Stanford University
Department of Music Presents:
April 6-8, 2018

Reactions to the Record Symposium 2018

All events are in Campbell Recital Hall at Braun Music Center.

FRIDAY, APRIL 6

2:30 pm Registration

3:00 pm Opening Remarks

  • Kumaran Arul (Stanford University)
  • Jerry McBride (Stanford University)
3:30 pm Stanford Roll Digitization Project
  • Craig Sapp (Stanford University)
  • Zhengshan Kitty Shi (Stanford University)
4:00 pm Capturing Expression: Welte Roll Digitization and MIDI Transfer Technologies
  • Peter Phillips (Sydney Conservatorium of Music)
5:00 pm Dinner Break

7:30 pm CONCERT 1: O Say Can You Hear: Choices of an American Pianolist
  • Bob Berkman, pianola, with Jonathan Golove, cello theremin

SATURDAY, APRIL 7

10:00 am The "Other" German Roll Companies: Hupfeld and Philipps

  • Marc Widuch (Faszination Pianola)
11:00 am Archeology of a Sound: Reconstructing Welte Expression
  • Gerhard Dangel (Augustiner Museum, Freiburg)
12:00 pm Lunch Break

2:00 pm Rediscovering Jewish Piano Rolls
  • Bob Berkman (Pianola Enterprises)
3:00 pm I’m Going To Jazz My Way Thru Paradise: The Importance of Rolls to Jazz, Blues, and Ragtime
  • Paul Johnson (Independent scholar)
4:00 pm Break

4:15 pm Performance Analysis of Alfred Grünfeld's Acoustic and Piano Roll Recordings of Schumann’s "Träumerei"
  • Akiko Washino (Fukuoka Prefectural University)
  • Craig Sapp (Stanford University)
5:15 pm Dinner Break

7:30 pm CONCERT 2: Raising Ghosts: Original Rolls and Their Modern Counterparts – Welte, Ampico, and MIDI player pianos
  • Rare rolls from the Stanford collection are played on original and modern roll playing instruments with commentary by Peter Phillips and Kumaran Arul.
Public conference adjourned

SUNDAY, APRIL 8

Closed to public

10:00 am Round Table and Planning Meeting

12:00 pm Conference adjourned

PRESENTATION ABSTRACTS

Capturing Expression: Welte Roll Digitization and MIDI Transfer Technologies

Peter Phillips
(Sydney Conservatorium of Music)

The first example of a reproducing piano was shown at the Leipzig Autumn Trade Fair in early September 1904. We now know the instrument to be a prototype of the Welte-Mignon. We also know that rolls for the instrument were being made in 1904, but by January 1905, it appears the technology to record rolls for the Mignon was well developed, as a mammoth recording session began in January 1905 at the Popper Music Salon in Leipzig. Over the next 16 months, around 1,000 recordings were made by some of the most distinguished artists of the day. The available evidence shows that recordings were made of notes, pedal operations, and note dynamics. It is the latter aspect that puts Welte-Mignon rolls at the forefront of reproducing piano rolls. When coupled with their historical importance, it is clear these are significant recordings.

My talk concerns the methodology and philosophy behind making it possible to hear Welte-Mignon roll recordings on contemporary instruments such as Yamaha’s Disklavier and through virtual piano software. The pathway I followed to achieve accuracy in decoding Welte-Mignon expression coding is described, along with the philosophy behind the pathway. Windows-based software that I have designed specifically for use with reproducing piano rolls is also presented, in which the numerous aspects that need to be considered are explained. The facilities offered by this software open up a number of avenues that permit greater use of reproducing piano roll recordings. The methodology for creating raw MIDI files of piano rolls for use with the software is an important part of the process, and I explain the background and philosophy behind the equipment built to produce the MIDI files.

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The "Other" German Roll Companies: Hupfeld and Philipps

Marc Widuch
(Faszination Pianola)

Once staunch competitors, early roll companies today provide complementary sources of essential historical documents. While Hupfeld was second to Welte in creating reproducing rolls, it nonetheless compiled a most interesting catalogue. Philipps in Frankfurt was an even later entrant and was forced to invest in a niche left by Welte and Hupfeld, making its repertoire another jewel in the crown of piano rollography.

