1902 Encyclopedia > Music Boxes

Music Boxes
(or: Musical Boxes)

MUSICAL-BOX (or: Music Box), an instrument for producing by mechanical means tunes or pieces of music. The modern musical-box is an elaboration of the elegant toy musical snuff-box in vogue during the 18th century. The notes or musical sounds are produced by the vibration of steel teeth, or springs cut in a comb or flat plate of steel. The teeth are graduated in length from end to end of the comb or plate, the longer teeth giving the deeper notes; and, where necessary, by filling or loading with lead the individual teeth are accurately attuned. Each tone and semitone in the scale is represented by three or four separate teeth in the comb, to permit of successive repetitions of the same note when required by the music. The teeth are acted upon and musical vibrations produced by the revolution of a brass cylinder studded with project ting pins, which, as they move round, raise and release the proper teeth at due intervals according to the nature of the music. An entire revolution of the cylinder completes the performance of the special pieces of music for which the apparatus is set but upon the same cylinder there may be inserted pins for performing as many a thirty-six separate airs. This is accomplished by making both the points of the teeth or springs and the projecting pins which touch them very fine, so that a very small change in the position of the cylinder is sufficient to bring an entirely distinct set of pins in contact with the note teeth. In the more elaborate musical-boxes the cylinders are removable, and may be replaced by others containing distinct sets of music. In these also there are combinations of bell, drum, cymbal, and triangle effects, &c., The revolving motion of the cylinder is effected by a spring and clock-work, and the arte of revolution is regulated by a fly regulator. The head-quarters of the musical-box trade is Geneva, where the manufacture gives employment to upwards of a thousand persons.

The musical-box is a type of numerous instruments for producing musical effects by mechanical means, in all of which a revolving cylinder or barrel studded with pins is the governing feature. The principle of the barrel operating by percussion or by wind on reeds, pipes, or strings govern carillons or music bells, barrel organs, mechanical flutes, celestial voices, harmoniphones, and the sometimes huge and complex orchestrions in which a combination of all orchestral effects is attempted. A principle of more recent introduction than the studded cylinder consists of sheets of perforated papers or card, somewhat similar to the Jacquard apparatus for weaving. The perforations correspond in position and length to the pitch and duration of the note they represent, and as the web or long sheet of paper passes over the instrument, the perforated holes are brought in proper position and sequence under the influence of the suction or pressure of air from a bellows, and thereby the notes are either directly acted on, as in the case of reed instruments, or the opening and closing of valves set in motion levers or liberate springs which govern special notes. The United States are the original home of the instruments controlled by perforated papers known as orguinettes, organinas, melodeons, &c.

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