Möller Master Rolls and Perforator
The American Organ Institute is a truly distinctive program and so it follows that we have unique projects constantly in process. One of these undertakings deals with the preservation and digitization of the now 90-year- old collection of the master rolls created by the Möller company. Weighing in at nearly 12 tons in total, each roll was created by the M.P. Möller Organ Company in the early twentieth century as part of an extremely sophisticated and lucrative system that allowed pipe organs to be played automatically via perforated paper rolls, much like player pianos that operated on the same principle. The complete collection includes more than 700 rolls, containing music of every genre. This massive collection of heavy, bonded, perforated paper is, truly, the earliest form of digital recordings, and contains a significant piece of our musical heritage in its hundreds of titles. The importance of this collection has been recognized and supported by a $20,000 grant from the GRAMMY Foundation, and a designation as one of the top 10 endangered artifacts in Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
“When we play these rolls for the public, as we expect to in the near future, we will hear a perfect reproduction of the original performance, given some 90 years ago,” said John Schwandt, director of the American Organ Institute. “The music will be performed as though the long-dead artist was actually sitting at the instrument.”
He added, “This collection is particularly important because there are no audio recordings of organs from the early days of recorded sound, when the technology could not cope with the extreme sonic range and power of the instrument. These rolls tell us how people played and heard music nearly a century ago.”