Monday, September 13, 2010

9/13 Beethoven's Musical Clock

Rimbault Musical Clock
(Oxford Clock Company)

5 Pieces for Musical Clock, WoO.33 (1799?)

Here's something you won't hear at Carnegie Hall anytime soon...Beethoven's original "ringtones"....or you could say these were the first mp3s in history...

From  Classical Archives/AllMusic:
"These five pieces surfaced after Beethoven's death, bringing with them several very puzzling mysteries. Most challenging of them all was the instrument for which they were written. Piano, strings, harp and most other common instruments were instantly ruled out, building on the perplexing mystery and adding to the frustration. Eventually, Albert Kopfermann set forth a convincing argument that their strange scoring seemed a perfect fit for the Flötenuhr or Spielühr, a mechanical organ or clock. He observed that the notation in No. 1, in F, matched that in Mozart's K. 608 Fantasia (for Flötenuhr), the score of which Beethoven possessed. Other circumstantial factors pointed to the Flötenuhr as the instrument Beethoven designed these pieces for.  None of these five pieces was published until the twentieth century, and, not surprisingly, all are rarely heard."
© All Music Guide

All Music/Robert Cummings:
"While the musical clock of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries might seem like a toy to the twenty first century ear and eye, its owners -- usually members of the aristocracy -- regarded it as a quite sophisticated device, not least because it was the only way to hear music away from the concert hall and parlors (MP3!!!). Its chime-like tones may have limited its expressive range, but composers like Beethoven took compositions for the musical clock quite seriously...They were a popular mechanical device over the past four centuries, serving as a sort of aristocratic counterpart in pre-twentieth century times to today's stereo and high-tech playback equipment."

The recordings I have of these pieces are all on organs.  Unfortunately these are for musical CLOCK.  So with the magic of modern MIDI, and some Soundfonts, I present the first 2 pieces in "authentic" musical clock transcriptions...with a bonus "steam-punk" version of No.2.
Beethoven - Pieces for Musical Clock
No 1 0:00
No 2 5:31
No 1 (version 2)  6:55

(And if you're wondering what the heck that spaceship-looking thing is in the last part of the video - check this out)
James Cox Musical Clock
(Oxford Clock Company)


  1. I have done an arrangement of no 3 Allegro for music box..