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#1 Andrew Butler

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 09:51 AM

Apologies if this has been discussed before, but I heard recently of an organ that had been rebuilt with wireless transmission. I have never come across this - are there many examples around?  Seems an excellent idea - but something else to go wrong!?



#2 mgp

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 10:06 AM

There is an article about the wireless system used at Lord Mayor's Chapel, Bristol in the Dec 2014 IBO Newsletter.  The design is based on a lifecycle of 30 yrs plus.



#3 Andrew Butler

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 10:29 AM

I'll look out for that - thanks. Is it online anywhere?  This was the organ I'd heard about.



#4 DHM

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 12:13 AM

Presumably, given the necessary cabling, the whole organ could be controlled from the console by MIDI signals.

And since one can now buy wireless MIDI devices, I guess the answer to the question posed must be: in theory, yes.



#5 Colin Pykett

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 08:01 AM

The design is based on a lifecycle of 30 yrs plus.

 

That's very interesting, as longevity is, rightly, as much an issue in pipe organ technology as the technology itself.  Some of us were discussing this only the other day on this forum in relation to 3D printing and whether this has a role to play in organ building.

 

With electronics, 30 years is an ambitious target which is seldom met using consumer-grade technology.  How many 30 year old computers still work, for example?  Or hi-fi systems?  Or, indeed, loudspeaker organs?  (I'm not talking about whether they are up to the job today but simply whether they still work - the two issues are different).  And if they don't work, can they be repaired?  How long do the electronics modules in central heating boilers, washing machines, cars, etc survive before they need to be replaced?

 

Consumer grade electronics is not designed nor intended to last that long.  If it's of any interest, I addressed this in an article relevant to the pipe organ scenario here:

 

http://www.pykett.or...reliability.htm

 

Organ builders are often accused of over-conservatism, but their caution is well founded.  Customers expect their products to last not only for years but for decades, centuries even, in view of their up-front costs.

 

Please note that I am speaking in general terms here, and am therefore emphatically not directing these remarks in any way at the Lord Mayor's Chapel organ in particular (which I have played).  I am merely saying that it is a challenge to design and implement electronics which will have a high probablility of surviving for 30 years.  In all cases where this is attempted, only time will tell because there are insufficient benchmarks and examples around from which to draw firm conclusions.  This is quite unlike the tried and tested technology which has provided good service for centuries in other aspects of organ building.  A modern digital system of any kind which fails, whether it be in an organ or not, can often only be resurrected by replacing rather than repairing it.  That eventuality can occur unpredictably at any time, as we all know from everyday experience.

 

None of this implies that the systems will not work.  On the contrary, while they are in working order they can work very well indeed.  The issues are for how long will they continue to work, and what can be done when or if they fail?

 

CEP


"You can never know everything about something. But you can always know something about everything" - Amit Kumar

 

www.pykett.org.uk


#6 Tony Newnham

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 10:07 AM

Hi

 

I too wonder about the long-term reliability aspect - plus the ever present issue of radio frequency interference as the ether gets ever more crowded with radio signals for wi-fi, radio microphones, 2-way radios and so on - a very long list!

 

I did play an organ with wireless transmission a couple of years ago - detached console in the chancel & pipes at the West end.  If we hadn't been told I wouldn't haveknown from playing that there wasn't a cable between the two.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony



#7 Tony Price

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 04:36 PM

I have a feeling the now-mobile console in the nave at All Saints, Carshalton has a wireless (Bluetooth) connection (capability) with the pipework in the west end gallery following the recent Willis overhaul?

www.willis-organs.com/carshalton_general.html

Tony



#8 AJJ

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 06:53 PM

I went to the opening recital at Lord Mayor's Chapel in Bristol at the end of last year, David Saint played and it all sounded and seemed to perform fine. Apparently wifi functions on a frequency unlikely to be inhabited by any other interference etc. for an ammount of time that would not cause worry. The only thing I wondered was why they needed wifi, the console is not mobile and as far as I know it is where it had been before the recent work. I could have understood more if it had been able to wander a bit!

