… said the tenor Smith-Corona. A portable Remington 5 and an Underwood join in a methodical clacking key sound. Each composition is enhanced by rollers ratcheting and a swoopy carriage return sound. The shift key provides a mechanical bass sound and a seemingly random “ding” adds emphasis.
These complicated and fun compositions create a repertoire of “songs” for the five-to-eight person musical ensemble called the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, or BTO. Each orchestra member is equipped with an old manual typewriter on which they hammer away until their fingers bleed. BTO started out in 2004 as a joke and within two years the group developed a following and actually performed legitimate music. Member Brendan Emmett Quigley has said that their “performances both mock and sympathize with corporate culture.” Member Alex Holman has said “we’re sort of pulling from the collective unconscious about bad office jobs and office politics.” BTO’s sound reminds me of the by-gone secretarial pool from the Mad Men era, where multiple typists typed all day long for business executives who never typed their own letters.