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Colin Pykett

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About Colin Pykett

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  1. Yes, varying buffer size is the next thing to try. Audacity, as well as the computer in general, both have to do lots of other things while trying to replay each audio sample at exactly the right time, such as updating the pretty graph display on the monitor. Even more intensive are things like reverb (which you mentioned). So you could also try switching off the reverb and see if the clicks go away. Also try switching off any other audio effects you might be using, such as EQ (tone control), externalisation (enhanced 3D effects), etc.
  2. Sorry to keep banging on about it, but if one wants or needs to retain recorded information for an indefinitely long time, then the problem of 'media rot' is a major one as I said in a post above. Hence my interest in keeping backups, not only as backups per se, but backups on different types of physical media. This is where things like minidiscs come in because, as John Robinson said, they might not be the tops in terms of the latest hi-fi, but they are one more useful weapon in the armoury. It's better to have something than nothing at all if the worst happens. A current example today, as it has been for 20 years or so now, is vital data recorded on early 8 inch or 5.25 inch floppy discs. Where does one get the drives and the old computers from to even see whether the discs are readable any longer? And are they in good enough condition not to wreck the disc when you try to read it? Etc, etc. This is one reason why banks keep having IT crashes because the core of some of their systems are ancient 1980s computers like DEC VAX's with data stored on equally ancient media such as these types of floppy, DEC tape, etc. I'm perhaps going off topic a bit as far as organ recordings are concerned, though even here some recordings might become of great interest and value decades into the future, so one can't entirely ignore the issue. HOSA (the Historic Organs Sound Archive project) is an example.
  3. Agree entirely! It's a pity in my view that the Minidisc came and went so quickly, but the main reason was that there wasn't enough pre-recorded material made available quickly enough to satisfy the largely teenage market, and simultaneously the sub-market consisting of those (like you and me!) who wanted a new, economical and convenient way of making digital recordings just wasn't big enough. However there are signs of an upturn in interest, though obviously only for the existing equipment still around which seems to be getting quite sought-after now. As an example, I bought a Sharp portable (Walkman-type) player/recorder nearly 20 years ago when they came out at a cost approaching £100. Lovely little thing, and still working fine and very handy to have. In 2010 I got a nearly-unused identical model off ebay for less than £10 as a back up. But now the same items are attracting almost their original prices again. So there must be a small army of people out there somewhere who share our views!
  4. You've obviously come a long way up the learning curve in a short time - congratulations if I may say so! One reason for clicky recordings is that the PC you upload to isn't fast enough to cope with the data stream from the Tascam. What sample rate did you use on the Tascam when making the initial recording - 96 kHz perhaps, or even higher? If this is the case, maybe try making a new recording at 44.1 kHz on the Tascam and see if the click problem has disappeared when uploaded and replayed in Audacity. If so, then try using Audacity to reduce the sample rate of one of your existing clicky recordings and observe whether the clicks then disappear. This link might also help - https://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?t=92782 There's a lot more out there on the subject, but much of it isn't relevant because one of Audacity's features is that it can remove clicks already on the original recording which might have come from a vinyl original for example, which isn't the same thing of course.
