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Colin Pykett

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Everything posted by Colin Pykett

  1. Yes, it's a very good question which is seldom if ever addressed by organ historians. Elvin is perhaps the best example of one who let his mind wander laterally across these sorts of questions, though I don't recall him actually writing about this one. In 19th century Britain there had already been an extensive canal network for some time, and steam was also coming along fast. But, widening the issue, I've often wondered how these things were done centuries earlier, particularly in Northern continental Europe. In fact how were those monster organs ever built at all? I imagine it was in some sense child's play compared with the buildings themselves, which were built by peripatetic journeymen who decamped for years and lived on site with their families until the job was done, their children succeeding them into the trade. It was probably the same with the largest organs. One can see some sort of correlation between these organs and the courses of the major rivers such as the Elbe, Oder and Vistula, which the famous Netherlandish builders might have used to get to where they wanted to be in the 16th century or so. But their pipes and everything else would have been made on site - it was merely the rivers which made long distance travel easier than jerking for hundreds of miles on unmade tracks over the landscape in a cart. And thus were their ideas and techniques probably propagated Europe-wide by little more than accidents of geography in the landscape, with smaller builders subsequently picking up on them in particular regions and then making a living more locally. Asking these sorts of questions also makes one realise what a fabulous engineer an organ builder has to be. Imagine the hidden substructure within the base of a 32 foot pedal tower with 9 pipes or so. Imagine not just the weight of each pipe but the sheer pressure exerted on the region of a few square inches where it sits. And they didn't fall down - far from it, they lasted for centuries. (Well, like the buildings themselves, I suppose they fell down from time to time, thus teaching the builders valuable lessons as to what would work in engineering terms and what wouldn't. We don't see the ones which fell down ... ). Gabler's organ at Weingarten Abbey leaves me speechless, not the instrument itself (which of course is also wonderful) but its visual impact. Yet its filigree appearance strung across those windows without obscuring them conceals stories of structural design which only an engineer today could properly marvel at, and I am not one I'm afraid. I find it as moving to look at, let alone listen to, as any contemporary painting in an art gallery.
  2. Thank you for these insights, which are very useful. They have helped me to identify someone who seems to do what I want and has a good reputation - he is a weekly peripatetic visitor at a nearby private GP practice (our much-vaunted NHS is progressively washing its hands of anything remotely connected with primary care. A GP? If you succeed in meeting one nowadays let me know and I'll have her/him stuffed for you ... ). This guy also does home visits. And while on the subject of hearing, my wife took two of our little grandsons to a pantomime yesterday. I won't say where in case it invites litigation, for reasons you will discover from what I'm about to say. On returning she was appalled at the sound levels encountered, and even today she is still suffering somewhat in the ears from the after effects of prolonged and very loud sounds. As one of my said grandsons, aged 7, is also here today I decided to test their hearing using a simple and not very accurate form of pure tone audiometry. I rigged up a sine wave generator to my hifi system and asked them to turn the frequency dial progressively higher until they could no longer hear anything. Prior to that I had set the listening level at 250 Hz (roughly middle C) slightly on the high side of 'comfortable'. In advance I had also predicted that the 7 year old would be able to hear beyond 16 kHz, my wife to around 13 kHz and myself to about 8 kHz (a note or two below top C on a Fifteenth organ stop). Although I know what my professionally-generated audiogram looks like and could therefore predict confidently what the result would be in my case, it also turned out that the other predictions were spot on. So fortunately there were no signs of obvious or major damage as a result of going to the panto. However it does raise the issue of whether sound levels at public events are as well controlled as they are in the workplace. Even if the legislation is in place, and I'm not sure that it is, how well is it adhered to? It is just not acceptable that in a nominally 'advanced' society and in this day and age that we should even have to question whether event promoters are allowed to play fast and loose with our hearing, and particularly that of our children. No wonder so many of us on this forum need hearing aids.
  3. It's very good to see you here Stanley. I'm no sycophant (as he will know from our erstwhile private correspondence!), but to have someone who is professionally qualified in theology, music and medicine for good measure on the forum can only be good for it.
