From: email@example.com (Tim Baxter)
To: Mechanical Music Digest <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 09:25:15 -0500
Subject: Gerety & Chase MIDI Magnet Valve
Dear Folks, I am a fortunate 'beta-tester' (if
a system with zero problems can be deemed in 'beta testing') of
the new Gerety-Chase 'in-line' MIDI valve system. The Gerety-Chase
System ('GCS') is designed for use with all pneumatic player devices;
it is being used by me in my 1924 Steinway XR equipped with Aeolian's
A word first about the instrument. It was fully
restored in 1999 by Kirk Russell of Wakefield, RI. 'Fully-restored'
here means just that -- all parts of the piano and piano action
itself, as well as a full restoration of the Duo-Art mechanism.
At full crash, a single note plays at 80 water inches of vacuum;
at intensity '0', a single note plays at about 6 inches of vacuum.
The piano has an astonishing dynamic range, as these instruments
can when properly restored.
Besides having done such an excellent restoration
(Kirk is the chief tech at Avery Piano in Providence, RI, which
was formerly Steinway's retail outlet in Rhode Island, back before
Steinway cut back on the number of its retail dealers), I am very
fortunate that the basic piano itself is an outstanding instrument.
I am a fanatic about ambient noise when listening
to the rolls, so the pump and motor (though as silent as I've
ever heard on a reproducing piano, nickelodeon, orchestrion and
the like) are located remotely, in the basement.
As for the system itself, Spencer Chase came personally
to Georgia to do the installation (he's probably still reeling
from the culture shock). The valves are located in very small
(1.4" x 1.5" x 5") separate blocks of 16 valves
each. (For the Duo-Art 6 blocks were needed for a total of 92
valves -- 80 notes, 8 for the theme and accompaniment levels,
2 for bass and treble theme, 1 for soft pedal, 1 for sustain pedal
-- 4 valves not presently in use.)
The valves sit in front of the bleed rail, and
connect to the stack by use of small 'Y' connectors. The entire
valve system is then made invisible to the eye by Spencer's ingenious
use of a black, spongy fabric which is lined with foam and which
he sewed so that the pedal lyre fits in the middle of it, and
it is secured by Velcro to the bottom of the stack and to the
small wooden strip that it underneath the key bed (and which Aeolian
used to hide the various control levers). In some ways, the new
cloth is a visual improvement over the original design, as one
no longer sees or notices the brass control levers with which
one can manually control rolls played on the Duo-Art.
The GCS performs beyond my wildest expectations.
A previous manufacturer of MIDI valve systems for pneumatic pianos
was unable to ever supply me with a model that could open against
the high vacuum levels of the Duo-Art. The GCS has no difficulty
whatsoever in playing each and every note, no matter how high
the vacuum is, nor how quick the repetition. With the spongy cloth
and padding covering the valves, there is really noise from the
valve system (of course, with the system this silent, one begins
to notice other things -- the somewhat raucous sustain and soft
pedals, for example).
As many of you know, I am a roll manufacturer
(Meliora Music Rolls), so have no desire to see a demise in the
music roll industry. More important, though, is do avoid a demise
of these instruments altogether. I think rebuilders need to seriously
consider offering this system to their customers when doing rebuilds.
I love the 'romance' and period authenticity of playing rolls,
and always will. However, I take enormous pleasure from the fact
I can now:
- choose from approximately 2500 Duo-Art titles
instantly; - listen without worry about damaging fragile rolls;
- listen to entire Sonatas, or Symphonies, or
Song Cycles, without the distraction of changing rolls; - not
be concerned about whether certain companies' recuts are authentically
reproduced, or stuffing my tracker bar with 'confetti' and
- Stop lugging rolls up and down from the basement!
I think the GCS can give these classic pneumatic
instruments the digital 'edge' they need to compete with the Disklaviers
and PianoDiscs. The sad fact is that few customers will care that
the older instruments are capable of more realistic and musical
performances. If even given an opportunity to think about a comparison,
they will quickly apprehend that the solenoid pianos more easily
'play themselves' by virtue of the digital interface. The GCS
can overcome this formidable barrier.
I may also be wrong about this, but if a customer
can afford to spend $14,000 for a Yamaha Disklavier upright and
upwards of $22,000 for a Disklavier Grand, they can get a GOOD
piano (Steinway, Weber, Mason & Hamlin, Knabe, Chickering
-- fully restored, both player and piano) for a lot less, even
including the GCS (which I understand will retail between ($2,500
and $3,500; probably less for dealers).
I have not priced what the cheaper sorts of solenoid
pianos retail for, but surely someone could get a better quality
reproducing piano, fully restored, with one of these systems for
less AND get a much better piano. Heck, even the 'lower tier'
of Aeolian and American Piano products (i.e., J.C. Fischer, Haynes
Bros., Steck, Stroud) have to be better than a lot of these cheaper,
new models (I also have a 'Original-Built' Welte piano manufactured
by Estey -- at which many folks on the MMD would turn down their
noses -- but as it was built in the 'golden era,' it's a pretty
I think the foregoing is especially true if one
cares more about classical performances, where there will be a
large library of Classical performances available from the Duo-Art,
Ampico (and eventually) Welte libraries. Obviously, nobody's putting
excerpts from 'The Lion King' on a Duo-Art, Ampico or Welte roll.*
If, though, someone follows through and determines a way to 'translate'
modern MIDI performances into coding for the older reproducing
piano systems, even this hurdle will not exist.
One more issue for present owners, and/or new
owners, of reproducing pianos. The cost of the system pays for
itself in the size of the library you can acquire. For example,
you purchase the entire Spencer Chase catalog of rolls for approximately
$800, which includes about 2000 titles. Assume the system costs
$3000, and you have to spend $800 for the entire library ($3800).
You've just acquired 2000 rolls for $1.90 each. If you're used
to paying b/w $12 and $20 each for reproducing piano rolls, this
is actually a bargain.
I haven't even addressed the issue of FINDING
the rolls; one is subjected to the whims of eccentric manufacturers
like those people at Meliora Music Rolls in having to purchase
only what THEY choose to offer to sale the roll-hungry public.
Who wants to deal with that? ;-)
Finally, we all know the original rolls are crumbling
into dust (ESPECIALLY the Duo-Art rolls!). Assuming proper quality
control on the roll scanning process, the sale of these systems
furthers the goal of roll preservation; the rolls must perforce
be scanned for use with these systems, and are thus preserved
in the process.
I would be pleased to answer any questions about
this product via e-mail. Timothy Baxter - Meliora Music Rolls
* I should mention that another thrill of owning
this system is to make my coding of new Duo-Art performances easier.
I use Richard Brandle's excellent 'Wind' computer program to create
Duo-Art rolls from MIDI performances. I can now instantly check
the coding as I go along using the GCS. I also play the GCS using
'WindPlay,' specifically designed by Mr. Brandle for playing rolls
on a MIDI valve system. --------------------
Click Here to return to the MIDI Valve