  5. Splendid stuff! It reminds me of something I can now only barely recall (to the extent I might be deluding myself) - that the 'march' theme in the Dambusters 'goes' with that of Eric Coates's other work 'Calling All Workers'. This was the signature tune of a daily 1950s/60s BBC radio programme called 'Music While You Work' that I remember from my childhood. Much later, though still a long while ago, I think this congruence was demonstrated when an orchestra played an arrangement of both being played simultaneously. This might have been a 'Friday Night is Music Night' programme as part of a tribute to Coates. I wonder if anyone else can recall this? The 'Calling All Workers' theme is below. I'm sure Messrs Gledhill and Hills would be more than up to the task of demonstrating it on a theatre organ, given their performance above. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhtOWG8aPC0
  6. Actually Paul, looking back over this, I didn't really answer your question properly - apologies. If we go back to Contrabombarde's original question: I assumed (without thinking about it too much) that he was talking about rain - liquid water rather than vapour. So I assumed this would increase the density of a given volume of the atmosphere. However if I'm honest I don't really have much of a handle on what this might do to sound passing through it as there are too many variables (precipitation rate, etc). And in any case we wouldn't actually have rain in the auditorium housing the organ even it was raining outside - unless the roof leaked badly. But the presence of rain would also saturate the air with vapour, probably inside the building as well as outside, which brings us back to where we came in. Re your further point about Figure 2 in your link, it illustrates the anomalous variation of absorption for damp as opposed to dry air. Though on first sight these (theoretical?) curves don't seem to correlate too well with the experimental data of Evans & Bazley I mentioned earlier. But we've probably gone way beyond what Stanley Monkhouse had in mind when he set us this disarmingly simple exam question in the first place ... so I think I'll draw stumps for now.
  7. I thought this might come up! I've had to explain it often in the past. There are three issues: 1. Absolute humidity is not the same as relative humidity (RH). RH is the amount of water vapour present in air expressed as a percentage of the amount needed for saturation at the same temperature. Assume we have a volume of air with a given mass of water vapour in it i.e. the absolute humidity is constant. Now vary the temperature. At low temperatures the RH becomes higher than at high temperatures because at low temperatures the air saturates more easily, even though the amount of water (absolute humidity) remains the same. Put another way, the same amount of vapour gives higher RH in cool air than warm air. 2. Sound attenuation at a given frequency (e.g. measured as dB per metre) gets higher for low RH (warm air) and lower for high RH (cool air). Lots of references here going back to the year dot - e.g. Evans & Bazley 1956. So there is less attenuation if the temperature drops. 3. Attenuation at a given RH gets lower as frequency gets lower and vice versa. Upshot: Attenuation is low for conditions of high RH and low frequency, and high for low RH and high frequency. Therefore as I said previously, one gets more treble (high frequencies) if the RH is high, which for constant absolute humidity, means at low temperatures. Thus music sounds more brilliant in the cold, as Stanley and the recording industry have observed. I haven't looked in detail at the links you gave as unfortunately some of those I have looked at in the past have got it wrong. Some of what's in Wikipedia is also wrong. I think the main problem is the counter-intuitive relation between absolute and relative humidity and their variations with temperature.
  8. As I said in my last, we're actually on the same page of the hymn book. I see exactly what you are saying, though remain unconvinced that I've explained myself adequately in return, for which I apologise. But I'm not sure there's much to be gained by pursuing it any further, at least from my point of view. I think I'll spare the forum any more grief!
  9. I think you might have missed the points I was making. These points are all objective, not subjective, and based on nothing more than arithmetic. What I was trying to point out (quite probably inadequately) is that, in terms of the practicalities of tuning, there isn't much difference of principle between the temperaments. In both meantone and ET one tunes 11 fifths so that the frequency ratios of their constituent notes are the same. The actual ratio used depends on the temperament you are tuning, the values in terms of commas being those mentioned in my earlier post. The arithmetic then means that the remaining fifth (the 12th fifth which completes the circle and doesn't need to be tuned) automatically becomes a Wolf in meantone, whereas it automatically stays the same as the other 11 in ET, i.e. all 12 have the same inoffensive ratio with no Wolf. What I then went on to say was that if you play in the restricted set of 'good' keys of meantone you are not using the Wolf interval. You are only playing on the notes which constitute the 11 other fifths. If you were to use keys which included the Wolf you would not get as many of the lovely thirds, but dissonances instead which some people regard as hideous. Because the 11 non-Wolf fifths whose notes constitute the 'good' keys, all having the same interval ratio, they form one of the class of equal temperaments. Because it is equal there is no discernible key colour between these 'good' keys. However, to say otherwise is understandable because it is a widely held misconception, but it is nevertheless a misconception. Only