rinaudo as the Phantom with an American Fotoplayer instead of a pipe organ. HONK! DING! A-OO-GAH!
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:04 AM on December 23, 2013


I had that lady pull my strings
I was a chicken to the slaughter
First she fried my giblets brown
And made a stock with water
And when me little feet were stewed
In some kind of Chinese saucer
I knew I was fucked
But hey, what the cluck
This was where her career as film accompanist, avenging angel and yum cha fiend had brought her.
posted by Wolof at 5:29 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


For folks who are really interested in seeing live accompaniment to silent films, keep an eye on the tour schedule of the Alloy Orchestra. I've seen a few of their performances and they are completely, utterly amazing. I saw Metropolis with their musical accompaniment and it was unbelievable. Not enough superlatives!
posted by Sublimity at 5:32 AM on December 23, 2013


Wolof, you are a sick man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:11 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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