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Apollonicon

cylinder, wind, keys, stops, set, key, machine, instrument, slides and pipes

APOLLONICON. A musical machine, on the principle of the organ, which, by peculiar modification of the pipes, produces an excellent imitation of the tones of all the most admired wind instruments; the combined effect of the whole being similar to that of a numerous and well-chosen orchestra. This magnificent contrivance, unrivalled in this or any other country, is the invention of Messrs. Flight and Robson, who spent five years in its completion ; and as a popular description of it has not yet appeared, and cannot fail to be acceptable to the amateurs both of musical and mechanical science, we propose to give such an account of the instrument as may serve to convey a general idea of its construction. In the apollonicon, as in the organ, the sound is produced by a current of air, urged by bellows, through several series of vertical pipes. In the apollonicon there are two pair of bellows, placed below the floor of the apartment in which the instrument stands; the wind from which passes through a reservoir and a tube, called a wind trunk, into an air-tight compartment, called a wind chest. The pipes which, by various modifications of their con struction, produce the sounds of the different instruments, are ranged in rows one behind the other, parallel to the front of the machine, in the order of the gamut, each note and half note having its separate pipe, and each parallel row representing a different instrument ; the pipes producing the same note in every instrument lying in a straight line from front to back of the instrument, or parallel to its sides. Thus the pipes producing the noted on the flute, clarionet, bassoon, &c., all lie in a line parallel to the sides of the instrument. From the upper part of the wind chest proceeds a horizontal platform, termed the bottom having a series of channels cut in its upper surface, cor responding to each note of the different scales, and extending longitudinally from front to rear of the machine. Above the bottom board, and at right angles to the channels, are a series of grooves, corresponding to the transverse ranges of pipes, or the number of the different instruments in each groove, are three slides, placed one over the other, and through all three are cut narrow passages, opening into each of the wind channels in the bottom board. Over the slides is placed the top board, into which the pipes are inserted, communicating with the wind channels through the apertures in the slides. The use of these slides is to cut off occasionally the communication of any particular instrument with the wind chest, so as to cause that instrument to cease playing, which is effected as follows :—the space between each aperture in the slides is somewhat greater than the width of the wind channels, so as to cover the channels completely, and thereby cutting off the communication with the instrument to which the slide belongs. Only one slide in each set of slides is in operation at one time ; the apertures in the other two sets being over the wind channels, and below the apertures of the instruments. One set of slides being used when the instrument is played by the mechanical action of the machine, another set is moved by pedals, and the third set by hand, when it is played by the keys. At that end of each wind rroove that opens into the wind chest, are two hanging valves, called pallets, which admit the air into, or exclude it from, the wind grooves ; and the art of performing upon the machine consists in the management of the pallets and stops before described ; the air or tune being produced by the pallets, and the stops regulating the instruments, upon which the air is played. We shall now proceed to describe the means by which this is effected.—The machine may be played in two ways, either by performers seated at ranges of keys, as in other organs, or by mechanical means : and as this latter method is the distinguishing character of the machine, and has called forth so much ingenuity in its execution, we shall describe it first. The prin ciple is as follows :—to one set of the pallets is attached a series of wires (one to each pallet) passing through holes in a brass plate in the bottom of the wind chest, which are just sufficiently large to allow the wires to move easily, without allowing the air to escape from the wind chest. These wires (60 in num ber, being one to each note of the scale of the machine,) are connected to one end of a series of small steel levers, set in a frame below the wind chest, the outer end of the levers resting upon the surface of a cylinder somewhat longer than the key-frame ; a number of small pins and bent wires or brackets project a short distance beyond the circumference of the cylinder, ranged in lines across the axis, and by the revolution of the cylinder, one or more of these pins or brackets are brought in contact with the outer end of the keys, which are thus raised, whilst the other end of the keys, and the palled corresponding, are proportionably depressed ; the wind passes from the wind chest into the wind passages. The length of time the pallets continue open is regulated by the length of the brackets; and when, by the revolution of the cylinder, the brackets come clear of the keys, the outer end of the key falls upon the cylinder, the pallet is closed by a spiral spring, and the com munication with the wind grooves is cut off. Beyond the keys, and towards the end of the key-frame, is a set of similar keys, moved by brackets on the surface of the cylinder, similar to the former, only projecting somewhat more; these keys (called shifting keys,) by an ingenious arrangement (which we shall afterwards describe at length), give motion to an equal number of levers, each one of which moves in or out one or more of the set of stops which are governed by the cylinder, and thus opens or cuts off the communication of the corresponding instrument or set of pipes. For the sake of simplicity, we describe the brackets as ranged in lines standing right across the axis, which is not quite correct, as, in this case, the same keys would be moved at the corresponding part of each revolution of the cylinder, and consequently only very short pieces could be perforated, or the cylinder must be of an inconveniently large diameter. To remedy this, the cylinder is allowed to move endways in its bearings, a space equal to the distance between two keys; on its axis is cut a screw, containing nine threads, and the bevelled edge of a lever, called a knife, taking in one of the threads of the screw, the cylinder would be moved endways, at each revo lution, a space equal to the distance between two threads; or one-ninth of the distance between two keys, at each revolution ; and the ends of each key would trace a spiral line on the barrel, likewise deviating from a straight line one-ninth of the distance between two keys ; thus nine revolutions of the cylinder would be made before the spiral traced by one key could be brought under the next key. Now the brackets and pins being ranged on the cylinder along these spiral lines, it is clear a different key may be moved at each corresponding part of a revolution, for nine revolutions, which renders the barrel equal to one of nine times its diameter, in which the brackets should be placed in right lines surrounding the cylinder; and as the cylinder revolves very slowly, it is suffi cient for the performance of most compositions. If it is required to repeat the per formance, the key-frame is turned back upon a hinge, which raises the keys clear of the pins, and the knife being lifted out of the screw cut on the axis, the cylinder is moved endways into its original position, the knife replaced in the screw, and the key-frame again brought down to the cylinder, when the piece may be repeated. Having thus explained the principles of the mechanical action of the machine we shall proceed to notice some of the details of the arrangement. There are three cylinders, each 2 feet in diameter, and each having a separate wind chest and key frame placed over it, furnishing wind to particular portions of the scale. The main cylinder occupies the centre of the front of the machine ; it is 8 feet long, and comprises a range of five octaves : viz. from G G an octave below first G in the bass clef up to G, and eighth above G in the treble clef. In a line with this, and concentric with it, is another cylinder, 3 ft. 9 in. for the bass notes extending from G G G, or an octave below the former, up to gamut G, being two octaves. The third cylinder lies at the back of the machine, parallel to the main cylinder; it is 8 feet long, and comprises two octaves. Below the two