when you stray beyond the good keys into those which call on the Wolf interval do you get a sudden change in key colour - indeed the injection of 'sourness' as you put it. I know that it can be difficult to get one's head around this, but please bear in mind that it's not just little old me who makes these points. In the mid-1980s the late Charles Padgham in his well known treatise ('The Well-Tempered Organ') said of quarter-comma meantone: "It is sometimes forgotten that mean tone temperament is a form of equal temperament except for one fifth, the Wolf. All the other fifths have identical tempering. Thus the 'good' keys are identical except for pitch, and true 'key flavour' does not exist among these good keys as it does in the irregular temperaments." And for sixth (Pythagorean) comma mean tone - the so-called 'Silbermann' temperament - he said again: "There is also no different key flavour amongst the good keys". In more recent times Fred Sturm is just one well known writer and professional piano technician (a name which scarcely does him justice I might add) who has made the same points, and (as I have done here) he has also drawn attention to the widespread misunderstandings which have resulted in many people holding the view that the meantone temperaments possess a wider range of key colours than they actually do. Oh, and while we are at it, let's dispose of another myth. It is often claimed that ET was slow to catch on because it is difficult to tune. That's true - one has to carefully temper 11 fifths. But all the meantone temperaments also require that 11 fifths are carefully tempered, so they are just as difficult to tune as ET. The one exception is that quarter-comma meantone has several pure major thirds and minor sixths which can be used along the way to check that your fifths are accurately tempered. I maintain that's one reason why quarter-comma might have lasted for as long as it did. (All this, of course, refers to the ancient methods for tuning by ear and without timing beats, not using electronic tuning devices). Having said all this, I am completely with you in trying to persuade people to explore the beauties of unequal temperaments. In this aspect we sing from the same hymn sheet. But at the same time one has to be a bit careful that we do not help to propagate long-held and widely-held misconceptions such as these, which unfortunately are demonstrably wrong.
  10. The issue is to keep humidity as low as reasonable, and if air conditioning incorporating full climate control is available it can be adjusted. But to answer your question, a dry day ought to be better, since it's the increased density and higher thermal conductivity of high-humidity air which both conspire to kill the high frequencies more than the low ones. I doubt there would be much difference noticeable due to the humidity effect in small rooms though. It's only where the path from the pipes to one's ears is long enough such that the differences in attenuation with frequency become significant. In a large building with a long reverberation time (several seconds) the multiply-reflected path lengths contributing to the later parts of the reverb tail would correspond to thousands of feet since the speed of sound is about 1100 ft/sec, and over these distances the effects we are talking about here would definitely become noticeable. A 5 second reverb implies path lengths due to the multiple bounces approaching a mile or more! Clearly these could only exist in large buildings such as cathedrals, and it is in these where the effects described by Stanley in his original post can be noticeable. It begs the question of whether performers ought to put a rider into their recital flyers along the lines of "weather permitting". Then they could cancel it if the temperature and humidity turned out to be out-of-spec. (No, not really ... ). However I'll make a note in my diary to serve this up again on 1st April to see if forum members have forgotten about this thread in the interim.
  11. As you would be reproducing the organ part on an instrument which can be controlled via MIDI, I suppose you could just let the organ 'do its own thing' while you yourself play along with it on the piano. The organ would quite happily be able to read its own score regardless of technical difficulty if you have it in a Sibelius, Musescore, etc type of format. However I do have tongue firmly in cheek when suggesting this, as I realise it would completely remove you, as a professional musician, from making virtually any stylistic input to the organ side of the performance! In the worst case it would just tick along at an invariant, mechanical and thoroughly unmusical pace. Having said that, there would be ways to ameliorate it as you no doubt know, such as using the 'click track' method whereby you first generate an acceptable MIDI performance on the organ including things like rubato, etc (thus also including a tempo map along with the clicks), with the resulting recorded MIDI stream then played back as 'clicks' into headphones which you wear while you subsequently add the piano part to the mix. It's a standard technique used by recording studios for laying down both pop and classical multitrack mixes, which is one reason why everybody (including the conductor) is often seen wearing cans in studio recording sessions. I realise that your musical freedoms could be heavily constrained if you go this route, but on the other hand, I wonder how many of those who subsequently listen to the final recorded product would realise how it was achieved? It could sound pretty convincing nonetheless, just as so many studio-generated recordings do. I'm not really adding much to what you suggested in your original post, except to suggest that the organ could play an 'impossibly difficult' score if you provided it with the appropriate MIDI input format.
