The Long Lost Fotoplayer


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In this short clip from 2009, Joe Rinaudo shows PBS his most prized possession: a restored 1926 fotoplayer. It was a large machine that was basically a player piano/organ with many built in extra instruments to create sound effects for silent movies. Here is an excerpt from Rinaudo’s website explaining further:

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The fotoplayer used a fascinating combination of piano, organ pipes, drums, and various sound effects designed to narrate the action of any silent film.
Pedals, levers, switches, buttons, and pull cords were all used to turn on the xylophone, beat a drum, ring a bell, create the sound of thunder, or chirp like a bird.

When sound films came into being in the late 1920’s, the fotoplayer became passé.
Of the thousands of American fotoplayers made during their heyday, sadly less than 50 survive, and of those only 12 are known to be in playing condition.

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What a fine instrument with such a fascinating history.

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(via Laughing Squid and Neatorama)

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