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Colin Pykett

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Everything posted by Colin Pykett

  1. But if merely playing it at sight as written isn't demanding enough, how about transposing it at sight as well (one or two semitones up or down, I don't care - the student may choose), and for good measure carry on extemporising at the end in the same manner for another couple of pages' worth? Why keep life simple when it can be made more difficult?
  2. There's an entire 2-page exercise entitled 'Thumbs on a separate manual' on pp. 93/94 of W G Alcock's organ tutor ('The Organ'), originally published by Novello but now available on IMSLP when I looked recently. It's quite interesting, euphemistically speaking, to attempt it as written as Allegretto in 6/8 ... A diploma-level sight reading exercise perhaps, anyone?
  3. Rather more than two months later I've succeeded in getting hold of this book which I had not come across before. However I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wants to augment their knowledge of the physics of music as it's pretty hopelessly out of date. Mine is the first edition (1969), published in the UK in 1970, thus 50 years ago now. Consequently it does not (because it could not) address a lot of the research into musical instruments which has been done since. For instance the explanation of how organ flue pipes work is now quite wrong and merely repeats what was currently understood in the Edwardian era when people such as Audsley were active. And of course, the chapter on electronic and computer music is similarly pretty useless now. Damian's later edition might be somewhat better in these respects. However if, like me, you enjoy reading material for its historical value then it's a book that is more worthwhile. This is as true for the physics of music as it is for the organ itself, where few would criticise Dom Bedos, Hopkins & Rimbault or Audsley for writing works which perforce can represent only their time and place.
  4. This week we did some decluttering as it's now getting easier to get to the council tip (though you still have to book your visit two days in advance). So among other stuff I just picked up from my shelves, without going through it in detail, some substantial piles of sheet music I hadn't played, not only for some years, but for decades. Most of it was light music including a multi-volume set of G&S piano scores (I can't abide it anyway but used to play it to satisfy certain audiences in the distant past). The other numbers were mainly what I used to play occasionally on theatre pipe/digital organs, including odd stuff which pressed some people's buttons such as songs going back to the pre-1920s, plus South Pacific, The Sound of Music, Frank Sinatra's and Nat KIng Cole's output, etc, etc. There was also a multi-volume set of books called The New Musical Educator, dating from the 1940s and edited by Harvey Grace, as I've since bought a much better quality version of the original from the early 1900s edited by John Greig. Having looked around on the web none of this seemed to have enough monetary value to justify the pain and grief involved in ebaying it so I just chucked the lot of it away. The resulting empty shelf space was very satisfying to contemplate and has not been completely filled yet, thereby providing opportunities to acquire future items which will be more useful. A potential downside is that most of this stuff was not out of copyright so in that sense I've burned my boats since it's also out of print, but it's a risk worth having taken. Paraphrasing what Stanley said, if you don't use it, then lose it.
  5. Thank you for this, Tony. The NPOR entry mentions a 2M&P reed organ which was displaced by this new pipe organ. Although this thread only has 'pipe organ' in its title, a large-ish reed organ can also make for an attractive house organ, which is what the OP seems to be mainly interested in. At least, some people think so, and although I'm not completely sold on them as a rule, I do find the larger ones worth considering compared to digitals in that they are aerophones in the same way that pipe organs are. Therefore their sounds have a 'liveness' in the sense that they are generated directly by disturbing the air as reed pipes do. So, out of interest, do you have any information about this former reed organ such as its stop list, whether it was still playable, and where it has gone?
  6. I am quite sure the instrument is a work of art, design and craftsmanship of the highest order. But an alternative approach might be to increase the utilisation of the limited amount of pipework by using electric action to provide as much or as little borrowing/duplication as the client wishes, together with octave couplers if desired. With the addition of a little more pipework at the top and bottom (if there is the space) of that already existing, a modicum (again, as much or as little as might be desired) of extension could also be applied to provide additional pitches. The resulting instrument would be similar to those which were popular in the mid-20th century such as Compton's Miniatura range, still well regarded by some, and similar approaches used by many other builders at that time including Rushworth & Dreaper. I guess it just boils down to you pays your money and you takes your choice, bearing in mind that electric action would remove some advantages of mechanical action, which are seen as more important by some than others.
