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Mechanized Instrument Exhibit MP3

The uploads to the Other Minds collection at the archive.org has a stellar new item. Well, new to the archive. Back in early 1973, Other Minds guru Charles Amirkhanian visited the Oakland Museum and recorded a walking tour of its exhibition, “When Music Was Mechanical,” curated by Gretchen Schneider. The hour-plus recording (MP3) features numerous examples of automated music, including the Lyon and Healy Empress Electric Orchestrion, the Wurlitzer Model 165 Band Organ and the Mira Music Box. Originally broadcast on January 25, 1973, on KPFA and KPFB, the exhibit ran from December 16, 1972 through February 4, 1973. Not only is there a lot of mechanical music recorded, but Amirkhanian describes in detail many of the instruments and Schneider talks about the show’s curation, which focuses on machines from the start of the 20th century, and she discusses the complexities of having multiple sound sources in a single exhibit (another name considered for the event was “Christmas Cacophonia”). She mentions two organizations to which most collectors, at the time, belonged: the Musical Box Society and the Automatical Musical Instruments Collector’s Association. Thirty-plus years later, of course, each has its own website: mbsi.org, amica.org. According to Schneider, the show was one of the museum’s most popular exhibits at that point in its history, with so many visitors that many had trouble seeing the instruments. More info, and alternate download formats, at archive.org.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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