A
"…We can’t criticize the organ for being boring. In such cases it is the organist that is boring. There is no such thing as a boring organ."

#9 pcnd5584

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 09:41 PM

I went to the opening recital at Lord Mayor's Chapel in Bristol at the end of last year, David Saint played and it all sounded and seemed to perform fine. Apparently wifi functins on a frequency unlikely to be inhabited by any other interference etc. for an ammount of time that would not cause worry. The only thing I wondered was why they needed wifi, the console is not mobile and as far as I know it is where it had been before the recent work. I could have understood more if it had been able to wander a bit!

A

 

I agree.

 

I cannot help but wonder whether it is not rather like the situation which obtained at Nôtre-Dame de Paris, after the 1990-92 rebuild (when the organ was controlled by computer, using Hall-type sensors and a load of software from Synaptel). It broke down - frequently (and often spectacularly and inconveniently). I should have thought that a good quality electro-pneumatic action would have been infinitely preferable.

 

Given that I have yet to experience a faultless wi-fi connection for domestic computer equipment (and when I am not trying to play complex organ music in public), I remain skeptical, both of the perceived need for such a system and also of its supposed reliability.


Pierre Cochereau rocked, man


#10 NZ-ORGANIST

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 01:02 AM

There are computer based transmission systems where the only cable between the console and organ proper is a simple CAT-5 or 6 Ethernet cable so in theory there would be no reason why the ethernet cable could be replaced with a wireless link using two wireless routers.



#11 pcnd5584

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 08:33 AM

There are computer based transmission systems where the only cable between the console and organ proper is a simple CAT-5 or 6 Ethernet cable so in theory there would be no reason why the ethernet cable could be replaced with a wireless link using two wireless routers.

 

.... And presumably, if the software to run the instrument were to be provided by a certain well-known company, a small screen would be needed, in order to display dialogue boxes such as:

 

'Are you sure you want the Full Organ to deploy?'

 

and

 

'Windows has just shut down the blowers in order to prevent damage to your system.'

 

or perhaps

 

'You have just performed an illegal operation - push in the Tuba.'

 

or even

 

'No network service available. Please switch off your system and purchase copies of Gray, in F minor.'

 

 

 

 

On the plus side, I suppose one could install anti-virus software, in order to search and destroy tierce and flat twenty-first ranks in the mixtures....


Pierre Cochereau rocked, man


#12 mgp

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 10:29 PM

Robustness/resilience/durability were high on the design criteria, not a desire to pioneer for pioneering sake.  As the article is in an IBO newsletter article I don't feel it right for me to publish it.  Doubtless your local friendly Organ Builder has a copy and can share. As a former computer hardware/software designer/engineer I have to say that I can't see anything in what has been done that would cause any real concern - unless you believe that the sort of logic/circuitry that permeates your car, your heating system, your oven, your 40 yr old calculator etc etc is so full of new fangled gizmos that it must be inherently unreliable. (I should also point out that my day job involves an organ with a key and stop action that was 'breadboarded' 44 years ago which is still going strong today).



#13 Sotto Voce

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 09:41 PM

I believe the new quire organ at Worcester has wireless transmission using WIFI.

#14 Christopher Allsop

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Posted 12 March 2015 - 02:58 PM

We're not quite as technologically advanced as that, Sotto Voce! The transmission goes up a computer CAT cable to each organ chamber. We do have a wireless MIDI sender/receiver, but don't use it, as the cathedral's pillars block the signal...



#15 Sotto Voce

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Posted 04 April 2015 - 10:02 PM

We're not quite as technologically advanced as that, Sotto Voce! The transmission goes up a computer CAT cable to each organ chamber. We do have a wireless MIDI sender/receiver, but don't use it, as the cathedral's pillars block the signal...


My apologies Christopher, I wonder where I got that idea from. Thanks for the correction.