  4. I incline to what AJJ said - just use what sounds best. But in the recent 'hearing aids' thread there was some discussion of graphic equalisers, which I and some other members have found useful as an alternative to hearing aids for those with not excessive presbyacusis. In my case I start applying boost at 4 kHz, to reach a maximum (limited to 12 dB with my devices) around 10 kHz. It provides a tremendous amount of realism which one doesn't know one has lost until suddenly presented with it. But younger people won't need this, and would probably find it unnatural - I'm told by them that the high pitched stops such as 15ths and mixtures sound unpleasantly exaggerated towards the top of the compass. So maybe use the 'natural' approach suggested by AJJ at first. If you are recording from a source with an electrical output such as your digital organ, you could also try doing it with a direct electrical connection instead of acoustically, and decide which you like the best. There will probably be a stereo headphone output you could use which can be fed into your Tascam (I think), bypassing its mics, or run the signal straight into the laptop or other device you are using to run Audacity. Doing it this way cuts out the background acoustic noise in the room such as page turns, piston thuds, etc, etc. (And sundry cusses in my case ... ) Agree with all this. Audacity is incredible for free software, but for more specialised use it doesn't go far enough as davidh said. For that one has to pay loads-a-money - I use Steinberg's WaveLab, though this is emphatically not an advertisement for it as there are many other commercial options.
  5. I agree both that stand-alone recorders such as the Tascam can be very useful, and with AJJ that one can also use laptops etc. Having used recording of one sort or another both professionally and for my non-day-job hobby interests for over 50 years, I came to the view early on that having more than one recorder or recording system is not only convenient and desirable, but actually necessary. There are several reasons for this but one of them is 'media rot' - the phenomenon whereby the physical medium you actually record on eventually becomes obsolete, sometimes quite quickly (e.g. over less than 10 years). The rapid rise and fall of the Minidisc is one such example. Also some media do actually rot, reel-to-reel and cassette tapes being one example. They can suffer from 'binder ooze' which renders them unplayable, and of course getting hold of the tape decks in good working order is difficult nowadays. Then one can encounter USB flash (pen) drives suddenly becoming unreadable for various reasons including over-use, though physical damage is usually a bigger problem in practice - it is fairly common to snap them off while inserted into the USB socket, whereupon the surrounding atmosphere rapidly turns very blue in my case. Similar issues afflict (micro) SD cards, CDs and DVDs one way or another. Coming back to the systems mentioned in the posts above, you can record directly into Audacity or other wave editors using a laptop, and then save the edited as well as raw files onto HDD/SSD as well as ALWAYS (!) making a backup copy onto USB flash drive, (micro) SD card, CD/DVD, etc. Again, more than one type of medium should desirably be used in view of the media rot problem. But nice things about stand-alone recorders like the Tascam include their small size and built in microphones. Thus it is much easier to carry them around in a pocket than lugging separate mics, mixing desks and laptops all over the place. You can then subsequently download the recorded files into Audacity or whatever on a laptop/desktop/DAW for editing and mastering. However for the highest quality work I nevertheless usually use the less convenient laptop solution, for reasons such as you seldom really know much about the characteristics of the inbuilt mics on recorders such as the Tascam.
  6. Like everyone else we suffer from nuisance phone calls from time to time, even though we use just about all the means available to block them. The main problem seems to be that international calls (which they usually are) cannot often be blocked, and their origin is either not shown on a caller display or it presents a false (often local) number. They seem to come in waves which last for a few days and then go away, and recently we had another one peddling the hoary old chestnut of 'this is an official Microsoft call - your computer needs disinfecting' etc, etc. It so happened that I was listening to some organ music at realistically high volume since my wife was out, which I paused so I could answer the phone since its display came up with the said (plausible but false) local number. So I just set the CD going again and put the phone down on the sofa beside me. I was listening to the Toccata and Fugue in A minor by J L Krebs played on the Gabler organ at Weingarten by Gerhard Gnann. When it finished the caller had long since hung up. It might be coincidence, but we haven't been troubled by this caller since. Perhaps they didn't like the composer, the piece or even the way Professor Gnann played it (which was totally wonderful should there be any doubt). Anyway, it's something I might try next time as it's preferable to insulting some impoverished worker in a sweatshop of an offshore cold-calling centre who is desperate to earn a pittance. My daughter once worked in such a place in Scotland as a student trying to sell kitchens, and ever since I've had the greatest sympathy for such people. Putting on some organ music seems a gentler way of saying no.
