I was thinking the other day how most of us take music for granted. I just signed up for Spotify, which is an app where you can make your own playlists of music and listen for free (with the occasional promo or commercial interruption). It gathers information from your own iTunes cache and their library, which is immense. I mainly like to kick it old skool (what a shocker!), so I have playlists like "Horns of Plenty" (Chicago; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Herb Alpert), "GROOVY!" (Stan Getz, Ramsey Lewis, Dexter Gordon, Traffic), and "Late Seventies" (The Babys, Boz Scaggs, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Joe Jackson). This is a far, far cry from my days of waiting around to hear my favorite song on the radio and then hoping I was near enough to my boombox to record it on cassette. Even that method, though, would seem positively space-age to those whose only form of "canned" entertainment was a player piano!
I've written about pianos and sheet music before, but not about the player piano. If you think about it, the player piano was the first iPod! :D Imagine how amazing it must've been to have an instrument that could play the music for you. No longer were you at the mercy of having a musical relative or friend - you could hear the popular songs of the day anytime you wanted, in your own home! According to Wikipedia the Aeolian Company, maker of the player piano rolls, had over 9000 titles by 1903. The first pianos cost $250 (about SIX GRAND in 2009 dollars), but people bought 'em! The peak for piano players was 1924 but after the stock market crash in 1929, coupled with the advent of radio, the player piano was virtually wiped out.
Here's the good news - you can still get player piano paper! Isn't it wonderful? I got these sheets from The Paper Flea Market. I love that the words are included for you. I photographed it in a plastic sleeve because it rolls up so quickly. (hey, you try being rolled up for 95 years and straightening out! :D) It took me a minute to realize that the works are rolling "up", so you'd read them from bottom to top (and "I dreamed alone" makes much more sense than "Lone-a Dreamed I"). Here is one of those items of which the Millennial generation may not even be aware, unless an older relative has one in their home. They're going to be more and more scarce as the years roll on, so why not collect the rolls or use the paper in art work? :)
I've only used this paper in one piece so far, but now that I have more of it I really want to build a collage around it somehow. Stay tuned!