UI Design
Gemeinsam mit Maoqi Liu, betreut von Prof. Marian Dörk
Deutsches Museum owns a collection of piano rolls for various player pianos and of various date of manufacture. Piano rolls were first produced in the year of 1883 and can be seen as the precursor of the MIDI technology. A piano roll is a paper roll with small punchings that
led air through them when applied to a specially prepared player piano. The player piano compiles this air-information to triggers that then automatically press the piano keys/hit the piano‘s strings. Piano rolls are available for many different opera, folk songs and traditionals, and most of them are copies of the actual playing of a (sometimes even famous) piano player. Special recording pianos were built for this purpose. Piano rolls are not able to picture the velocity of the original players playing, what todays MIDI-technoloy does to a certain degree. Piano rolls were still quite popular in a peak period between 1900 and 1927 as they sounded better than the early phonograph records available in these times. One can imagine that there was magic to a piano that could play itself in this early age of music reproduction.
We asked ourselves, how we can we digitize the collection and make it tangible for both: specially educated
and uneducated digital „museum visitors“. To us it seemed important to create an experience where the technical details and the sound of this bygone cultural
technology can be experienced while the visitor is at home. This led us to our research question:
How can we give the visitor an idea of how it sounds to listen to songs on a player piano and how piano rolls work?

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