A Most Unusual Musical Instrument
The "Photoplayer" is an instrument specifically developed to provide music and sound effects for silent movies.
Before movies had sound, it was discovered that playing background music during a film could aid in developing a particular mood for a certain scene. Initially, small theatres would use player pianos to produce music automatically from piano rolls.
After some time, some of these pianos were extended in size with pipe organs and sound effects inserted into large cabinets connected to the sides of the piano.
The user of this new contraption, which became known as the photoplayer, could then create multiple sounds to match the actions on screen.
The appeal of the Fotoplayer to theatre owners was the fact that it took no musical skill to operate.
The Fotoplayer would play the piano and pipe organ mechanically using an electric motor, an air pump, and piano rolls while the user of the Fotoplayer would follow the onscreen action while pulling cords, pushing buttons, and pressing pedals to produce relatable sounds to what was occurring onscreen
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