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Colin Pykett

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Everything posted by Colin Pykett

  1. Like others here, I'm just as stumped as to why the organ doesn't press the buttons of the concert-going public in Britain. If the various very cogent reasons proposed are to explain it, why do they not seem to apply as strongly in other countries where the organ attracts a greater following (a phenomenon also remarked on above)? I realise this question has been posed several times before on this forum, but the dichotomy has existed for most of my remembered lifetime and I have no explanation for it.
  2. I too do not understand why this recital is scheduled for a Sunday morning. When I was working in London a long time ago now in the early 1990s, I attended many concerts including the Proms (I was fortunate in being able to live in Notting Hill just across the park from the gasworks, to which one could walk after an early dinner and get there in time for the event to begin). During those years there was always an organ recital, it was scheduled early in the evening (typically 6 pm as I recall) which meant that the main concert could begin afterwards - and I usually stayed for that as well. The audiences were not huge for the organ events but nevertheless respectable. The main problem in those days was the somewhat parlous state of the organ. It is therefore a great pity, now the organ has been so splendidly restored, that it seems to be so relegated in importance relative to other musical events at the Proms.
  3. There is an extract about 10 minutes long from the BBC radio 'Desert Island Discs' programme featuring Noel Rawsthorne at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p009n9xh It was broadcast on New Year's Day 1973. None of his music choices are included though they are listed on the web page.
  4. It's not the first time the organ has had problems with its electronics, though the background was different then: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg14619731-800-notre-dames-organ-falls-silent/ Then things got even worse: https://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/03/world/paris-journal-notre-dame-s-organ-and-computer-are-no-duet.html Though M Boisseau's reported jest at the end of this piece now sounds particularly unfortunate.
  5. For various reasons of no interest here I get involved in copyright issues quite often. The most recent arranger of a work will frequently be the copyright holder, or her/his estate if deceased. I assume the arranger you are referring to here is Clifford Harker, in which case the remaining copyright will probably have many years to run. One can encounter difficulties if one does not remember this. Another example is the 'Largo, Allegro, etc' variations by Festing arranged by Thalben-Ball. While Festing died in the 1750s, GTB's copyright will not expire for nearly 40 years yet. Therefore those who blithely upload their performances to youtube or other popular websites seemingly have no idea of the problems they will encounter if the copyright police (who continually and aggressively comb the internet for infringers) decide to take action. It is particularly vicious because, even if you take down an item should they contact you, you will quite likely still be taken to court if you refuse to pay them an arbitrary penalty for the period during which you were the infringer. The same can apply to those including it in recitals or on CDs etc without prior agreement. I'm not a copyright lawyer but one doesn't have to be. The rules are pretty simple and aggressively enforced as case law shows. If a plaintiff provides evidence that you infringed, the court will simply find against you with no further argument, and of course add costs on top of a fine or other penalty.
  6. There's a photo of the Christchurch polyphone here (source acknowledgement: NPOR): https://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/XMLFunctions.cgi?Fn=GetPicture&Rec_index=D06714&Number=3 If you look carefully you can discern the separate wood covers to the various chambers.
  7. I believe the Compton diaphone at Christchurch Priory was retained at the 1999 Nicholson rebuild. I played it at that time, and if my recollection is correct it survived as the 16 foot Contra Bass on the Nave pedal division. It certainly was not of the 'foghorn' variety, having a quiet grip and definition which many flue registers at that pitch could do well to imitate. However, if you prefer something of a more visceral (even if not quite foghorn) nature, you could try the well-trodden Hope-Jones examples at Pilton, Devon and Llanrhaeadr, assuming they are still there - I haven't been near either for some while now. There is also an 8-note Compton polyphone unit at Christchurch as I recall, forming part of the 32' Sub Bass pedal stop.
  8. Both this and the photo on the front cover are of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NYC. Funnily enough I had the issue near at hand as I'm considering compiling an index for the several decades' worth I have amassed. There's an awful lot of highly interesting and in some cases important information which is, unfortunately, very difficult to access even in those cases where one can recall (usually vaguely) that something or other was once written about a particular subject way back in the mists of time. I don't think OR itself offers such an index, though I might be misinformed. If I'm correct though, it seems a great pity that so much information and, in many cases, scholarship, is so difficult to access.
  9. When I was an impressionable teenager I attended an Anglican evangelical church, and on one occasion my father decided to accompany me to a service. On entering he was asked by an earnest elderly lady whether he had been saved. "From what?" he replied, much to my mortification. During those years though I myself was "saved" by a rather fat though pale imitation of Billy Graham called Eric Hutchings. Looking back I can only cringe at my memories of what an utter load of rubbish it all was. How embarrassing it now seems. Actually I now realise that the only reason I went to church at all was because the buildings contained organs, and that particular one had quite a respectable three-decker which they allowed me to practice on. I doubt that would have been the case had I not agreed to be "saved" ...