front cylinders extends a shaft, or axis, having two pinions, which work in two wheels, one on the end of each cylinder, and a similar shaft lies below the third cylinder, in the rear of the machine ; and beneath these shafts, and at right angles-to them, is another shaft, extending from the front to the back of the machine, having on it two endless screws working in worm-wheels on the two shafts ; this last shaft receives its motion by a band from the driving-shaft, (which has a fiy-wheal, and is turned by manual labour), and causes the cylinders to revolve. The key-frame is made in distinct pieces, to allow for the unequal contraction of the wood, and any inequalities which may exist in the cylinder ; and to take the weight off the key, it is supported on the cylinder by anti-friction rollers. It remains now to explain the connexion of the finger-keys with the pallets. the key-boards are five in :D amb er, the central largest comprising a fore end of the finger keys descend wires to the fore end of a series of levers below the floor, and to the other end of these levers are attached wires, which pass through holes in the wind chest, and are fastened to their set of pallets, and thus the depression of the finger keys draws down the hinder elide of the lower levers, and opens the pallets. Within reach of the performers at the keys, are a number of levers for moving by hand the draw-stops as are termed the slides which throw off or on any particular instrument; but, in addition to these, are a set of pedals five in number, which move a set of stops, called compound pedal stops. These are the invention of Mr. Robson, and are for the purpose of enabling the performer suddenly to throw on or off a number of Instruments by a single movement, and thereby add greatly to the brilliancy of effect. The operation of these stops requiring a figure for its elu cidation, will be deferred until afterwards. To enable the reader more fully to com prehend the foregoing description, we have subjoined two engravings, Fig. I being a section of the machine parallel to the barrels, or to the front ; and Fig. 2 a section across the barrels, or at right angles to the former. In these figures, we have not strictly adhered to the actual arrangement of the parts which are used in the instrument itself, but have rather endeavoured to give a general idea of the principle of the construction, which is all that our limits will allow. In each figure the same letters denote similar parts, a a are the reservoirs immediately over the bellows ; b the wind trunk ; c the wind chest; d d strengthening bridges ; e e pallets; ffff wind grooves or channels ; gggthe stops or slides ; Is h the groove board, into which are inserted the foot of the pipes j j j k the driving shaft, turned by a band 1, from a wheel below the floor ; m m endless screws working into worm wheels na on the transverse shafts o o; pp driving the cylinders q ; r the knife or guide; a the key frame ; t t ants-friction rollers ; a a the keys ; v v stops to prevent the keys striking the cylinder ; w w shifting keys with the connexion to their stops ; connexion of the pallets with the finger keys; y connexion of draw stops ; a connexion of compound pedal stops. Having thus explained the general mechanical arrangement of the instrument, we shall proceed to explain more minutely the manner of throwing on or off; the different instruments or ranges of pipes, both by the shifting keys, and by the compound pedal stops. The above cuts represent one of the shifting keys, Fig. 3 being a front view, and 17g. 4 a aide view. a represents a portion of the cylinder; b one of the shifting keys, kept in contact with the barrel by the spring c. On the spindle d is keyed a T-shaped lever e, in the horizontal arms of which are two projecting studs f f, with a wire passed through them from one to the other. A piece of brass g is attached at its lower end to the key b, and the upper end passing between the lever; the wire rests by one of its shoulders on one of the projecting studs ; a steel spring blade h is inserted at its lower end into a cleft in the piece g, and passes through a slit in a stud in the lower end of the lever e, and by its ten dency to recover a right line in the direction of the arm, it forces the piece g out of the perpendicular, so that it shall always rest against one or other of the studs. k is an arm upon the spindle d, connected by a bar 1 to the lever (not shown) which works the slide or stop. Now when the tooth of the key is raised by one of the studs of the barrel passing under it, the other end of the key is depressed, and drawing down the piece g, shifts the lever e into the position shown by the dotted lines, and thus reverses the position of the slide. When the stud has passed the key, the spring c returns the key to its former position, and the piece g in rising is thrown by the spring h against the stud in the upper arm of the lever e. The compound pedal stops are a most admirable invention of Mr. Robson's, by means of which the performer is enabled to throw off in stantaneously a number of instruments, and to bring into play a number of others, as the varying nature of the music may require, with an effect and pre cision equal to that of the best appointed orchestra. The mechanism is extremely ingenious, as well as beautifully simple. The arrangement will be easily under stood by referring to the annexed cuts, which represent one set of pedal levers, Fig. 5 being a side view, and Fig. 6 an end view. On the upper axis a is a number of arms b b acting upon slits in a corresponding number of slides c c; on the lower axis d is likewise one or more arms e acting on one or more slides f; on the axis d is a tooth g acting upon a similar tooth h on the axis a ; the length of each tooth being proportional to the length of the arms b and d. k is an arm, connected by wires and bell-cranks to the pedal beneath the key boards. dow upon depressing this arm, it will be seen that the arms bb and dd will move over equal spaces in opposite directions; one set of slides will there fore open the communication between the wind grooves and the instruments to which they belong, and the other set will close the passages to which they belong, and thus throw out of play the corresponding instruments; and there being five of these compound pedal stops, an amazing variety of changes may be obtained by varying the combinations of the slides. The whole number of the keys acted upon by the cylinders is about 250. There are upwards of 1900 pipes, 45 draw stops, and 2 kettle-drums. To the musical amateur the following list of the stops will doubtless prove interesting.

