Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The First International Exposition

Below are excepts from a review of the International Trade Show that was held in New York in early July. I have included primarily the passages on music and sound effects. The full article, which contains many interesting bits about equipment available to exhibitors, can be accessed via Google Books in window at the end of the post.
The First International Exposition

Splendid Showing Made by the Various Branches of
the Motion Picture Trade and Contributary Interests

It was something of a venture on the part of the promoters of the First International Exposition of Motion Picture Arts when they suggested the project. As has been frequently observed in these columns, conditions in the trade were not favorable to such an undertaking, but that fact did not deter the promoters, the New York City Exhibitors' League. They framed their plans very carefully and toiled with great industry for the ultimate success.

Whether conditions of the trade changed to please the promoters of the exposition, or whether it was their energy that overcame adverse conditions, the fact remains that the exposition was a huge success. The big hall of the Grand Central Palace was tastefully laid out, the booths were artistically designed and decorated, giving the exposition a fairyland aspect when illuminated by the thousands of incandescent lights.

It would be impossible to publish all the complimentary remarks expressed by visitors, but they were enthusiastic to the last degree, and well they might be, for it seldom happens that a trade exhibit at Grand Central Palace is more comprehensive and attractive than this. A careful review of the displays follows:

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Just across the aisle from the big Wurlitzer instrument, that makes more noise than the band, the Dramagraph effects machine has to get in when the Wurlitzer man has a heart, but the novelty of the machine holds the crowds. It is a compact collection of drummers' traps and effects self-contained and supplemented by the usual bass and snare drum. The bass pedal has an arrangement whereby the cymbal or drum may be operated independently of the other or in unison. The other has a lever device for throwing off the snares and converting it into a tom-tom. Cranks, pulls and handles work all sorts of bells and a series of tubes work the whistles, and other pneumatic effects. There is a phonograph for use where the piano is absent, and an organ run by a crank for church scenes. A typewriter key effect has its accompanying bell, and the demonstrator claims that not a single sound asked for yet has not been replied to. The jokester who asks for "a noise like a nut" is given the laugh by the operator tapping his assistant's head.

Scott and Van Altena have their display in running order and show a collection of slides that it would be hard to beat anywhere. They are all straight photographic effects in combination instead of crude drawing, and some of the colorings are unusually effective. You are missing an eye treat if you go past this booth too quickly. The interior is darkened and a glass screen shows the effect of some of the numbers in the lantern.

Phonoliszt Violina is a pretty large mouthful of name. It belongs to one of the most unique musical instruments on the floor, a combination of two violins and piano. While there are four instruments for each violin, each violin using but a single string, all are completely strung and the combination of the eight give the full effect of two good instruments, the bowing being done by a circle bow and the stopping by mechanical fingers. Apart from the novelty the tonal effects are really good and the piano accompaniment leaves nothing to be desired, being neither obtrusive nor lacking in volume. Perforated paper rolls are used, these being made in Germany. There is another instrument giving a combination of piano and organ, a pleasing effect, and there is a pipe organ with effects for those who desire something of greater volume, all of them being handled by Ernst Bocker. There is more than plenty of music in the air, but it is good music.

[. . .] There is a full equipment of Deagan's bells. A. F. Berry is in charge of the exhibit, and he is aided by J. R. Hunter and J. R. Sweeney.

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The one thing that can make the Wurlitzer organ weary is the Yerkes bells mounted on the balcony railing and operated from a booth close to the entrance. Next exposition, it is rumored, they are going to put all the musical instruments in a special


hall and let them fight it out, but the bells are holding their own well, and are attracting attention. They have other music makers, but the bells lead the rest.

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It isn't necessary to talk much about the Wurlitzer-Hope-Jones Unit Orchestra. It speaks for itself and in no uncertain tones. Every time it starts up—and it starts up about ten minutes after it runs down—the crowd hustles over and the only person in hearing who does not seem to like it is the man who tries to sneak in a demonstration of the Dramagraph each time they change a tune.

The W-H-J has to hustle some to live up to two hyphens, but it makes it every time and with plenty to spare. The Wurlitzer people might have filled that end of the hall with their various styles of instruments, but they centered on the Unit Orchestra and the band lost its job after the opening night, just as many orchestras have been replaced by one man at the W-H-J console. The best thing about it is that having only one man, a good man may be engaged, since he is the director over a mechanical instead of a human orchestra. The regular Wurlitzer catalogue lists machines all the way from $375 up, but no one ever discovered that they had more than one standard of excellence though a score of degrees of elaborateness.

The Berry-Wood people, at the other end of the hall—and have you noticed how these automatic players run to hyphens— have three instruments on display and many more in their catalogue.

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Source: “The First International Exposition,” Moving Picture World 19 July 1913, 324-27.