#16 pcnd5584

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Posted 02 May 2015 - 02:44 PM

We're not quite as technologically advanced as that, Sotto Voce! The transmission goes up a computer CAT cable to each organ chamber. We do have a wireless MIDI sender/receiver, but don't use it, as the cathedral's pillars block the signal...

 

Is there any possiblity of the hardwire re-connection of the superb 32ft. ranks in the South (North - if they have already moved) Transept, in the forseeable future?


Pierre Cochereau rocked, man


#17 Christopher Allsop

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Posted 02 May 2015 - 07:00 PM

 

Is there any possiblity of the hardwire re-connection of the superb 32ft. ranks in the South (North - if they have already moved) Transept, in the forseeable future?

 

Yes is the short answer...

 

With any luck we'll be able to report further details later this year or next.



#18 Colin Pykett

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 04:10 PM

I guess many forum members will have seen the article which has just appeared in the June 2015 edition of Organists' Review about the Lord Mayor's chapel organ in Bristol with wi-fi transmission which was the subject of this thread.  This makes the material more accessible to a wider readership than the previous version which was only circulated within the IBO.

 

For the benefit of readers who do not take OR, the article was written by Paul Hale though with quite a lot contributed by the builders (Clevedon Organs).  Beyond the quotes below I won't comment further as people will no doubt make up their own minds about this interesting scheme.  Among much else, the builders said:

 

"Another unique feature is the remote diagnostics facility, whereby the organ can be connected vai the Internet to the Slovakian HQ for analysis should a fault arise.  Indeed, it is possible to play the organ through the Internet ... "

 

At the end of the article, Paul Hale asked:

 

"So, will wireless remote-control for mobile consoles catch on and prove reliable?"

 

CEP


"You can never know everything about something. But you can always know something about everything" - Amit Kumar

 

www.pykett.org.uk


#19 Damian Beasley-Suffolk

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Posted 24 May 2015 - 07:30 PM

Being a Bristolian who knows the Lord Mayor's Chapel, and an engineer who has spent his professional life involved in radio and wireless systems, my main question about a wireless console in this building is - Why? It's not a big building at all, and there's very little space to move the console around from what I recall is a raised position opposite the organ, surrounded by stalls.

 

Further, my own knowledge, confirmed by sometimes bitter and occasionally sharply biting experience, is that low power radio systems are very fickle and prone to unreliability not only by their inherent nature, but also because the radio bands reserved for their use are rather crowded with other control and data systems doing similar things. Various techniques mitigate this, of course, which is why time-insensitive systems are very reliable, but there's a limit beyond which things just go slow. While the claimed 35ms delay may well be imperceptible, it could very well be longer depending on the wholly unpredictable number of other users in the area, a situation that simply cannot be acceptable for playing an organ in real time where delays are immediately perceptible to the ear, as there is no aural equivalent of persistence of vision.

 

I would heartily recommend, even demand, that every such wireless system comes with a socket and a length of cable which connects console and organ. Many movable consoles I have read about feature this, and the buildings they are in often have specific connection points at the two or three positions in the building where the console is likely to be used. There is an advantage that completely standard connectors and cables can be used and they are reliable, even if, as John Norman noted in an OR article some time ago, such consoles tend to find their own comfortable niches and stay there.

 

Please don't think I'm dismissing such techniques out of hand. Multiplex and/or digital transmission in organs certainly have their place - many instruments big and small would probably be impossible without them, a fanatical devotion to tracker action might not be a wholly Good Thing for the art of organ building, and a remote diagnostics facility is essential for these systems. And it's well know that many organists are engineers who are as absorbed by the technical aspects of the instrument as its music and history, as are organ builders. But I'm both a horses for courses and a belt and braces person who likes the technology to serve the cause rather than vice versa.

 

Still, wireless interference could be worse. Years ago I was sitting in church one Saturday evening waiting for proceedings to begin when a crackle came over the speakers, followed by the opening calls from the Bingo hall a few hundred meters away. I like to think I wasn't the only one who turned the hymn book to "I'm in heaven, 57!"






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