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organ pipes. The steeple was equipped with four loudspeakers instead of bells. This way not only the sound of the tubular bells of the steeple could be heard even at large distances but also the sound of the organ inside the church. * An auto-organo Barbieri was incorporated into the console which consisted of two manuals and could be controlled independently by two music rolls. * The instrument had an electric clock which at fixed times started the playing of the 25 tubular bells of the steeple from the music rolls with optional predetermined music.17 The organ and the auto-organ of Barbieri at Aielli were preserved yet unfortunately not completely, because the 25 tubular bells, the four loudspeakers and the electric clock were lost at an unknown time. In the website of the Historical Archive “Istituto Luce” there is a video of the October 6, 1937, entitled “The work ordered by the prefect of Novara Letta”, in which, for a short time, you see the Auto-organ Barbieri installed in the church of Sant’Adolfo of Aielli.18 You can see two frames taken from this movie (unfortunately in low resolution), which show the steeple facade covered with glass elements in form of organ pipes (Figure 10) as they were at the time of the inauguration (now the steeple is more modestly closed with modern flat glass).

Music on rolls of punched paper for Auto-organs Thanks to the appreciation of prominent personalities from the ecclesiastical and musical world for the perfection attained by the Barbieri equipment, the most popular and famous organists of the time recorded thousands of titles of music on rolls of punched paper intended for Barbieri Auto-organs.20 The organ recordings of the great Masters organists of the time were made through another device invented and patented by Don Angelo Barbieri, the Autoperforator.21 This device, connected to the console of an organ, allowed to “record’, by drilling a roller Master of cardboard, any execution, in real time, with interpretation and desired key22 (Figure 11). Subsequently, the original Master cartons were placed in a machine that made copies of rolls of paper taken from a reel, and they finally were held for sale. The AMMI, Italian Association for Mechanical Music23, has a musical repertoire which consists of over 2,000 rolls of Barbieri Master cardboard (Figure 12), among which are the music of Bach, Perosi, Mozart, Guilmant, Bottazzo, Bossi, Beethoven, Handel, Gounod, Albinoni, Mendelssohn, etc.

Figure 11. (Above left) Autoperforator connected to its console, advertising brochure “Cantantibus Organis”, factory SABBAEM a.r.l., Cantù (Como). (Above right) Autoperforator removed pending restoration (photo by the author). (courtesy AMMI, Italian Association for Mechanical Music).

Figure 10. The 25 pipes coming up through the bell tower of the Church of Sant’Adolfo (now St. Joseph) in Aielli (L’Aquila), frames taken from the movie “Giornale Luce B1177” of 06/10/1937, titled “The work ordered by the prefect of Novara Letta” (courtesy Historical Archive “Istituto Luce”).

The wide variety of models in the catalog, as well as the original adaptations and customizations that allowed the installation of equipment in any type of environment, enabled the factory SABBAEM to build and install over 1,600 pipe organs and automatic organs throughout Italy.19 This enormous equipment production was made possible thanks to the genius of Don Angelo Barbieri, who created and deposited dozens of patents of its equipment in eight countries in the world (Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Belgium, England, USA).


Since the AMMI is also in possession of the machinery to make copies of the rolls of Master cardboard (single copy of this equipment arrived intact to this day), it is therefore possible to provide new rolls of punched paper with the great performances of the organ of the Masters organists of the past.

Figure 12. (Above left) Some rolls of Master cardboard boxes made from the factory SABBAEM, Milan. (Above right) roll of paper to be sold from the factory SABBAEM, Milan. Barbieri Collection of the Museum of Mechanical Music, Villa Silvia in Cesena (courtesy AMMI, Italian Association for Mechanical Music).

AMICA Bulletin - Nov/Dec 2013

The AMICA Bulletin - Angelo Barbieri Organs  

Volume 50, number 6. November-December 2013.