In fact, “the total number of possible variations is 53, 875, 981,680,676.” That’s a rather substantial number, and members of the French Academy were called on 2 February 1824 to verify that no human was hiding inside the instrument manipulating the levers. The scientist issues the following report, “When the instrument has received a varied theme, it decomposes the variations of itself and reproduces their different parts in all the orders of possible permutations. None of the airs, which it varies, lasts above a minute. Yet through the principle of variability which it possesses, it might without ever resuming precisely the same combination, continue to play not only during years and ages, but during so immense a series of ages that though figures might be brought to express them, common language could not.” If you don’t believe the scientific report, you can still inspect a componium in the collection of the Brussels Museum of Instruments.
Ignaz Moscheles: 6 Variations on a Russian Theme, Op. 23
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