Music Roll c. 1912-1929 = ENDLESS possibilities…

While browsing through a local thrift shop with a friend, I discovered a music roll stuck in a wasp egg encrusted box. The beginning of the roll was a bit worse for wear but, when un-scrolled, in otherwise perfect condition. With a $2 price tag it was a no-brainer. My artistic sensibility instantly recognized the possibilities.

United States Music Company, music roll, c. 1912- 1930(ish)

Later, after I’d thoughtlessly thrown out the box (as mentioned, it was covered in wasp eggs) I started to research a little more about what the roll was and where it came from. The markings on the end of the scroll say “Friestedt Spool 2, Nov. 5 & 26th, 1912” – this refers to the patent for the object. The company that manufactured the roll was the United States Music Company, managed by Author A. Friestedt. Much could be found online thanks to the research of The Musical Box Society International and the International Arcade Museum.

United States Music Company, music roll, detail of punched notes

Because I do not have the box and the spool has no identifying end tag, I really have no idea what the roll plays or when exactly it is from. I did discover that the manufacture of these rolls stopped during WWI because of paper shortages – in the US, they stopped production around 1929 – in Europe, around 1941. I “guess”-timate that it’s probably around 90-100 years old. (Which is pretty nifty.)

For an example of just what this music roll was used for, check out this similar music roll playing.

Of course, I plan on using it in some way in my art work. It’s surprising how the universe tends to drop things in your lap at precisely the right moment. I didn’t know I needed it – I just thought it was cool. After some time contemplating the object – I realized that it was precisely conducive to my currently evolving body of work.

I have always been interested in the way that my sense of identity evolves over time and is basically constantly in a state of flux. My relationship with my environment has an impact as well which seemingly creates an endless array of stimuli at any given point. Yet, despite this, there has always been a basic inherent belief that there is some sort of plan or structure to everything – even if I’m unable to see the pattern or know the overarching theme. The rhythm is simply much more apparent at certain times as opposed to others.

In the same way, this scroll has an obvious melody but I’m unable to hear it even if I can observe that the patterns exist. I just cannot extrapolate the meaning between their intervals.

I used dressmakers patterns (back in 2004-2006) in a lot of my work to describe the same essential concept but separated the patterns from their everyday context as a way to facilitate similar feelings of comprehension without true understanding. I feel like the music roll serves the same function but in a more subtle and sophisticated way.

M. Levacy, Continual Autumn, 2006, 24″ x 48″ – mixed media on panel

I’m a little enamored with the music roll – to be honest – which in turn makes me feel extreme trepidation in experimenting with it.

I did however look these things up on eBay – you can buy lots of them from $15-$100 bucks so I suppose there is always the ability to purchase more. However – this roll holds the special significance of accompanying my realizations and acknowledgements about certain personal truths that I’ve neglected for the most point until recently.

As Leonard Cohen says, “those who are earnestly lost, are lost and lost again” – I sometimes feel that there will never be a clean and tidy solution to my questions about identity and place – simple more and more questions.

For now I’m okay with that. Sometimes it’s okay not to know… as long as I know that I don’t know.

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