Another look at the Apple II player piano

April 8th, 2019 6:44 AM
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I know some classical musicians who are quite up in arms over virtual orchestras. Why hire a violinist or flautist to interpret your sheet music when you can simply set your composition software to flawlessly perform your digital score?

This is not a new phenomenon: the player piano, invented in 1895, requires no human operator, either. The last time I saw such an instrument was at Hildene, the summer home of Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert. The estate's player organ boasts an extensive collection of vintage music scrolls, most of which are now too brittle to be used. But to keep the organ fed, it has been modified with a USB port through which the scrolls' digital equivalents can be loaded.

This isn't the first time player piano and computer technologies have been integrated. In the 1980s, the Apple II often played a critical role in creating music for these automated performers, as seen in this profile.

The Apple II has only a brief visual cameo and little mention in the narration. But fear not! A more exhaustive look at the Apple II can be seen in a similar video I shared here eight years ago.

Pianos don't need computers to make music; and, with the power of MIDI, computers don't need pianos. But no matter the era, the two together are an inimitable duet.

(Hat tip to rryland on reddit)

The Apple II player piano

March 21st, 2011 9:35 AM
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Depending on your definition, computers have been around much longer than the Apple II. For example, Charles Babbage's analytical engine was documented in 1837, demonstrating a mechanical means of computing and converting data.

But such devices weren't always so pragmatic; starting in the late 19th century and peaking in 1924, another sort of computer was the player piano. By "reading" a spool of paper, the machine could interpret the data encoded onto those sheets and translate it into aural tones.

Although player pianos have waned in popularity, there was a brief period in which their manufacture was aided by the Apple II, itself a musical machine. This video shows an Apple II being used to create spools of music for player pianos:

(Hat tip to IonFarmer)