Thursday, 27 December 2012

Back to Bath

Went out with Bella for our last walk in Alcester this morning - a hint of brightness was the best we saw for a few hours once the rain set in again.
Headed South back to Bath, and tuned off to Northleach - mainly because we'd been lured by the sign on the main road to the Mechanical Music Museum.
Inside, we had a tour around a large room filled with all sorts of hand- or clockwork-powered music machines, starting with this pipe organ from the time of Handel (with the music on a cylinder).
Then we looked at all sorts of music boxes, again with the music encoded on cylinders - the standard format of the day. Some were beautifully made with lovely tone - some clever engineering tricks used to enhance the music played.
This one had bells on - we even saw one with drums, castanets and a reed organ (which rather overdid things!) 
The cylinder's dominance as a format was overturned with the rise of the disk - which could be stamped out more cheaply. 
You could also put any disk you wanted into a single player, as opposed to music boxes with their fixed number of tunes (the most we saw on one box was twelve). These disk players also came in a juke-box type version.
The disks were played under tension meaning they were concave (unlike vinyl!), so that they did not vibrate when being played.
We saw these singing bird automata, their song being made by a fast-moving swanee whistle.
This was an Edison cellulose-on-ceramic cylinder player, with far higher sound quality than the early gramophone disk players. 
This 78 rpm disk player has such a large horn because it uses a freshly trimmed piece of bamboo as a stylus, thus greatly reducing wear of the surface of the record being played -  unlike the old steel needle system. Each trimmed pice of bamboo is good for two plays only.
The final instrument we saw was a player piano with an actual composer encoding on a roll of Maurice Ravel himself playing the piece - it was as if he was in the room playing live. Spooky.
After that unexpected delight (we had thought we'd see a load of exhibits, but the tour was a real bonus), we went for a stroll around Northleach past the church.
Then we went past the mill stream. 
Stopped in the market square at the Ox House wine bar for a very tasty lunch
They still have a market here every Wednesday, as they have done for nearly 800 years. It's certainly an historic Cotswold town, with lots of Georgian and Victorian architecture about, as well as some older buildings.
Even unusual street names to be found here. 
As well as quirky topiary work. 
We found a sports field with a stream running up the side of it - Bella was in there happily sploshing up and down before we could say a word!
Then we headed on southwards through the Cotswolds, stopping briefly at Tetbury.
A final stop on Milsom Street in Bath for some essential supplies before coming home and starting to get the house warmed up again. 
This day a year ago, we walked down into town. This is the view from Camden across to Bathhampton.

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