  12. The temperature factor is in fact related to humidity, as Damian said. Recording engineers have noticed that "it could be the difference between two identical concerts, where one sparkles and has more brilliance than the other. Yet the same orchestra performed them in the same hall with the same exuberance and skill - only the weather was different". This quote is from a paper read at the Audio Engineering Society in 1988. It is most noticeable in very large auditoria where the climate is ill-controlled (thus organs in cathedrals with no heating) or open air ones such as the Hollywood Bowl. And as Stanley said, it's a different thing to tuning as orchestras always play in tune, well at least, they don't allow temperature to affect their mutual tuning over-much. The explanation is a bit complicated. Above freezing point, the air holds moisture as water vapour to some extent (if there is any), i.e. it is humid, and this influences how sound dies away as it travels away from a source. It dies away more rapidly for higher frequencies than lower ones. However when the humidity changes, this difference in propagation between the highs and lows (treble and bass) becomes more or less pronounced depending on whether the humidity is rising or falling. But humidity also tracks temperature - when temperature rises the humidity also rises because warm air can hold more moisture, and vice versa. Consequently a change in temperature results in a change in humidity which results in high frequencies being attenuated more or less relative to the lower ones - a sort of temperature-driven tone control effect. -------------------- When discussing temperaments don't fall into the trap of believing that because a temperament is unequal it therefore must always have a better range of key colours than equal temperament (ET). This might be true for some, but it is not so for all. The important class of meantone temperaments is an example (e.g. quarter-comma as often used by Schnitger & Co, 6th-comma a little later and further south by Silbermann & Co, etc). In all these, 11 out of the 12 fifths which define the temperament are deliberately detuned by the same amount (e.g. one quarter of a syntonic comma, one sixth of a Pythagorean comma, etc). Qualitatively this is not much different to ET where all 12 are detuned by the same amount (one twelfth of the Pythagorean comma). Thus the only difference of principle between the meantone temperaments and ET lies in only one fifth, which is horribly out of tune (sharp) in the meantones and thus called the Wolf. Therefore if you avoid keys in which the Wolf appears, you are playing only on a restricted set of 11 equally-tuned 5ths, resulting in these keys being a form of equal temperament. Thus the 'good' keys in meantone temperaments are no different to the keys in ET in the sense that there is no difference in key flavour between them. One only gets a few, pretty gross, differences in key flavour when one moves across the boundaries between the groups of 'good', 'poor' and 'awful' keys. I mention this because it is an objective phenomenon related only to physics, as Stanley requested. But it is a factor which does not seem to be well hoisted-in by some of those who prefer unequal temperaments. I won't comment on the subjective issues. As Damian also said, digital instruments are great for getting to grips with temperament if it's something you want to do.
