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An orchestrion is a generic name for a machine that plays music and is designed to sound like an orchestra or band. Orchestrions may be operated by means of a large pinned cylinder or by a music roll and less commonly book music. The sound is usually produced by pipes, though they will be voiced differently to those found in a pipe organ, as well as percussion instruments. Some orchestrions also contain a piano.

The orchestrion reached in zenith in Germany during the 1920's with the advent of the Jazz Age. The German orchestrion manufacturers such as Weber, Hupfeld, Philipps, Popper, etc. adapted and redesigned the instrumentation of their orchestrions to play sophisticated syncopated expressive popular Jazz Songs that were coming from the Berlin and the United States music publishing houses. Many of the cabinets were modernized to reflect Bauhaus designs. The arrangement of the music combined with the mechanism and cabinet design to produce a synergy that resulted in some of the most spectacular music machines every built! A particular highlight was the musical arrangements of Gustav Bruder of Waldkirch Germany. His arrangements were featured on Weber orchestrions and later on roll operated Gebrueder Bruder Airophon fair organs.

The name "orchestrion" has also been applied to three specific musical instruments:
  1. A chamber organ, designed by Abt Vogler in 1785, which in a space of 9 cub. ft. contained no less than 900 pipes, 3 manuals of 63 keys each and 39 pedals.
  2. A pianoforte with organ pipes attached, invented by Thomas Anton Kunz (1756-1830) of Praguemarker in 1791. This orchestrion comprised two manuals of 65 keys and 25 pedals, all of which could be used either independently or coupled. There were 21 stops, 230 strings and 360 pipes which produced 105 different combinations. The bellows were worked either by hand or by machinery.
  3. A mechanical musical instrument, automatically played by means of revolving cylinders, invented in 1851 by F. T. Kaufmann of Dresdenmarker. It comprises a complete wind orchestra, with the addition of kettle-drums, side drums, cymbals and triangle.


References

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