  7. I've found this thread extremely interesting and useful. Just one question - my NHS aids currently do the job quite well at the moment, but if I wanted to try purchasing privately, what's the best route into the private providers' sector? I would want to avoid those who would say their products and service are wonderful in all conceivable respects, in favour of one which hopefully would be less biased and more objective. Are the usual high street chains any good or does one need to be more discriminating? Many thanks.
  8. Lovely questions, innate! So much so that my ego can't resist having a go at answering them, but I'll thereafter run for cover ... " do we know if any non-fretted instruments used ET before the mid-C19? " Yes, they must have done, if only because guitars did (but see ** below) - let's not bring lutes in this time because they have already muddied the water a little. So ET was well known if only for this reason and therefore a candidate for tuning all sorts of other instruments including non-fretted ones. But I'm not sure this is the right question. Non-fretted instruments such as the violin are like the human voice, being played monophonically most of the time and being continuously variable in pitch. So there isn't really a temperament problem in the way that there is for keyboard and fretted instruments in that they can play in any temperament they like if the player is skilled enough and has a good enough ear to cotton on to what other instruments and voices around them are doing. Thus the issue of how the open strings are tuned is pretty much secondary, within reason. But I'd be the first to admit that I'm not really the person to answer this, and the impressively scholarly Catgut Society would probably be a better place to look, where it's no doubt been debated exhaustively (to death? Many times over?). I do have some little experience as an amateur oboist, which although having fixed tone holes, does give the player the ability to 'pull' the pitch of a note up and down by quite a reasonable amount - hence the beautiful vibrato (largely frequency modulation) effects which the best players can coax out of the thing. You become aware of the need to listen carefully to what an ET instrument such as a piano is doing when it is accompanying you, though that would also apply if was tuned in any other temperament such as those which David Pinnegar is pioneering. A valuable perspective here might be coaxed from our colleague S_L who is a professional cellist. I'd like to get his views. " Did ET have a name in the C16, C17 and C18? " Yes, but the names themselves can sometimes contribute more heat than light IMHO. You have to dig into the accompanying maths or detailed tuning instructions to be sure that what the authors are talking about is really ET. Werckmeister is an example. In the late 17th century he was using such terms which translate as 'good temperament' and 'right temperament'. He also used the term 'equal-beating temperament' which has been seized on by those keen to demonstrate that he favoured ET. This was indeed the case towards the end of his written output when he came to reject some of his earlier predilections for unequal temperaments including his own, though it is unclear to me exactly what this particular term means. It could just as easily mean a compromise temperament in which the 5ths beat at a similar rate to the major 3rds, which is certainly not the case with ET. " do we gather from his title “Das wohltemperierte Klavier” that he [Bach] had rejected ET for Klavier music? " You are really trying to put my neck into a noose here aren't you, and I'm not going to fall for it!! 'Well-tempered' (wohltemperierte) probably does not exclude ET but is probably not limited to it is all I feel able to say on the matter. Again, one can find evidence to support this, but no more than this, in Werckmeister. He didn't actually use the term all that often, and even then it was sometimes printed as two words rather than one and with variable spellings. Again, the maths (when available) is the final arbiter. But the meaning of the title of the WTC and the wider question of which temperament(s) Bach favoured, if any, still lie firmly in the realm of speculation and I'm surprised that so many otherwise sensible authors see it as otherwise. We'll have to wait until some lucky musicologist discovers a hidden and previously unknown manuscript that resolves it unequivocally one way or the other ... Oh for the equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls turning up somewhere to settle this one on a better basis than upside-down squiggles or whatever! ------------------------------- ** : when we talk about which temperaments were used hundreds of years ago, we need to remember that tuning was perforce only rather approximate then. For a long time theoreticians, let alone tuners, did not really understand what beats were for example, but only that they existed and they were simply the way things were. And beats couldn't be timed easily until about the mid-18th century at the earliest, nor did tuners appreciate the need to time them until then or even later. This was partly because pitch standards were all over the place, and beat rates depend on pitch (A440 or whatever). So tuning instructions were typically of the form 'let this fifth be nearer perfect than the last', or 'tune this fifth pretty flat', etc, until well after the death of Bach and Handel. So when saying that this or that instrument was tuned to ET, it would only have been an approximation to ET until at least 1800 or so, and often later still. Similarly for most other temperaments. The only intervals which could be tuned really accurately were pure (just) ones which are tuned perfectly with no beat, and this must have been a factor in the preferences for those unequal temperaments which contained them - in fact, the more the merrier. Werckmeister III for example has 8 pure 5ths out of the 11 which are tuned, making it one of the easiest to tune, hence its popularity. All the meantone temperaments and ET have none, making them really tricky to tune in those days. Unless we recall these practical realities of musical life at that time we can easily fall into an anachronistic trap, and many modern writers have done so. Tuning then wasn't like tuning now!