Past decades of research have been focused on the technical aspects of these instruments and the differences in the suspected roll recording processes. This is very important work with much yet to be done. However, in the process, an unnecessary hierarchy is often established between these systems. Why must we choose between a Picasso and a Hopper, a Goethe and a Hemingway, instead of cherishing them all? This talk will focus on the lesser known German roll pioneers, Hupfeld and Philipps, with recent discoveries, historical anecdotes, and musical examples to reveal the hidden treasures in these documents of pianistic art.

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Archeology of a Sound: Reconstructing Welte Expression

Gerhard Dangel
(Augustiner Museum, Freiburg)

In 1980, the Augustiner Museum of Freiburg, Germany acquired the Steinway Welte grand piano of Edwin Welte, the coinventor of the Welte-Mignon reproducing system. The instrument had remained at Welte's home until the death of his widow in 1988, when it made its way to the museum. At this time, the instrument was not functional. The museum's plan was to restore the instrument to the condition intended by its inventors. This became a long process, taking many years. With some major restoration on the reproducing mechanism done in 2015 and further adjustment of the piano’s mechanism, along with several fine-tuning procedures, the reproducing system is now at a very high level of performance. Comparing it with records from 1929, it shows no audible difference.

The Welte collection of the Augustiner Museum will be enlarged and will be part of a new “science lounge” in the future.

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Rediscovering Jewish Piano Rolls

Bob Berkman
(Pianola Enterprises)

In addition to more traditional piano roll topical areas, there exist unexplored areas of American studies and ethnomusicology that can shed light on the rich landscape of the field. These topics include rolls made by and for America’s immigrant groups, and those made by parties hostile to them. After years of gathering scare materials, Bob Berkman was able to complete a CD recording exclusively devoted to Jewish music on piano rolls. Unexplored for decades, this material offers a fascinating glimpse into Jewish music and the immigrant experience, dating from the years when the player piano was a prime source of home entertainment. Among the works are previously unknown klezmer works, striking in their authenticity and haunting in modal complexity, as well as Yiddish theatre hits, devotional music, and songs of Zionists.

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I'm Going To Jazz My Way Thru Paradise: The Importance of Rolls to Jazz, Blues, and Ragtime

Paul Johnson
(Independent scholar)

A considerable gap exists in our understanding of how early jazz, blues, and ragtime were performed on the piano. For jazz and blues, histories have had a singular focus on disc recordings. Ragtime histories rarely touch on how the style was used to interpret popular songs. Because of these gaps, we have a skewed view of what really occurred during the birth and early growth of these seminal forms. This talk will focus on why a recognition of piano roll performances is important in the quest to fully understand how these genres were actually performed. Using extensive roll resources and a collector's knowledge, the talk will delve into why the study of these recordings is important. It will address the immense body of quality performances made on rolls in these three genres. Finally, it will highlight artists who would have made it into the history books, had they only been recorded.

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Performance Analysis of Alfred Grünfeld's Acoustic and Piano Roll Recordings of Schumann’s "Träumerei"

Akiko Washino
(Fukuoka Prefectural University)
Craig Sapp (Stanford University)

We begin by establishing the reliability of MIDI data as a medium for performance analysis of timing by comparing differences in note-onsets between acoustic and piano roll recordings. Different scanning methodologies are evaluated for accuracy, measuring the differences in milliseconds. Generally, the analysis shows good reliability for MIDI data derived from roll scans, when comparing with acoustic recordings and roll playback on original instruments. Next, we analyze and compare two performances by Alfred Grünfeld of Robert Schumann's "Träumerei". The first is an acoustic recording made in 1913 for Gramophone; the second, a Welte-Mignon piano roll recording made in 1905. The timing aspects of both recordings are remarkably similar except in a few places. There are more differences, as expected, in the dynamics. We also examine Grünfeld's phrase structure, including links between phrases and his treatment of "pickups" which Schumann notates as quarter, eighth, and grace notes. Techniques used suggest a methodology for data extraction and analysis using Sonic Visualiser.

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