One of the sonic features of Dutch historical centers has always been the Draaiorgel, literally “Turn Organ” (it used to be crank-operated, today they are all electric). It’s a huge, multi-timbric instrument with a reed organ and various types of percussions (sometimes also pitched ones, like Xylophones or Glockenspiels). The instrument is automated: it plays long perforated sheets of solid carboard that look (and act) just like MIDI files. In fact, according to the Dutch Wikipedia, some contemporary models have a computer actually able to read MIDI files.
The instrument itself is completely acoustic, and it sounds like the gates of hell came down. It’s not just the volume: the combined effect of multiple powerful reeds, hi-pitched snare drums, the reverb of the small Dutch streets, and the operator keeping the tempo shaking a brass box full of coins (the only human touch), creates a frenzy of sonic excitement. Standing close to a Draaiorgel in a small alley is a very intense experience, definitely worth the coin it costs.
Unfortunately, despite the digital innovations, the repertoire is a bit obvious: mostly traditional Dutch popular music, plus a few dance numbers. In the lascivious catholic South there is a dance version of the instrument, named Dansorgel. The possibilities are endless, and frankly I would love to write music for this instrument, certainly a precursor of the ones I normally use. I might look into that: what better way to thank the lovely dutchies for their hospitality?