  9. I don't disagree with the above concerning adjustable frets, indeed I correspond privately with a lute maker and lutenist about them. But there's nevertheless a limit to the the amount of flexibility which such frets provide, and this helped to propel the unfretted violin family to the fore, which could play in just about any temperament. However there was a cap as to how much I could put into an already over-long post, though some of what's been written following it has either missed my point, or maybe I didn't make it clearly enough. What I was saying was simply that ET emerged quite early as a well known and fully understood tuning system with definite practical advantages, which either predated the unequal systems or continued to stand alongside them (depending on which temperament you are considering), rather than standing vaguely in the shadows until the 19th century which seems to be the position of many who write on this matter. The issue of what we might prefer today is a separate question, and I'm always interested to hear of different views as to which temperaments people incline to. As I said in my previous post, please don't think I'm pro-ET or anti-anything else. I like and use a lot of temperaments, but wouldn't want to impose them on anyone, and I'm sorry if that didn't come over as well as it ought. It's horses for courses - yer pays yer money and yer teks yer choice!
  10. As might be apparent from some earlier posts and writings elsewhere, I'm deeply interested in temperament myself, though would not like to be seen to be too strongly wedded to either equal temperament on the one hand or unequal temperaments on the other. It isn't a monochrome situation, at least to me, as both camps have their pros and cons. But having said that, I feel some quite basic practical issues get swept under the carpet in the white heat of the debate, not only on this forum but just about everywhere. The first issue I'll mention is to do with history and how ET came to be so dominant (ha, ha ... ). A major factor which caused ET to emerge as a force to be reckoned with out of the increasingly sophisticated mathematical and musical developments of the post-Renaissance era was simply because lutes, viols and similar instruments such as guitars were fretted. These had to be tuned in ET - no ifs or buts. Why? Because with fretted instruments, the pitch of a note produced by a stopped string must obviously be the same as that of an adjacent open string which is supposed to be tuned to the same note. Otherwise the instrument would be out of tune with itself and would be useless for musical purposes. The only temperament which can satisfy this practical criterion over all possible intervals and melodic sequences involving more than a single string is ET (maybe think about it for a bit if you're unsure ... ). A way round this for unequally-tuned string instruments is to make the frets curved rather than straight, but these are about as common as keyboard instruments with split sharps or many more than 12 semitones to the octave, so we can safely ignore them here. Consequently, with today's interests in early music in which lutes and viols figure prominently, together with the importance of classical and (much more importantly from a mass audience viewpoint) electric guitar, it is unthinkable that the other instruments which are often required to form ensembles with them can be tuned other than to ET either. Then there is that 'instrument' called the human voice. Consider someone, or a choir, singing the following sequence of notes: C, up a 5th to G, then down a 4th to D, then up a 5th to A, then down a 4th to E, then down a 3rd back to C. If all these intervals were to be perfect (i.e. if played simultaneously there would be no beat), the two Cs will be out of tune by over a fifth of a semitone (the Syntonic comma, to use the conventional arcane argot)! This is sometimes called Huygens's Paradox, though it wasn't paradoxical to him because he understood the maths behind it. This note sequence is not unique, incidentally, as the problem can arise with others. But continuing with this example for now, suppose also that the voice(s) start off in tune with an organ, say, which then leaves them unaccompanied until the final C when it comes in again. Bang - the tuning discrepancy will be embarrassingly awful, because the organ's two Cs will obviously be the same whereas those of the singers will not. In practice the only reason this does not happen (well, hopefully not very often ... ) is because good singers have a strong enough musical memory of the exact pitches they should be singing when unaccompanied. One reason for the development of this acoustic memory is that they have grown up in a largely ET culture and musical environment. But if the organ accompanying them were to be tuned to some unequal temperament, the singers and their conductor would need to have the most exquisitely acute ears regarding pitch to avoid being publicly humiliated. There are lots of similar practical issues similar to these which need to be taken into account when choice of temperament is up for discussion, but I've already probably said more than enough so will leave it there for now.
