Friday, February 26, 2010

British Trade Exhibition

This is an excerpt of an article on a 1913 industry trade show in Britain. A lot of manufacturers of mechanical musical instruments and sound effects machines evidently showed their wares—in any case, there were enough that the article had this whole section devoted to them.
British Trade Exhibition
Moving Picture Symposium in London—Fourteen Picture Theaters in One.
(Specially Reported By Our Own Representative.)

SATURDAY, March 22 will be an important date in the history of the moving picture industry in Great Britain, for on that day was opened in London, under most distinguished auspices, the first industrial exhibition ever held in this country in connection with development of the kinema as an educational, scientific and entertaining factor.


Sound Instruments.

It would seem from the many mechanical musical instruments shown at Olympia that, so far as the smaller shows are concerned, the orchestra will soon be swept out of existence. A most ingenious contrivance which attracted endless attention was a violin-playing instrument. The sceptic showman will ask "How can a machine draw a bow across a fiddle with accurate musical expression." That is not the point. The violin plays the bow, the latter remaining stationary throughout. The invention consists of a three-legged frame to which is attached three violins, close together and all in line. Across the three is stretched a huge bow and when the motor is set going and the sound regulator fed with paper music rools [sic] the three play together. Pneumatic stops regulate the strings instead of fingers.

The stentorian was another device which attracted endless notice. It was really an elaboration of the gramaphone [sic] except in stentorian notes which could be heard from one end of the building to the other. Combinations of pianos, organs, orchestrions and violins were exhibited by the dozen and all were under electric control, compact, and regulated on the press-the-button principle.

Machines for sound effects were as common as flies on a July morning and the cacophanic [sic] catastrophes produced by some were bewildering in the extreme. One small instrument, for instance, no larger than a sewing machine and known as the "Kinesounder," almost produced a panic. The operator pressed seven of its levers down simultaneously; then immediately fire alarms rang, police whistles blew, the fire engine hooter buzzed, horses galloped and vehicles rattled, timber cracked as though burning and passable imitations of falling floors and roofs were interspersed with many other noises of a fire scene. This machine produces about fifty other different stage noises with one of the most realistic resemblances of smashing crockery I have ever heard.
Source: Our Own Representative, “British Trade Exhibition,” Moving Picture World 19 April 1913, 259.