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Pianola Museum in Amsterdam - The Red Light District Amsterdam Guide - discover the secrets!
This is the book you should read before you visit the Red Light District!

Pianola Museum in Amsterdam

Date: 3. jul 2017.

The Pianola Musem is tucked away in the Jordaan quarter. It is a 17th century quarter of Amsterdam, west of the old town center and the Red Light District. It is one of the smaller museums in the city in size, definitely not in quality. It is a very interesting place to visit during your Amsterdam tour. Inside the museum, you will find numerous pianolas (player pianos), reproduction pianos and related objects, and you can learn about the history and technology of these magical instruments that nearly play themselves.

The pianola is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via pre-programmed music recorded on perforated paper, or in rare instances metallic rolls, with more modern implementations using MIDI encoded music stored on CD’s.

The building that is housing the museum was designed as a police station at the beginning of the 20th century. Up until 1930 the police station had 4 police cells after which it was downgraded. Soon the police station had closed and from financial reasons the former offices were rented out as living space. It was then vacant in the 1970s and 1980s. It was supposed to became a primary school, the walls were striped, but soon the plans were dropped and after that the squatters had occupied the building. In 1993, the Pianola Museum was given permission to move into the building and to reinstate the original style. The museum opened its doors in 1994.

In the 19th century, Amsterdam was an important center for player pianos trade. The Pianola Museum is crammed with pianos from this period. The museum has a collection of automatic pianos and related objects. There are over 25.000 music rolls in the museum’s archive. Nearly all of them can be played on the different instruments in the museum.

Pianolas were reproducing music using carton rolls with punched holes for each music note. Because the music recordings on wax cylinders and gramophone records were primitive at the time, pianolas became very popular and over 2 million pianolas were made. Public was impressed by the mechanical music and quality of the sound and pianolas looked futuristic at the time. Many famous composers as Stravinsky, Hindemith and Milhaud were writing pieces especially for the pianola. It was also widely used for recording of existing pieces of music. There were pianolas built to work with the traditional pianos as both – a mechanical piano and a recorder.

The Museum has the unique atmosphere from the beginning of the 20th century. It is filled with old furniture and many interesting instruments in a dimmed-lights interior. You will very much enjoy this episode from the history of music and modern civilization. The museum friendly curator speaks very good English and he will be happy to show you around he also gives demonstrations with great zest.

Concerts are held on the player pianos every month, except July and August. They are featuring anything from Mozart to Fats Waller and rare classical jazz tunes composed especially for the instrument. More eclectic musical offerings include a popular tango series.