  13. Contrabombarde's point is well taken. It's certainly true that the best can too easily become the enemy of the good. However if we lower our sights too far for home practice instruments, at the same time being aware of the dreadful direness of so many pipe organs which (as a class) they are supposed to be simulating, what exactly are we doing, I wonder? Why should we be encouraging people to play on inferior realisations of what ought to be a proper target instrument? If we aren't careful I suggest we could be in danger of proving the uncomfortable truth that seems to be dawning in this thread that the pipe organ might not have a long term future and that only digital sound generation will survive. Funny, I seem to have a vague recollection that this has already been mentioned ... There's a sub-issue here to do with hobbies, DIY and all that. It's the case that if one has a basic skill set coupled with the determination and drive to make something at home which works, then one can get somewhere. That's how I started, for what it's worth, when making an electronic organ at home in the 1960s (much to my parents' horror, hence my banishment to the nearby garage of an indulgent grandfather). It didn't sound very good because in those days the technology was such that it couldn't, but the console and physical playing experience were of high quality even though I say it myself. Trouble is, hobbies, DIY and all that are also going down the drain today together with organs and their music. It was therefore utterly laudable to read of Contrabombarde's pupil getting so far along a similar road. If the organ is to survive, it's going to need a lot more of that - instruments at home, inexpensive ones, therefore DIY ones, therefore self-motivated youngsters who can do this. But are there many such any more? The home organ market is eagerly fought over by digital organ makers whose eyes are continually glowing at the prospect of all those recently retired baby boomers wondering what to do with their pension pots. So they aren't about to roll over and let the VPO brigade move into our living rooms without a struggle. Thus VPOs, whatever their pros and cons might be (and I agree it's not a subject for this forum), represent only a fraction of the total market, and those which are made by DIY-ers form only a fraction of that. Therefore, like the main question of what this thread is about, the survival of the pipe organ, one can't divorce these sub-issues from consideration of things like market forces either. The bottom line is that people will only play the instruments they can afford, and this applies to the home environment just as much as it does to churches and cathedrals. Quite where the pipe organ will eventually sit in this situation means that we have to analyse it in terms of an equilibrium emerging from a dynamic market-led model. In other words, the answer drops out of a financial spreadsheet. If it's a good enough one, the corresponding equilibrium states for digital organs and VPOs will emerge as well. These things are not easy to set up but fascinating to play with once you have done it.
  14. This is indeed turning out to be an interesting and useful thread. Although I incline myself to the view that the pipe organ is going to have an uphill struggle to survive in the long term, let's not forget that the digital organ is not actually all that cheap either when measured against the depth of the pockets of many aspirant players from 'ordinary' backgrounds. Even the cheapest of all possible digital instruments, the home-assembled PC-based virtual pipe organ, is only really cheap (say around a thousand or two) when it consists of a rather sad collection of plastic pop music type keyboards balanced on a pile of books on a desk with a tatty second hand pedalboard shoved underneath. But that's not really the sort of playing experience we ought to be encouraging for a new generation of youngsters whom we seem to be tacitly assuming will then be eager to take up the organ. Surely we should at least give them a VPO with a decent console and console furniture of the sort offered by turnkey suppliers of VPOs? But then the cost will typically escalate suddenly to well into the five figures if we also add a half-decent multichannel audio system, and even then you'd be lucky to get tactile stop controls rather than a touch screen. So the price of a decent VPO is comparable with that of any other sort of digital organ, and probably well beyond what the parents of many potential organ students (or the students themselves) would be able or willing to pay. Another factor in all this is the difficulty for the average customer of getting at the facts, especially those which bear on costs and technical performance going well beyond what the ad-men are prepared to say. I have probably published as widely in print journals as anyone on this forum on these matters over the last 35 years or so, and you might be interested to know the sordid details of what I've had to put up with from the 'organ establishment' in both its pipe and digital incarnations. Well known names, which you would recognise, associated with firms and other organisations you would also recognise (BIOS is one) have attempted to smear my work and myself personally with the most appallingly rude and disgraceful letters, some of which have appeared in print. Some of the less public scurrilous chatter which kind friends have brought to my attention has been actionable (and I've sought advice on that). These people include organ advisers, university music lecturers and a bevy of industry figures all at the top of their trees. I have been threatened with litigation by manufacturers of pipe organ transmissions as well as digital organ makers for some of my articles - 'damage to our business' is the usual well-worn reason. However, despite all this the truth will eventually out since customers are by and large not fools. But the greatest sadness is that it is the organ itself which will likely have to pay the eventual consequences.
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