  11. I'm sure this must be right - digital technology forges onwards relentlessly in all other fields, so it would be surprising if this doesn't apply to hearing aids. My recent NHS ones do not have a delay or latency that I can detect as such, but only indirectly in that they seem to add a sort of spaciousness to the sound similar to that which one gets from digital reverberation units which also add delays (but deliberately in that case of course - that's how they work, basically by simulating room echoes and thus delays). However I haven't come anywhere near a point where I'd think of shoving them in a drawer, but nevertheless am a bit picky as to the situations when I put them on, such as when watching TV. Wearing them in the street verges on the intolerable owing to traffic noise etc, and even when doing the dishes I have to turn the volume down as otherwise the clashing and clattering is almost painful, not that my wife allows that as an excuse not to do it ... However I've more or less stopped using them for music even though they have a 'music' setting, preferring instead to rely on analogue tone controls or graphic equalisers as mentioned previously on this thread. I think one needs to give oneself a considerable learning period measured in months to find out how best they can help - and I'm sure each individual's preferences will be different. But whatever their shortcomings, personally I wouldn't be without them. Just my two pennies' worth.
  12. It's good that we can explore different schools of organ building at first hand when offshore firms are retained to install their products here. But it is also good to recall that we have our own quite distinctive traditions going back centuries, and to forget that would be a travesty. To select just one instrument, because I have studied its sounds in great detail over 40 years, I would mention the large and beautiful Rushworth and Dreaper romantic organ not far from Pershore at Malvern Priory, fastidiously and sympathetically rebuilt by Nicholson's in 2004 with scarcely any tonal alterations. I recorded its sounds when making what would be called today a 'sample set' way back in 1979, thanks to the courtesy of the then DoM Richard Dacey. Then, it had been tonally reset a couple of years earlier by Rushworth's to more or less its original state in 1927, even though the money was not there to do other jobs such as major work on the action and winding system (not remedied until 2004, and how the thing managed to limp along in the meantime I do not know). 40 years later I am still exploring its beauties, such as the various flute stops (there are 8 and 4 foot flutes on each of the four manuals, all different). As an example, those on the Solo organ are more 'orchestral' in character than most of the others, and the way this was achieved by the voicer was to encourage their even-numbered harmonics to be stronger relative to the odds compared with the other flutes elsewhere. Then there is the glory of having 3 diapasons on the Great, meaning that you can't really criticise the largest one for being too fat when you can just select one of the others! And the way they combine amongst themselves is endlessly fascinating. Then, too, there are the 16/8/4 reeds on Great and Swell, whose contrasts were obviously so well thought out and implemented by someone with golden ears. And I haven't even mentioned the rather fluty mixtures with their somewhat unusual 19th century-style compositions (which I am grateful to Andrew Caskie at Nicholson's for helping me to unravel - quite difficult when all you have are audio recordings to go on!). And the range of beautiful quiet strings and colour reeds - I could go on boring you all for ever ... I realise not everyone gets switched on by organs like this, but picking up on a point made by Martin above who reminded us that organs are usually meant to accompany worship, well, you can certainly do that at Malvern - and then some. Now that 40 years have elapsed since I recorded that pipework, means for making digital reconstructions of the sounds have become commonplace in the guise of the virtual pipe organ (unheard of in 1979), and although perhaps I should not mention it here, I have simulated the Malvern organ in this way at home. This has enabled me to continue exploring its subtleties from an aural and musical standpoint, rather than just from the physics of its sounds. I just hope that we do not allow our own heritage, defined by landmark instruments such as that at Malvern, to become lost or forgotten by whatever changes in fashion might take place in the future.
  13. It looks as though this might be one of those organs which rely on flue choruses carried to high pitches to achieve power and projection, but without the alternative range of dynamics and colour available from a palette of other stops including warmer unisons and quiet reeds. If this is so, and merely expressing a personal opinion, I find that the power and projection are indeed likely to be there but the effect can become (to me) aurally wearisome and a little boring after a while. One of the first instruments of this type I encountered in this country was a long time ago when the Marcussen arrived at St Mary's, Nottingham. Still lauded as a landmark instrument, it might nevertheless be significant that they installed a digital a few years ago on which they seemed to rely heavily when I last took stock of the situation. There's nothing wrong in having more than one instrument in a church of course, especially a large one, since they can be used to support different functions. But one wonders whether the digital at Pershore will actually be disposed of, or retained for use in situations for which the new one might be less than optimum?