On the first cylinder,— 1. Open Diapason. 4. Principal. 7. Flute.

2. Ditto ditto. 5. Twelfth. 8. Sesqui Altera.

3. Stop ditto. 6. Fifteenth. 9. Cornet—Trumpet. On the second cylinder are two octaves of wooden of large dimensions, termed double diapason pedal pipes : the largest is 24 inches long, and 23 square ; this is 8 feet longer than the corresponding pipe in the great organ at lfaarlem. The range of the scale is from G G G to G.

On the third cylinder are the following stops,— Diapason, or Corni Stop. Trumpet. Hautboys.

Stop Diapason. Cremonas. Piccolais.

Violoncello. Flutes. Trumpets.

German Flute. Vox humane. Diapason.

Wood Fifteenth. Octave Flute. Principal, &c.

The mechanism is enclosed in a case, 20 feet broad by 18 feet deep, and 24 feet high. The front is divided into three compartments by pilasters of Grecian Doric, surmounted by others of the Ionic order. Between the upper pilasters are three paintings ; that in the centre representing Apollo, and those on the sides the Muses, Clio and Erato, somewhat larger than life, which do much credit to the artist (Mr. John Wright) by whom they were painted. The mechanical action of the apollonicon was first exhibited to the public in June, 1817, when the overtures to Anacreon and to the Clemenza di Tito were performed by the cylinders in a style that called forth the most marked appro bation from large and scientific audiences. From that period to the present time it has maintained its well-deserved popularity, and continues an object of interest alike to the musician and the mechanist, offering to the former some of the grandest combinations of harmony, and to the latter some of the most curious and complicated specimens of his art.