All About Names – Part 2

So many different names were used to describe musical boxes that it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what they were about. Some were fairly obvious, such as Longue Marche, but when it is combined with Sublime Harmonie things tend to become more complicated. The principle of the plerodienique is fairly easy to explain but there is not much of a clue in the name. Combine it with Interchangeable Plerodienique- Sublime Harmonie and the mind somehow starts to go blank……..

A disadvantage of the musical box was a need to rewind the machine, often at an inconvenient time when it started to slow down or stopped playing in the middle of a tune. Many attempts were made to play for exceptionally long times. One method was to provide more spring-motor power combined with higher reduction gearing. Twice the power can be stored if two spring barrels are connected in tandem. Two spring motors rarely deserve the term Longue Marche unless their design accords with extra long playing time and not just increased power. The first Longue Marche patent was taken out in 1879……….

Movements with four motors are almost certainly Longue Marche. Two spring motors in tandem are coupled in parallel to an identical tandem pair.

By 1882 another innovation appeared, the first Plerodienique. Overture movements usually accommodated the airs by using more than one turn but there was always the pause at the tune gap, which meant that the arranger had to use a certain amount of ingenuity in getting the gap at a point that did not detract too much from the musical composition. The Plerodienique type of movement was one of a number of designs devised to achieve a long-playing time. It is a very complex machine comprising two cylinders on a common shaft, but they do not change position in unison. First one stops and changes position whilst the other continues to rotate, and vice versa. Hence allowing a very long continuous composition.

Another way of achieving a continuous long-playing arrangement is to pin the cylinder in the form of a spiral, called helicoidal pinning. This was quite common on early barrel organs. Another term for this is Marche Continue.

From Issue 2 (Autumn 2015) of Mechanical Music World. To read this article in full become a member and receive a copy. Full details on “Membership” page.