Monday, March 8, 2010

Bartola Keyboard Attachment

The bulk of this week's "Music for the Picture" column is given over to the Bartola Keyboard Attachment, which was evidently the brand name for one of the Barton Piano Attachments. Surprisingly, Sinn gave Barton this large write-up despite the fact that Barton products had not been advertising in Moving Picture World since March.

In addition, Sinn ran a correction to the musical suggestions from 31 May 1913. A version of those musical suggestions based on these corrections will be posted tomorrow.

Sinn concludes this week's column with a letter discussing the difference in accompanying film with orchestra compared to piano and drummer.

“The International Musician” (which is the official organ of the American Federation of Musicians), on p. 9 of its May issue, has an article entitled “Music Machines.” In the course of this very interesting and timely article it says: “Music machines are beginning to displace orchestras in the cheaper theaters” and “This is a problem that music be faced and solved. Somebody must manipulate these machines. Insist that such operators must be qualified members of the A. F. of M.”

I am moved to this partial quotation through having recently witnessed a demonstration of the Bertola [sic] Keyboard Attachment for Pianos. I want to say right here in the beginning that this keyboard is not an attachment in the true sense. It is entirely separate from the piano, but is merely placed in a position convenient for manipulation by the pianist. As a matter of fact, it could be played without a piano. So many music machines are a combination of piano, organ, etc., that I believe this point is worth notice. A small keyboard containing thirty notes (two octaves and a half) is mounted on a standard. This is not attached to the piano remember, but stands on the floor convenient to the pianists right hand. The keyboard can be swung over the piano keys when wanted and swung back out of the way when not in use. One the floor in front of the pedals is a board containing other keys or pedals connecting with drums and various traps (crash, thunder sheet, auto horn, tom-tom, etc.), which are manipulated by the feet. The organ is a real organ consisting of two sets of pipes voiced to “violin” and “flute” stops respectively. These pipes are of the best quality (being 90 per cent. tin), and their volume and tonal quality are exactly the same as a similar section from a good pipe organ. Although the other attachments are good, this organ section is the one great big musical feature which will make the Bartola Keyboard unique among music machines. Having a good piano already in his theater, any manager who installs the “Bartola Keyboard” only needs a good pianist to insure high-class music. This attachment is not a toy. Its effects are not “cheap,” but of good, solid quality. The drums are played by the feet—the bass drum by the left foot, the small drum by the right. They can be made to play soft or loud at will. This applies also to the xylophone, orchestra bells, chimes, and marimba, which are that is all there is to it. But the combinations and effects likewise attached to the keyboard. The different instruments are in separate cases, which may be placed adjacent to the piano or in various parts of the theater. They are run by a current of low voltage which is supplied from a storage battery. This battery is kept “stored” by a motor generator which is started and stopped automatically by the playing of the instruments. The full quota is given as follows: “Pipe-organ, xylophone, orchestra bells, marimba, chimes, bass drum, small drum, tom-tom, triangle, cymbal, thunder sheet, and auto horn.” These can be played all at the same time along with or without the piano; in any combination with or without the piano. The combinations are infinite in variety. The “violin” stop in the organ section really partakes more of the character of the oboe or high register of the cello to my way of thinking. At any rate, it is possible to get a very good Oriental musette effect on the upper notes of this stop; also an imitation of bagpipes.

Combined with the flute stop a big rich tone is produced which, when accompanied by the piano and drums, gave an excellent orchestral effect. When all the instruments and trap are played together, the volume is sufficient for any ordinary theater. Now, Mr. Exhibitor, when you install the “Bartola Keyboard Attachment,” don’t make the mistake of thinking it will do all the work; get a good pianist to operate it, as it is a really good instrument and deserves a chance. A pianist does not need to “learn” this instrument; in a few moments he can familiarize himself with the situations of the different levers which are all convenient to his hand, and that is all there is to it. But the combinations and effects possible to a good performer are worth the extra money.

A Correction.

