For a while now I’ve been thinking about building a programmable music box… that is to say, a device which uses a plucked comb to generate notes, but which is not limited by the number of plucking pins one can fit on a cylinder or disk. Up to now I’ve been focused on the idea of a modified cylinder system, dreaming up different ways of presenting pins on the surface of the cylinder.
It just dawned on me, though, that the best approach may be more analogous to an electric piano (the tines of which a music box comb is very like) crossed with a harpsichord.
Each tine of the comb would be faced by a small perpendicular rod, with a thorn-like projection for a pin. When the rod rises or falls, the thorn plucks the tine, and the tone is generated. All the actuating program would do is send a “toggle” command to the rod, ignoring whether the state of the rod is up or down.
One could thus program a complete arbitrary musical sequence, unconstrained by the limits of a fixed-diameter music storage device.
A larger version, plucking longer strips of metal or even tongues of wood, would be especially beautiful.
The idea is set, the problems defined. Now to work.