  10. Something like this which relies on digital electronics will be at the mercy of everything which afflicts digital electronics, both its hardware and software. One issue concerns repairs if it goes wrong, at which point a consequential matter often arises concerning obsolescence. On the hardware side, will the necessary parts such as replacement printed circuit boards or the integrated circuits they contain still be available? Will the manufacturers of the system still be around to do the job? How rapidly will obsolescence take place - in the computer world it is difficult to have one repaired which is more than five years old for example, and even this figure is optimistic. Replacement rather than repair is the name of the game, and this is extremely expensive. And what causes the system to go wrong? In large, tall buildings one cannot rule out lightning strikes. We see all these factors arising so often in organs today that we are almost inured to it. I could go on, especially as I haven't even mentioned the software side of things. These are technological facts of life. It is entirely possible that they were taken into account before the instrument was designed and procured because they form part of the through-life costs of systems today ranging from washing machines to cars to, well, you name it. While they work they are great, but when they go wrong it's an entirely different ball game.
  11. Thank you, Zimbelstern. Yes, I came across this back in 2017 and it is indeed a most useful paper. I have to be careful not to hijack this IMSLP thread, so will limit myself to saying that one has to be very aware of historical milestones across several disciplines to properly interpret writings on tuning in this era. It was only towards the end of Werckmeister's life in the late 1600s that knowledge of the mere concept of absolute frequency, so casually taken for granted today, was becoming widespread and even vaguely understood - as witness the demonstration by Robert Hooke to the Royal Society of a piece of card held against a rotating toothed wheel. Lo and behold, it emitted a musical note! This was startlingly novel at the time (if it hadn't been it would not have taken place in front of that august gathering), and snippets of information such as this are essential to set the work of early temperament theorists against their proper background. Otherwise it is all too easy to look backwards with the benefit of today's hindsight and generate 'research' of which far too much is hopelessly anachronistic and thus of poor quality.
  12. I agree with much of the above, as the points made impinge negatively on my own research in both physics and music. Regarding the latter, I envy Zimbelstern's ability to read the old German texts which are almost impenetrable to me. I have to rely on the modern scholarship of others to unlock their secrets, though even here much of it remains untranslated and difficult and expensive to access for the reasons Zimbelstern mentioned. But as just one example of the importance of persevering I might mention Andreas Werckmeister who seems to be routinely deified, at least by Brits, as one of the most far-sighted thinkers of all time in tuning and temperament. But this received wisdom starts to look a bit skewed when you discover things like how his early intellectual development was stymied for life by the Thirty Years' War, that he was a musician rather than a mathematician or 'natural philosopher', that nowhere in his writings is there mention of other European temperament scholars from Galileo to Newton and beyond, that hardly any of them had even heard of him, that he didn't really like his own Werckmeister III temperament, and that although he listened to beats while tuning he almost certainly did not understand what generated them nor their genesis in physics and mathematics. So does this diminish his status? Not a bit of it, because he was a self-taught prodigy whose hard-won knowledge was based on practical experiment and musicianship which was immediately comprehended by other practical tuners and musicians within a limited geographical area including J S Bach who owned at least one of his books. He was one of them rather than the theoretician living in an ivory tower so often pictured, anachronistically, by writers today. So it is indeed faintly ridiculous that we have to work so hard and spend so much time and money trying to get really quite basic information even in today's digital age.
  13. @Tony Newnham: Many thanks indeed Tony. This is most helpful. I thought you might be able to illuminate the darkness! Colin
  14. This is merely to enquire whether there's a market for reed organ bits and pieces. I don't know the answer since my interests lie with pipe organs rather than reed organs. However they sometimes become an email topic, and it seems a shame that virtually unobtainable items like reed sets, keyboards, vox humana motors, 16 foot reed units and all the rest are mostly sent to landfill (not by me I hasten to add but by their owners, who usually give me little time to reply before the organs are scrapped). I'm speaking mainly of instruments which are in such poor condition that the amount of work involved in restoring them would not seem to be worthwhile, owing to things like major vermin and worm damage, wood rot, etc. I've looked at the Cambridge Reed Organs site but couldn't see any contact info given there, and other avenues such as the Fluke's museum at Saltaire are now sadly gone. Of course, those I come across are mostly run of the mill suction instruments and probably of little value even as a going concern, but as I said, maybe the components would be welcomed by somebody. I guess the obvious answer is ebay but thought other forum members might know of other options.
  15. The discussion here, as with virtually all others I have ever come across, seems to assume that the attributes of various temperaments are independent of the instruments they are set up on. This is quite untrue. The organ is unique among all other keyboard instruments in that different registrations can dramatically influence the aural effect of whatever temperament is in use. The following clip is of the same hymn tune played on an Open Diapason stop using ET and then quarter comma meantone. