Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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2 Jun 2009

The Amazing Pre-Oil Busking Machine: a taste of things to come?

I was in the beautiful city of Bath on Saturday, and saw a guy busking with a sort of 19th century American karaoke machine.  In a mastery of technology akin to putting a man on the moon, I actually managed to film it with my phone and put it on YouTube for your viewing delight.  I had never seen one of these before, it is quite brilliant….

Basically, the guy is pedalling with his right foot, and the rhythm he sets up with his pedalling sets the beat for the song, and also ‘strums’ the guitar that is in the middle of the machine.  With his left foot he presses a series of pedals which press different buttons down onto the neck of the guitar, changing the chords.  Then, on top of this, he plays the fiddle.  Pre-electricity there were of course many such devices, from fairground rides to music boxes, that ran by clockwork or by being pedalled somehow. We don’t see many of them anymore.

The other thing that struck me was the durability of a machine made well and that someone has taken good care of for many years.  This was a device made before the idea was embedded into our lives that we would feel happier if we just threw something away and bought a new one…. here is something made to last, appropriate musical technology, as it were.  I wonder whether in 20 years we’ll see these kind of devices being made again, but set up to play old Oasis songs, or the other ‘folk’ songs of our times?  A pedal-powered ‘Wonderwall’?  It may yet happen…

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2 Jun 1:45pm

Finally something useful! That is absolutely brilliant!

A powered-down version of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ should be organized right away. This had me grinning all over my face.

2 Jun 4:26pm

Reminds me of Arthur Ganson’s remarkable sculptures. (

Kevin Wilson
2 Jun 7:19pm

I love the idea, though I can’t say I found that performance very musical LOL.

It’s also more fun to play music with friends than with a machine, pedal powered or not.

Paula Kovacs
3 Jun 8:34am

Brilliant idea Jason…maybe ‘Britain’s got Transition!’…complete with a powered-down Simon Cowell – the mind boggles.((Me? Watch Britain’s got talent? Never!)

Jason Wingate
3 Jun 8:53am


Steve Atkins
3 Jun 1:13pm

The amazing Peak Oil busking machine here:

(i don’t think it’s gonna last as long as the Victorian one)

Paula Kovacs
4 Jun 10:22am

Yeh. Very clever, but they’ve messed up on the tune.