music machine

Guys and noise just go together, especially if machinery is involved. For my grandson it began with Match Box fire trucks that he drove – with all the appropriate sounds – in and out of a fire house he had created with a small box. Only the call to eat quieted the wail of toddler sirens.
His grandfather, similarly, is frequently totally absorbed in producing and making noise. Usually the noise relates to his current building project, but the last few weeks, he has proudly shown off another builder’s work – a sound maker – a portable, wooden, hand organ with 20 wooden pipes.
As often as my man has dragged it out and insisted that folks listen to him crank out “Savoy Medley,” you would think he had built it. Actually a former local educator, an unnamed craftsman, developed the idea from information gathered from various sources. He prefers to remain behind the scenes; says he doesn’t do anything of worth – just putters around.
Sure he putters around – 15 minutes at a time – cutting precisely placed holes into paper rolls to produce the harmonious strains of “Give My Regards To Broadway,” as the paper passes over the pipe’s air holes. If the paper or hole is one fraction of an inch off, the notes will not play. Longer notes get a longer hole for blowing musically laden air out for the entertainment of listeners. Because he is more mechanically inclined than musically, the builder balanced the pitch of each pipe with an electronic tuner.
His puttering around one year resulted in this hand organ but he modestly scoffs, “Oh, I’m not so good, I had to cut most of the parts at least twice to make them fit.”
“Which proves he is twice as patient as the rest of us,” my husband declared as he placed the “Customer Appreciation Roll” into the wooden holder, shut the windowed cover over the music and began cranking.
Midway through the song, he tipped the box on end to point out the fluctuating rectangular boxes inside the base of the organ, “these are the bellows. See how they pump up and down with each crank to get air to the pipes? See how each pipe is carefully fitted with a foam seal to set the pitch of the pipe and has a hard wood finish on the reed?” The mechanics of the wooden machine fascinate him.
As he cranked out “Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me” recently, he flicked away the wedges of wood holding the windowed door shut and the music died – it no longer had a snug seal.
Initially, my man thought about making one himself, but the longer he played and studied his friend’s hand organ, the more he remembered all the other projects he has to do – projects which take less time, precision and designing to prepare and complete.
Resigned to less refined projects, my husband sighs, “such patience!” and watches the parade of musical holes breathing out “Meet Me is St. Louis, Louis.”
My husband cannot seem to get enough of sharing his friend’s creation with other people. The few who know the maker all nodded their heads as “Marcia a La Turka” played recently and said, “He is really smart.” The demonstration closed with my handyman saying, “And he is working on another, bigger hand organ with more pipes and a xylophone and another set of rolls of music.”
More noise, more motion, more entertainment for my husband’s little-boy love of noise and ingenious machinery.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)