  7. The organ probably suffers more than most instruments from a dead acoustic. The sudden cut-off of the sound at key release is amplified by the way our perception mechanisms work for all senses - sudden changes are subjectively accorded a greater importance by our brains. So in the same dry acoustic, instruments having their own intrinsic gradual decay such as the piano or guitar, can sound more acceptable because the cut-off is slower. Whenever I've done the mastering for a recording I am tempted to add more artificial reverberation to organ sounds than for other instruments on the whole. It just seems to cry out for the assistance of a 'wet' building - within reason, of course. I think the problem is probably worse today than it used to be in the days before recorded sound. Then, people had no conception or experience of what music could sound like other than when it was played live in whatever building they happened to be in. But nowadays I suspect few Tonmeisters can resist the temptation to make a dry-ish acoustic seem somewhat more spacious when they do the mastering, particularly for organ recordings. The organ may have biased my ears, though, against accepting the natural ambiences of the dryer auditoria for what they are. So I find that a piano can sound superb in a reasonably wet acoustic, wetter than those we usually experience for the instrument. This was first brought home to me way back in the 1970s when I happened to be in one of the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC (I think it was the Air & Space one), where a distant pianist was rehearsing unseen for a concert to take place that evening. It sounded absolutely wonderful in that space, and ever since I think I might have been guilty of adding too much reverb whenever I've mastered piano recordings. (Nobody has yet complained, though ... ) None of this might apply, or with less emphasis, to players of orchestral instruments such as woodwinds who can (perhaps subconsciously) 'play' the acoustic they happen to be in. In those cases it could turn out to be a travesty if Tonmeisters meddle with the ambience to the extent they might do for other sorts of instrument. As something to do in these bizarre times we are living through, why not get hold of a digital reverb/effects unit (it can be your PC with suitable software) and connect it in the signal path forward of your hifi amplifier. It is great fun, and can be instructive, to tweak the ambience of any recordings you happen to have. It can certainly transform the effect of the RFH organ for example, though whether for better or worse is purely a subjective judgement.
  8. Since it will be a small instrument, why not just consider having all stops available on all keyboards? You would not be limited to drawing a stop on just one manual at a time - you could have it drawn on all three plus the pedals if you wished. But of course, if you then played the same note on the same stop on two manuals the pipe would only sound once! A bonus of this scheme is that you would not need inter-manual couplers, though you could include independent octave and suboctave couplers on each manual (and the pedals) which would only affect that manual. I am assuming that you will be using electric action of course. Naturally, you would need more stop controls, but these need not be too expensive if you use illuminated tabs of the type often found on digital organs, or something even simpler such as a push button for each stop with an LED above it (or an illuminated push button unit). It would not be excessively expensive to fit a combination system (pistons) either, though in saying this I do not know what your budget is. A digital control system would be required, but it would be straightforward to make if you are into things like Raspberry-Pi's, Arduinos, etc. Otherwise such systems can be purchased.
  9. CAD-generated drawings of pipe organs are found quite often. 'Organ Building', the house journal of the IBO published annually, often contains them. You don't need to be a member to get the magazine as back numbers can be viewed and purchased at: https://www.ibo.co.uk/webStore/organBuilding.php I just pulled a random copy off my shelves, a rather old one for 2008 (volume 8), and there are at least two articles describing instruments with the help of such diagrams. This particular volume is available via the link above at £8 plus shipping.