  14. It doesn't seem off-topic to me, and I entirely agree. I've done exactly the same with my digital organ here at home with an array of 15-channel graphic equalisers, one equaliser for each audio channel. Since each equaliser incorporates two independent units (because they are stereo devices), one only has to buy half the number of units as channels that one wants to equalise. Without my hearing aids it now enables me to hear half way up the top octave of a 15th stop, but with a much cleaner and less distorted sound than the 'music' program on my aids provides. And it's easy to bypass them and revert to a flat response just by pressing the 'bypass' button on each unit - useful when a younger visiting organist wants to play. An unanticipated spinoff is that youngsters such as visiting teenagers who are heavily into audio are blown away by the sight of all these GEs sitting on top of the organ console - I've mounted them in a small 19 inch equipment rack enclosed in an oak sleeve , rather like the professional audio gear one sees in the recording consoles and mixing desks in places such as the Abbey Road studios!
  15. Nor has there been mention of Poulenc's organ concerto.
  16. Referring to Angela Hewitt, I do not know whether the view expressed by David Pinnegar is a minority one though I nevertheless suspect it is. But for what it's worth, and like Phoneuma, I don't hold it myself. However there's nothing intrinsically wrong in expressing a reasonable opinion, and this forum like all others provides a channel for it. A downside of just sticking with one's opinions, though, is that it is then easy to write endlessly about anything under the sun merely on that basis, and the subject of tuning and temperament is one which is without doubt the worse for it. So, again just for what it's worth, most of the time I try to stick more closely to the facts rather than to confuse them with anecdote, speculation and subjective views. There is an excellent and closely argued essay entitled 'Does 'Well-Tempered' Mean 'Equal-Tempered' by Rudolf Rasch in the collection of 'Bach, Handel, Scarlatti - Tercentenary Essays' edited by the late Peter Williams which I find particularly compelling, and would commend it to anyone who feels they might learn something from his pen.
  17. Some nice points Owen - I like it! But in fact there are shortages of players of some instruments, notably the (ordinary) bassoon, not unconnected with its jokey image and narrow solo repertoire. So one imagines that this situation would be writ large for the subcontra bassoon which is the subject of this thread.
  18. Er, well, I seem to recall that someone once told me a guy called Saint-Saens did exactly that but I never believed him ... But seriously, S_L, I am grateful for your interesting and scholarly comments. And although my subjective opinions count for nothing, I also find the organ entry even in Cockaigne to be pretty stunning, regardless of the fact it's only 14 bars long. I miss it dreadfully when it's not there, in fact I won't pay for a concert ticket if no organist is billed. I also kicked myself once by carelessly buying a CD containing Cockaigne sans organ. But your comments regarding the commercial realities of the situation are well taken - those 14 bars must be pretty near the top of the list of the most expensive performer in the repertoire on a per-bar basis. However mention of money brings us back to the topic - how much has been spent developing these bizarre orchestral instruments (and there are many more besides those mentioned here)? And where has the money come from - physics and music departments in universities persuading governments to fund the R&D programmes from public funds perhaps - i.e. you and me, the unwilling taxpayers? (Wot, no, never. What an outrageous suggestion ... )
  19. I have never quite been able to fathom what sort of sound people (instrument designers and players) want from extreme bass orchestral wind instruments. Acoustically they are very different to organ pipes. Because a single tube of fixed dimensions is being asked to work over some relatively large frequency range, the timbre and power will vary considerably across that range. Also the player is often being asked to shove an impossible amount of air into the thing. Therefore, in the bass there is bound to be relatively little fundamental compared with the harmonics because the impedance match to the atmosphere, and hence power transfer, of a single tube of manageable dimensions reduces with decreasing frequency. It's just the same as why large-diameter loudspeakers are needed to radiate extreme bass. But with a rank of organ pipes one can optimise their scales so that the timbre and power remain subjectively more consistent across the rank - never perfectly of course because even with organ pipes there are practical limits to size, but it's an easier design situation than for orchestral instruments. Of course, the orchestral musician might argue that an ever-larger bassoon is just what the doctor ordered and that nobody in their right mind would consider the pipe organ as the exemplar of good acoustic design. That's fine if they then aren't disappointed by the necessarily buzzy results as they play ever lower notes, rather like one would get with an excessively large regal or vox humana stop. It's also disappointing (to me) that the beautiful sound of the chalumeau register of a clarinet gets lost in any of the excessively large experimental clarinets I've heard. The suppression of the even numbered harmonics relative to the odds characteristic of that register seems to disappear towards the bass, whose notes just become progressively more characterless as the even harmonic amplitudes start to rise again, destroying the tone in the process. Again, this is something that doesn't (or shouldn't!) happen across a clarinet-type organ stop of whatever pitch, since the pipes are all individually designed and voiced to suit the single pitch they have to radiate. The orchestra is sometimes deficient in bass, but I'm unconvinced that importing ever more bizarre and expensive large instruments will solve that problem for reasons of simple physics. The traditional approach has been to employ a pipe organ when necessary, and it grieves me when the instrument is omitted by some conductors who think works such as Gerontius, Cockaigne, Enigma and the Pomps and Circumstances can get away without it. Good old Elgar knew what he was about when it came to orchestration and mixing a good sound palette ...
