Paul Manganaro
Antique Mechanical Restorations

Converting Piano Roll Data into MIDI files with Artistic Expression
There is much to be said for preserving the information from player piano arrangements on paper rolls in the form of MIDI files, but without musical expression, it is difficult for the human ear to listen to such files of a monotone volume, due to the lack of human expression. Although MIDI files are ideal for storing raw data found on paper rolls, they are detached from the original intent of the roll artists and do not exemplify the sounds produced by a well-operated player piano. In 2000, I constructed a unique recording unit which is pneumatically operated; it converts piano roll information into MIDI files with artistic expression. The expression is accomplished in large part through a foot pumping mechanism. The device was designed to produce listening files as well as MIDI files for the operation of electronic interfaces for pneumatic music machines. The recording unit has undergone changes through the years. The original design incorporated a fully restored Ampico reproducing mechanism, which captured the dynamics encoded in Ampico rolls. Later, a computer program capable of interpreting Ampico coding was introduced. These recordings paralleled my own recordings, resulting in the removal of the Ampico expression devices from The Recording Unit. Though the first attempt at producing expression MIDI files from 88-note piano rolls produces more audibly pleasing files, it is limited in producing completely expressive files. Therefore, I have plans for producing completely expressive files which will involve building a second recrding unit. It will incorporate Ampico expression rather than foot pumped expression, and manual controls to command the expression.

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Paul Manganaro became fascinated with player pianos at age 15. In 1973, at age 17, he began restoring automatic pianos as his occupation and continued in the business for the next 43 years. He retired in the spring of 2015 as one of the leading restorers in the country. His extensive collection of original piano rolls also began in 1973. The main focus of the collection is on ragtime, blues and instrumental pieces played by well-known roll artists of the day. In the year 2000 he was one of the first to convert piano roll information into MIDI files with his construction of a pneumatic roll reader. His machine is capable of reading all formats of paper rolls, not only for 88 note player piano rolls, but for coin operated rolls as well. The machine is capable of recording MIDI files with expression. Mr. Manganaro is presently constructing a second pneumatic machine which will have the capability to add a full range of expression dynamics to existing MIDI files. His hope is to produce listening files from historic roll recordings.