  10. Forgive me quoting my own post, but it mentions a CD which I've since obtained, prompted by Stanley Monkhouse's remarks above about Frank Bridge. I have to say that I've found it quite beautiful, though others may not agree of course. In some ways I would admit that it's not ideal e.g. rather old and probably not obtainable new any longer. However there seem to be lots of pre-owned ones around and I obtained one for a trifle from ebay. It was recorded just before the Hereford organ's rebuild in 2004, so on some of the quieter numbers you can hear some action noises which are occasionally rather too intrusive. But otherwise, the 25 tracks, together with the sound of the instrument and Peter Dyke's playing, are just my cup of tea - the Little Organ Book in memory of Hubert Parry, Stanford's six short preludes & postludes op 101, and the six organ pieces by Bridge as mentioned above by Stanley. It's called 'Sounds Idyllic', Lammas Records LAMM 148D. The words from 'Blest Pair of Sirens' quoted by Alan Gray in his piece (no. IV in the 'Parry' collection) seem particularly apposite at this time when choirs, organs and churches are silent: 'O may we soon again renew that song'. (Just a cautionary note - if your CD player is a bit of a prima donna about the discs it will play properly and those it won't, as one of mine is, you might possibly have trouble with this. Playing time is nearly 76 minutes, a tad over the recommended 74 minute maximum, and some decks even struggle with this. However I have an old Sony player which seems to accept just about everything I shove into it fortunately, jammy fingermarks and all.)
  11. As SL said, a fascinating video. Thanks to Dave for posting the link. I winced when they took a pair of pliers to the wiring looms emerging from the console and just chopped through them, especially as I've done the same thing myself from time to time. Always seems sacrilegious somehow! It reminded me, though, of something I often ponder on, which is how on earth did the old organ builders prior to the industrial revolution manage to achieve what they did? Nothing other than horse power for transport beyond the church door, meaning that everything possible would have been done on site, either within the building or in huts outside in the church yard. Many of the workforce probably lived there with their families as well until the job was done - commuting would have been unknown. And only human muscle power for working winches - they might have used a man inside a wheel as when constructing the buildings themselves. Many cathedrals still have those in the roof space today, so maybe they were pressed into service again for organ building purposes. No steel scaffolding, just rickety wooden affairs. And the difficulties of working during the short, dark, cold days of a north European winter with only candles for illumination. Makes you think, and wonder at their achievements.
  12. As everyone knows, a problem of only quinting the bottom notes of a 32 foot resultant is the awkward and often unpleasant 'join' between the lowest pipe of the 16 foot rank and the beginning of the quinted notes as you descend the compass. It can sometimes be ameliorated by having the 16 foot rank go some way below bottom C so that only the lowest few notes, rather than the entire bottom octave, is quinted. However, having a full compass Quint removes this problem. So, whatever 32 foot effect you get, for better or worse, is at least shaded gradually from the top to the bottom of the compass rather than having a sudden discontinuity at some point. It can be particularly effective when using digital pedal stops, where an additional problem is the difficulty of getting reasonably compact and economical loudspeakers which will radiate the lowest notes of a true 32 foot flue bass. In these cases the 16 foot and quint ranks can be radiated from different loudspeakers, allowing the two tones to combine naturally in the auditorium just as they do from real pipes. I don't think I need to offer too abject an apology for mentioning this here, given that so many pipe organs now use digital pedal stops. It can be even more effective in a domestic setting for a home organ, where there are many problems connected with radiating a quiet, 'breathing' 32 foot bass in a way which sounds reasonably natural. I have come to this view as a result of many experiments in rooms both large and small, although there is more than one way to achieve one's 32 foot Nirvana and I wouldn't want to be seen as dogmatic. Having both options, as at Bristol, would seem to offer the best of both (imperfect) worlds. Apart from anything else, it allows you to use the separate Quint with all the 16 foot flues rather than it being inextricably tied to just one of them. It might be found that the acoustic quirks of the building result in one combination being better than another.
  13. That's fantastic! I'm so pleased he has made these recordings available commercially. Thank you for letting us know.
  14. Thank you for opening this new window for me, Stanley. My education has been sadly neglected until this day. Is the D flat one Andante con moto? And am I right in thinking that Bridge didn't even play the organ? If so, it's that bit more remarkable how he wrote for it so atmospherically. Sheet music is available on IMSLP, and several recordings on CD and youtube (e.g. 'Sounds Idyllic' on a disc by Peter Dyke).