  20. Very likely. There is a large and well known church in the south of England which has both, and they have timers. It is instructive to read them! And the tracker console does literally gather dust. It's a great pity, not only because of the obvious neglect of an asset which cost a great deal of money, but because its mechanical action was very good when first built (I would go so far as to say astonishingly good) for a large instrument. Having said that, its position is far from being attractive from the player's point of view in terms of hearing the instrument in a balanced manner, and in seeing what's going on in the building during a service. But if one opts for just a detached console, why not make it moveable and take advantage of the fact by wheeling it about frequently to exactly where one wants or needs it on any given occasion? Nowadays there is no need for any physical connection to the action - it can be wireless - so the only thing one needs to do is plug the console into the nearest mains socket to power the combination action and the other internal electronics. Even in pre-wireless days I have never been able to understand why detached consoles were so often more or less fixed in position owing to the connecting cable being confined to under-floor ducting or similar, leading to the problems outlined by Tony.
  21. Sometimes it can assist the projection and impact of a piece if one plays what people already know. If transcriptions are acceptable here, three of Grieg's pieces might be considered. 'Death of Ase' is marked andante doloroso, which at a pinch could therefore be read as adagio, although personally I feel it never really gets anywhere and it slightly bores me so I tend to play it faster - indeed, at a walking pace. However that's just my opinion, and it seems to go down well in my experience on the right occasions. Of his Two Elegiac Melodies, 'The Last Spring' (marked andante but often played slower) moves me beyond words. I find the other one, 'Wounded Heart', less intense somehow. It's marked allegretto espressivo but is also often played more slowly than that.
  22. The Magle forum seems to be alive and well. Yes, it is a useful and well-established one. Did you mean you can't register as a new user, or can't log in as an existing one? I've just tested whether I can log in and it was trouble free, for what it's worth.
  23. Here's the music hall song about an organ blower displaced by electricity which I alluded to above. Music and author unknown (at least to me) but c. 1920. Apparently it was supposed to have been sung in a west country accent (e.g. Somerset). It's an interesting perspective on social history that the church organ was still so much part of everyday life then that it could figure in a popular show. How things have changed. 1 When I blows the organ for our mister Morgan Who plays at our church every Sunday so grand! The wind in the bellows makes music like ‘cellos And fiddles and trumpets – it’s just like a band! 2 At weddings I pumps while the other chap thumps And the choir sings a hymn if they knows it. The organ’s a treat but without me it’s beat ‘Cos I am the fellow what blows it! 3 But now times are changing, at least that’s what they say For things are all done in a new-fangled way. And yesterday Vicar he says to me “Joe, At the end of the year I’m a-feared you must go!” 4 I asked him what for, and he said with a sigh, “’Cos the new organ’s blowed by electriciteye”. But p’r’aps when I’m gone all the folks will say “No, It don’t sound the same now without poor old Joe!”
  24. This sounds like a good solution, though I prefer to have my phone switched off during a service. But I should admit that my predilection for mechanical pocket watches is because I just like them, and sometimes they actually come in useful!
  25. Wender's little 2/21 Arnstadt organ has no less than five 8 foot flue stops on the Oberwerk (the main division); there were only 6 manual flue unisons on the entire instrument. It would probably be pretty pointless using more than a couple of them in the pleno because any more would add next to nothing to the loudness while at the same time run the risk of annoying the organ blowers because of the substantially greater wind demand. And they would probably get even more annoyed if you played too slowly using too many unisons ...
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