Pneumatic technology is usually associated with machine control, but at the Medical Design & Manufacturing West Conference in Anaheim, Calif., it was about music.
Clippard Instrument Laboratory Inc., a maker of pneumatic components, demonstrated a guitar that employs 62 air cylinders and 62 pneumatic valves to play music. The brainchild of company namesake Rob Clippard, the guitar uses a combination of 5/16th-inch and 5/32-inch air cylinders to strum its six strings. It also employs a half-inch-diameter cylinder to provide an "acoustic thump" for the music.
Clippard's air guitar uses a combination of 5/16-inch and 5/32-inch air cylinders to strum its six strings. A half-inch-diameter cylinder provides percussion. (Source: Clippard Instrument Laboratory Inc.)
"Rob's musical, and he grew up with Clippard technology, so he just combined the two," says Edward Ehrhardt, sales application engineer for Clippard.
The Air Guitar plays Rob Clippard's own original songs, which are encoded in MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) protocol files. The files are communicated from an iPad to a microcontroller-based I/O board, which decides which valves to fire.
At the show, the Air Guitar drew crowds as it played a running loop of Rob's music.
The Air Guitar isn't his first foray into pneumatic music. He previously designed a 6-foot-diameter "music tree," which employed air to play strings, whistles, and cow bells. The musical tree is now housed at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History.
Air Guitar Videos
Here's a video shot by the author at the MD&M conference:
Charles, here's a link to look at. http://www.mmdigest.com/Pictures/Welte/seismic.html
Turns out that one of the vorsetzer/recorder makers (the one used to make the recordings that were later placed on my album, Welte) used recording seimograph technology! It was largely pneumatic technology (supplied by Auto Pneumatic Action Company).
It was easier to find than I thought. It's actually a boxed set (6 sides, each with several pieces), but has NO liner notes (that I could find; they must be somewhere!), only what's on the label! This set was issued (mid-60s) by, of all things, the Book-of-the Month Club. 95% of the works are played by their composers. The list on the box cover includes Busoni, Debussy, Hofmann, Ravel, Paderewski, Grieg, Carreno, Faure, d'Albert, Saint-Saens, Leschetizky, Scriabin, Grunfeld, Richard Strauss, Scharwenka, Mahler, Gabrielowitsch, Josef Lhevinne, Granados, and De Pachmann. Excuse my inability to remember the keystroke combinations for the tildes, umlauts, etc. that are missing! The set title is "Legendary Masters of the Piano" issued by the Classics Record Library with the number 5735.
Try Google or Wikipedia. I did, although I was already somewhat familiar with the device from the LPs I have. I'll check the liner notes when I get a chance to visit my "archives." It was some type of analog (not electronic, of course, possibly pneumatic), not sure of te medium.
A couple of folks have obliquely referenced this technology, over 100 years old. The Vorsetzer (invented in Germany around 1900 or so, so named because it "sat in front" of the piano for playback) was an ingenious mechanism that could actually record a performance by a master pianist (some of the artists that were recorded by these devices included Lizst, Chopin, and many other greats of that era). It recorded all of the nuances including finger motions, angles and speeds along with the same for pedals. I have some old extremely high-quality LPs that were made in the glory days of vinyl (late 1950's- early 1960s) with the Vorsetzer playing (on the same instrument used for the original recording, usually a Steinway or similar concert-quality piano). Thus I can actually hear performances that were done many years before the electronic technology had advanced to the level of true "stereo high-fidelity." There are many web sites about these amazing contraptions, and they even show up occasionally on eBay!
As a rather mediocre guitarist myself, I do understand that this new re-invention is only a curiosity today, with little or no musical value. That is most certainly not true of the earlier types, including the Vorsetzer, that did indeed provide a capability that could not, at the time, be attained any other way.
Now that's a darn shame. I think it would be very instructive to operate this gadget. Playing with a device like this embeds the technology into the brain. There's no way to appreciate it like pushing the button and seeing what happens.
I see your point and I agree with the historical aspect of it. It would be interesting to hear the performance LIVE on an instrument from that period. But once would be enough. Other than that, I don't see the value in it. I would rather hear a new performer and their interpretation.
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