  15. Interesting that some of the examples above relate to French romantic and later organ music played on an accordion. I wonder if this has anything to do with the prevalence of the harmonium in 19th century French musical life with its free reeds, which can sound similar? Cavaille-Coll himself started off his career with these instruments. Desirably the chosen instrument has to be expressive though, in the sense of being able to vary the power by varying the wind pressure. Accordions and harmoniums are (the latter by using the Expression stop), but suction 'American' organs are not. Many years ago I once wandered into one of those beautiful Lincolnshire fen churches (at Addlethorpe I think it was) where there was no pipe organ but a Mustel harmonium. It was an attractive acoustic, in fact the whole place was like a miniature cathedral (it called itself the Cathedral of the Marshes), and the instrument sounded remarkably like a Cavaille-Coll pipe organ in some of its moods!
  16. Damian's mention of Sky reminds me that I remarked some while ago on another thread about the organ playing skills of one of its founders, Francis Monkman, who was classically trained. I hope Francis will not mind me saying that he has also carried out a lot of research into Thuringian organs and their builders and has recorded many CDs on them, some of which he kindly sent me as part of a private dialogue on the subject. It seems to me a great pity that they do not seem to be widely available, and I took the liberty of telling him so at the time! The combination of his scholarship and skills as an executant would I'm sure be appreciated widely by members of this forum and beyond. And on the subject of using the Saint-Saens 3 theme in the 1980s, I remember that one as well! But is it not something to do with copyright? I read not long ago, and not for the first time, that it's almost impossible today for a pop musician to take the risk of recording something which claims to be original music. If they do, there is apparently a high probability of being taken to court somewhere in the world for breach of copyright, sometimes for ludicrously obscure reasons such as "the third bar of this melody contains a note sequence which is the same as that which composer X used 6 years ago in the bass line of composition Y". The only sure fire way of preventing this is to use out-of-copyright material, which I guess is why much modern music often seems to evoke echoes in my mind even though I can't always place it. It also probably explains the prevalence of the repulsive sort of synthesised 'music' often used as the background to almost every TV programme, consisting of a slowly shifting sound canvas of such poverty of invention that it can scarcely claim to be a 'composition' at all.
  17. Although it might be intuitively strange at first acquaintance, subjective pitch doesn't always track frequency. For this reason it's measured in mels, not Hz. As for cats inside organs, one of ours (long since gone to the great cattery in the sky) was in the habit of crawling into the swell pedal aperture of my home organ and going to sleep. More than once there was a yelping mew when I altered the volume ... Her sibling didn't make this mistake, but only because she always scurried out of the room whenever I started playing, thereby demonstrating a better-developed sense of musical taste and judgement. I agree the book mentioned by Damian sounds very much worth getting hold of - thanks Damian.
  18. Very interesting Stanley. Something very similar was discussed by the late Arthur Benade in his classic book 'Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics'. He suggested that anatomical differences such as those you mentioned might result in the appearance of key colour even in an organ tuned accurately to equal temperament, but only provided it had a mechanical action. Quoting: "On such organs, the valves may be opened more or less promptly depending on whether they are worked by stronger or weaker fingers as the player presses the long white keys or the short black ones of the keyboard. The patterns of finger motion and of long and short levers on the keyboard are altered when one plays in different keys, so that there are fairly well established changes in the patterns governing the way the individual pipes break into song ... " He carried on at some length but this extract should be sufficient to get the drift of his thinking. He was a physicist by profession but this book was written for musicians, and apparently he was trying to rationalise what some of his professionally-qualified musical colleagues were saying when they insisted that equal temperament was not devoid of key colour as often assumed by those who only consider the issue superficially, or who find it fashionable to deride it in favour of today's politically correct point scoring in favour of unequal temperaments. The effects described would be less likely to result on organs with non-mechanical actions, but they could also occur in principle with other acoustic (not electronic) instruments such as the piano, harpsichord, etc. I'm sure there's a research project in there somewhere, as you said.
