Pianophone

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This expertly restored photograph from the 1650s, shows Cluck at his pianophone, writing music and lyrics for The Buckauwk Variations, which—owing to a court injuction—could not be published until the Ministry of Health had conducted extensive testing on it to ensure its safety for human exposure.

The pianophone is a musical wind instrument invented in 1655 by pre-eminent inventor Cluck Loonie.

Origin[edit]

The idea came to Cluck while he was still a young boy, living in his native Vulgaria. Times were hard, and to make ends meet nearly everything that could be picked, packed and sold was being bundled or crated and shipped off to China. There, the massive rise of an affluent middle class had sparked an insatiable thirst for cheaply priced, arguably useless items that were being sold in Yen Stores, which were on nearly every corner in addition to the countless rolling cart vendors along the Great Wall.

And no, before you ask, absolutely no-one questioned why these Chinese stores were named after Japanese currency.

But to return to young Cluck's dilemma: the massive export of paper clips to mainland China left absolutely no metal behind for the domestic manufacture of piano wire. It was then that Cluck, who was quote fond of his papa's squeezebox playing, envisioned an air-powered piano. By replacing the wire and hammers with pipes, driven by a large inflated bulb that could be compressed by vigorous, fervent thigh squeezings of the performer, a completely new and revolutionary instrument was born.

And no, before you ask, it was nothing like a pipe organ. In fact, it was completely different except for the admittedly suspicious inclusion of pipes, but which I must assure you were inconsequential. Why do you feel the need to ruin a good story with your constant, pesky eyebrow movements which suggest that you are about to interrupt with questions?

Having pipes in a musical keyboard is no more suggestive that it must be a pipe organ, than the fact that a flute looks like a pipe would suggest that I could use it to hook up my sink—and believe me, because this is the voice of experience speaking. I've tried, and piping your house with flutes, tin whistles and piccolos is a freak show of plumbing—leaky and non-musical as all heck.

And while we're on the subject of misunderstandings, the name "pianophone" does not suggest, let alone promise, any inherent telecommunications ability. It just so happens that Alexander Graham Bell was quite a fan of the instrument. That's all. Why don't people ever suggest that the telephone has some latent musical properties, carefully hidden somewhere—perhaps under the earpiece or (for mobiles) behind the battery next to the SDHC card? But no, it's a non-musical blabber device.[1] Somehow, that's crystal clear to everyone.

Bah.

  1. That plays MP3s and ringtones, but purely incidentally

Popularity as a Live Instrument[edit]

An artist's rendition of someone playing the pianophone, with all the uninteresting pianophone bits removed.

For reasons that historians have yet to fathom, the pianophone never really caught on with concert musicians. It did, however, develop quite an ardent following among the owners and attendees of gentlemens' clubs and illegal, after-hours basement gin joints. And contrary to statistical probability, the players in these establishments were all women.

Only a few audio recordings exist that capture the instrument, and those courtesy of Thomas Edison. There's something about the pianophone that really attracted inventors. The aforementioned Alex Bell was also a regular high flyer in the underground clubs, trying to ply intoxicated floozies with cheap pick up lines like, "Hey sugarkness, why not come back to my place and try out my new invention? We can talk dirty to each other from different rooms."

Perhaps it's all those lonely hours these gentlemen of science spent in secluded laboratories, free of the choking constraints of social mannerisms and personal hygiene. Loud, chaotic, erotically charged gin-joints were the oasis in the centre of their awkward, hollow and penniless existences.

But after Edison showed up with his fancy dancy electro recording machine, Bell's string of bedpost notch victories hit a slump that would continue for the rest of his life...

Oh! Yes. Those recordings...

While the music from those venues is clear and recognizable, the quality of the performances themselves is abysmal. While historians are perplexed by this, and statisticians ponder about the domination of female musicians, leading musicologists are positively aghast as the horror of it all—it's as if the ladies in question had no music training to speak of.

Despite this, the men on these Edison recordings can be heard clapping, cheering, and often screaming, begging incessantly for more and more.

Sadly, as the use of the instrument had all but died by the mid 1800s, the mystery of its niche popularity is one which may never be solved.