A slight mix-up happened to my letter in the issue of May 31st. Under the title, “An Exciting Honeymoon,” the caption “Part One” and numbers 1 and 2 are correct; the remainder of this reel will be found in the next column under Part Two, numbers 3, 4 and 5 respectively. The caption “Part Two” belongs at the head of the second column, the first number in the second reel being “I’d Like to Go On a Honeymoon,” and ending with number 9, “On the Mississippi.”

“A Splendid Scapegrace”; first three numbers correct. The remainder will be found under caption “Part One” of “An Exciting Honeymoon.” Begin with No. 4, “Agitato pp. and mf.” and so on until No. 12, “Religioso until finish.”

“The Courage of a Soldier” is correct to and including No. 7. The remainder will be found under “A Splendid Scapegrace” No. 8, “Indian Music again, etc.,” and so on to finish. Accidents will happen in the best regulated printing office and please note that it seldom happens in this.


Likes the Music Page.

Mr. Roy H. Metcalf, of the Empress Theater, Missoula, Mont., submits the following: “One of the most interesting features in the Moving Picture World to me, and no doubt to many other musicians, is the ‘Music for the Picture’ page. I only regret that it does not appear each week and that more musicians do not take advantage of the opportunity to help others by offering suggestions.

“Music for the picture is second in importance only to the picture itself—many of the patrons of the photoplay place the music first.” (They should not if the pictures are all they should be.—Ed.)

“Every live manager is now demanding that the musical accompaniments for his pictures shall be of the best and many houses are spending more for the musical end of the game than for the pictures.”

[That probably accounts for it; I am a strenuous advocate of good music and good pictures, and believe that correct music enhances the value of the picture, but I do not protest against the fine concert program with pictures as a side issue. Not that I think Bro. Metcalf is arguing in favor of this proposition, but I have met a few exhibitors in the past who did and still do, and here is a good chance to get in my little knock.—Editor.]

“There are still some who are emphatic in their assertions that an orchestra cannot properly fit music to the picture. There is no question but that a pianist, either alone or with the assistance of a good drummer, has probably a greater opportunity to work out his pictures in detail than a number of musicians playing together, but I believe most orchestra leaders have demonstrated that it is possible to follow the picture quite effectively and at the same time give the public more pleasing music than a pianist can. We are using a string orchestra and pipe organ, adding drums or brass according to the requirements of the picture. In changing every day it is almost impossible to rehearse our program with the pictures as should be done; however, we do so on special releases. In featuring the music for pictures, the manager prepares slides which are shown before each reel announcing the name of the next picture and the musical numbers which are used for accompaniment. The music loving patrons are loud in their praise of this arrangement.

“We recently showed the Reliance feature, ‘The Bawlerout,’ in three parts; also a Keystone comedy. Below is the program used for that day: ‘Liebesgarten’ (Schumann), ‘Humoreske’ (Dvorak), ‘Serenade’ (Drdla), ‘Solvejg’s Song’ (Grieg), “To Spring’ (Grieg), ‘La Boheme, Fantasia’ (Puccini), ‘Salut D’Amour’ (Elgar), ‘Echoes of the Operas’ (Arr. By Reckers), “Love is the only Thing in Life’ (Helf), selections from ‘A Modern Eve’ and ‘The Fortune Teller.’”

This is a splendid program musically; unfortunately I did not see the picture in question, so cannot pass as to its fitness in regard to detail. Many leaders strive to carry out the general atmosphere of the picture rather than try to [1241] work to every little detail. This on the whole is much the safer plan, for as Mr. Metcalf says, it is difficult for an orchestra to follow closely to the details. Some leaders “humor” the scenes without changing the piece of music. Unless done with skill this is risky, although I have known violinists who could so vary the music at times by means of retard, accelerate, diminish, crescendo, etc., that their work was a joy to hear. This, of course, in certain scenes where the contrasts were not too pronounced. It would hardly hold good in all situations.—Editor.
Source: Clarence E. Sinn, “Music for the Picture,” Moving Picture World 21 June 1913, 1240-41.