  19. Hope-Jones's Worcester cathedral organ (1896) had a 3-rank celeste consisting of unison, sharp and flat ranks. The stop tablet had an extra detent - when half-on it spoke the unison and sharp ranks, plus the flat rank when pressed fully on. From what I've read, I don't think you could choose the flat/unison combination on its own though. (There might have been a similar one on his organs at your former churches in Burton - St Modwen's and St Paul's. Without looking it up I can't recall. That at St Paul's was built a couple of years before the Worcester one and there is anecdotal evidence that the cathedral luminaries might have visited it before deciding to commit themselves to the same builder). Going back to illusions or sensorial degradations, optical degradations have their place in art just as aural ones might have in music. Monet's cataracts influenced his paintings owing to the fogginess, diminished colour discrimination, random crystalline pixellation and multiple images caused by the condition. Having had them in both eyes myself, I can fully understand his descriptions of what he experienced and also the progression of the condition as evidenced by his work. I was astonished at how 'clean and bright' the world suddenly (re)appeared when I had bilateral lens implants and had no idea until then as to how poor my sight had actually become. On the music front, over the last 20 years or so I've become progressively less fond of Bach's (and similar composers) restless contrapuntal style, turning instead to later romantic works with lots of colour and heavy chords. Rachmaninov is bliss! I do wonder whether this is something to do with how my hearing has changed, much as Stanley has described (presbyacusis, basically). Hearing aids are good for speech as we've discussed exhaustively on previous threads, but for me they don't really cut it for music and I prefer to use other things such as graphic equalisers.
  20. Apologies for the misunderstanding, Paul. Reading your post more carefully I can see what you were saying. And continuing with psycho-acoustical effects such as those hinted at by Stanley, apparently there is a condition in which the two ears perceive different pitches for the same note (I think it has a medical name but can't remember it - maybe Stanley knows). In one case the difference was reported to be about a semitone! Maybe this might help to explain why some people embrace atonal music with its dissonances more enthusiastically than others, if their ears and brains process sound differently to those who prefer tonal music? Or why some people genuinely might be 'tone deaf' and get little pleasure from music?
  21. I don't think handsoff is hearing things. A pitch change when the intensity of a constant-frequency sound changes fairly rapidly is a well known phenomenon, though it is subjective and therefore an aural illusion. Like Paul, I experience a slight flattening effect though, rather than a sharpening. It's particularly noticeable (for me) when the last chord of Saint-Saens's organ symphony dies away into the reverberation on the Fremaux/CBSO recording with Christopher Robinson playing the organ (Classics for Pleasure 0946 3 82233 2 0). However I once demonstrated the effect to an otological university research specialist, who could not detect it at all, at least on that particular recording, though he was aware of the effect in general. It isn't an artefact caused by the reverberation as such as this only affects the sound intensity; it cannot change the frequencies involved, unless something is moving in the auditorium and thereby imposing a Doppler shift on the sound. People moving around can sometimes generate such frequency (in fact, phase) shifts which can be noticeable, though this would not usually happen at an actual concert until the sound had completely died away and the audience started to leave their seats. And on the CD referred to above there was no audience, though it's conceivable that someone such as an engineer was creeping around close to the microphones I suppose, or maybe a sound-absorbing curtain was wafting around in a draught from the air conditioning, though I'm clutching at straws now. However, and getting off-topic, this business of people creeping around can ruin attempts to record high quality sound samples from organ pipes - I've certainly come across that from time to time in some 40 years of trying to do it, and it's usually not until you come to replay them that you realise they've been corrupted in that way (and at that point it's difficult to resist the temptation to kick some ass ... ).
  22. I should perhaps have mentioned this earlier, but Freeman Dyson, son of Sir George Dyson, died on 28 February. The earliest recollection I can recall of Sir George is that some of the piano pieces I laboured through as a small boy were from his pen. But since I later followed a career in science rather than music it is his son, Freeman, whose work I am more familiar with. It isn't for me to take readers through the achievements of either of them, but they were both more than notable in their respective fields. I wonder whether the unusually broad and sometimes controversial aspects of Freeman's scientific career might have been encouraged by his exposure to the Arts as a youngster - he was certainly one who took an interest in, and contributed to, a bigger picture than that which most physicists seem content to look at. What a gifted pair they were, covering such a wide intellectual spectrum between them.
