Organs: Grinders and Monkeys

music
ambience: Organ Grinding Music

Think of an organ grinder and you’ll also likely picture a monkey nearby. During their heyday, the two were inseparable. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“I have several monkey organs or as we would call them, barrel operated organs.”

Angelo Rulli is an organ grinder historian. We’re listening to one of the antique instrument he demonstrates around the country. He says that while the music was supposed to be the real draw, the organ grinder’s monkey was a necessary tool of the trade.

“The monkey was a matter of economics. Because the monkey has an opposable thumb the monkey could hold a cup and by holding a cup, the monkey could go out into the crowd and bang people on the knees and collect money while the grinder was plying his trade.”

The monkey may have collected the cash, but it wasn’t necessarily for the reason you’d think.

“The irony of the grinder and the music that was played is that as often as not, they were paid to get out of the neighborhood…because it was for the most part terrible music.Ultimately, over the years, all of the major cities in America imposed laws very very strictly enforced laws as to the hours that a grinder could be on streets.”

In the end though, it wasn’t laws or bad music that finished off organ grinders.

“The transistor changed everything, music was now affordable for every American family it wasn’t necessary to go to the streets for music. And at about the same time there became a greater awareness of the way that animals were being used for profit. So the organ grinder and the monkey sort of faded away more or less about the same time, after WWII.”

But for some enthusiasts, the music remains… .Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Organs: Grinders and Monkeys

Organ grinders and their monkeys were undesirables, most often offered money to just get out of town.
Air Date:08/15/2002
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: Organ Grinding Music

Think of an organ grinder and you'll also likely picture a monkey nearby. During their heyday, the two were inseparable. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"I have several monkey organs or as we would call them, barrel operated organs."

Angelo Rulli is an organ grinder historian. We're listening to one of the antique instrument he demonstrates around the country. He says that while the music was supposed to be the real draw, the organ grinder's monkey was a necessary tool of the trade.

"The monkey was a matter of economics. Because the monkey has an opposable thumb the monkey could hold a cup and by holding a cup, the monkey could go out into the crowd and bang people on the knees and collect money while the grinder was plying his trade."

The monkey may have collected the cash, but it wasn't necessarily for the reason you'd think.

"The irony of the grinder and the music that was played is that as often as not, they were paid to get out of the neighborhood...because it was for the most part terrible music.Ultimately, over the years, all of the major cities in America imposed laws very very strictly enforced laws as to the hours that a grinder could be on streets."

In the end though, it wasn't laws or bad music that finished off organ grinders.

"The transistor changed everything, music was now affordable for every American family it wasn’t necessary to go to the streets for music. And at about the same time there became a greater awareness of the way that animals were being used for profit. So the organ grinder and the monkey sort of faded away more or less about the same time, after WWII."

But for some enthusiasts, the music remains... .Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I'm Jim Metzner.

music