Listening to the Star Wars cantina song on a barrel organ is different but it’s still easy to recognize. Don’t ask me to describe a barrel organ please, because once you open up that hatch and look in all I can tell you is that you’ll see pins, needles, and staples set in various patterns so as to play the music from the sheets that are specifically punched for each song so that the desired tune comes out. In other words, feed the sheets into the barrel organ, crank it, and the music plays. In terms of cranking it the mechanism looks pretty simple but I get the feeling that there’s more to it than this. With music there usually is, especially if you want things to sound the way they should.
Since I have enough trouble getting my singing voice to sound better than the average croak from a bullfrog I’m not about to criticize how easy or how difficult anything is. Looking inside the barrel organ is kind of confusing since in order to really know how to set everything up I’m think that a person would have to go to someone that knows the ins and outs of the instrument, and since this is not the most popular instrument any longer I get the feeling that one would have to far and wide to find someone.
This instrument was at time one of the favored among organ grinders but the issue, or one of them anyway, with the instrument is that it can be very temperamental and can break very easily if it’s not taken care of. That’s true of many instruments to be honest but with this one the replacement parts can be insanely expensive and cost more than the actual instrument is worth. If you’re a hobbyist or somehow make a living with such instruments and know them inside and out it’s definitely worth the effort to keep them up and working properly, but it’s a big task for those that enjoy it and something that’s not to be taken lightly.
These instruments used to be rather prominent in many venues back in the day and were powered by heavy weights and springs. They could also be powered by hydraulic means, and some were eventually converted to electric models that were easier to operate. The sheet music is perforated in the manner that is required for each individual song, and if a different song is to be played then the roll has to be replaced. It’s a very old way of doing things but one that is interesting enough to take a look at if you ever get the chance. The things that were done for entertainment in the past might seem a bit odd by today’s standards, but they’re still something quite unique and worth checking out just for the fun of it.
The barrel organ is indeed something quite different and more than a little difficult to understand until you get the overall design of it. But in some way it’s kind of a nice throwback to a different time.