  23. Your post suggests that you know what the problem is but can't find a way to resolve it. Like you, I imagine that Zoom's default audio settings think that any quasi-continuous sound with a short-term constant crest factor (such as organs when playing relatively slow homophonic music such as hymns) is in fact background noise which therefore must be cancelled out. Other types of music (i.e. those most often encountered) have a more peaky crest factor (such as your piano, guitars, etc), are therefore correctly recognised as music, and therefore don't get cancelled. My hearing aids sometimes do exactly this unless I switch them to 'music' rather than their 'speech and everything else' mode. There is a setting in Zoom called 'Preserve Original Sound'. Not having tried it, I don't know whether this will solve the problem, but it can apparently be switched on and off. See: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115003279466-Preserve-original-sound I hope you can solve the problem, but am pleased that at least you could use your piano if all else fails. In these trying and stressful times I do send my best wishes for a successful service, which will be of so much comfort to a lot of people, perhaps even more than would normally attend your church themselves.
  24. Responding to Rowland's question, pipes have to be made to withstand, without their walls flexing, the high vibrational pressures which occur at the pressure antinodes along the standing wave which is set up within the enclosed air column. If there is even a tiny leak or if the pipe walls are not strong enough, especially at these points, the pipe might not speak at all as Damian mentioned, or it might do unexpected things. (When stopped wooden pipes sometimes go off speech it is often because the tightly-fitting stopper at the top has started to open the joints, sometimes before this can be detected by eye. Pipes simply will not work properly if there is any leakage). This explains why the holes used in harmonic flutes only need to be minute to get the pipe to speak an octave higher because the pressure at these points is so high (the hole allows the pressure at the fundamental frequency to leak away, therefore the pipe cannot form an antinode at this frequency, therefore the lowest frequency sounded by the pipe is the second harmonic - the octave - rather than the first harmonic - the fundamental). Pipes whose walls flex too much exhibit similar problems to those in which there are leaks in that the nodal pattern is degraded - this happened more often in the early days of organ building, when some centuries-old pipes with thin walls can be difficult to put back on speech. I should imagine that the best organ builders will know all this, either from hard experience if not from physics, so if they construct their pipes from several sections, perhaps they arrange the joints so they are likely to result in minimum disturbance to the internal pattern of standing waves. Having said that, the massive construction of a 32 foot pipe means that the odd joint or two here and there is probably unlikely to have much effect. It's an interesting question all the same Rowland. PS This is my take on the matter, also as a physicist(!), written before I saw Lausanne's above. However it might be nice to get an organ builder's view. John Mander contributed above; maybe he also has a view on this aspect as well?
  25. I've mentioned this before but it might be worth repeating. The organ was built exactly at the time when a sudden expansion was occurring in the options available for making loud musical noises in large buildings. Prior to that, the only way to achieve it had been to build a pipe organ, and that was one of the reasons it was invented centuries earlier. But in the 1920s electronic valve amplifiers started to appear, partly capitalising on the accelerated developments during the first world war. The first commercially practical moving coil loudspeaker also appeared at this time. However both the amplifiers and speakers were inadequate at first to fill a space the size of the Hall with sound of the necessary power and of passable quality. Also some other essential components of a half-decent audio system (microphones and electrically-recorded gramophone/phonograph records) were likewise still in their infancy. So, at the time, it was likely that a pipe organ was still deemed to be the best solution for providing a musical background to events in the Hall, or for providing music in its own right at concerts. Also the Great Depression reduced the manufacturing capability of some electronics companies and wiped others out completely, thereby reducing the opportunity to shop around for a music system of the necessary capabilities for such a huge space. Thus the organ was installed in the Hall instead. It is possible that those who considered it unmusical were always in a minority, because its main purpose of making a loud and impressive noise had been achieved. However, within a few years the shortcomings of early audio systems had been largely solved, plus the fact that electronic organs such as the Hammond (and, not much later, many other makes such as those by Baldwin) were coming along as well. So unfortunately the pipe organ would probably have been seen fairly rapidly as a white elephant by the Hall's management, with a corresponding lack of enthusiasm to keep it properly maintained and fit for purpose at a time when cheaper options for doing the same job were emerging rapidly. The situation is analogous in some ways to what happened to the theatre organ, which also was eclipsed by the same rapid developments in audio electronics which, in that case, led to the talkies.
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