Our ship docked in Rudesheim a little later than expected. We had left the Main behind and were now cruising on the Rhine. A small toy train was waiting to carry us into the town. Its first stop was Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Cabinet Museum. I had no real idea of what to expect. It turned out to be a fantastic collection of over 350 mechanical musical instruments from a bygone era, all lovingly restored to full working order by a man named Siegfried and his sons.
The entire collection is housed in the former residence of a 15th century knight, whose crest is still visible painted in stucco on walls. One room, the chapel, apparently dates back to the 12th century.
It’s hard to describe how the machines worked. Some use scrolls with small pinholes, in a similar fashion to a pianola. Others used large round discs, also with small pinholes. When air passed through a hole a valve was opened, which in turn created a sound. Some machines allowed piano keys to be played at the flick of a switch, while others played a number of instruments at the same time. A banjo, violins, drums and horns were used by some of the mechanical instruments demonstrated for us. Then there were other instruments, such as gramophones which played Edison cylinders, and delicate small music boxes containing over 350 moving parts.
For a music lover like me who can easily bring up a song and play it with a few simple touches on Spotify, it was quite an eye opener to see what people had to go through to enjoy music in times gone by.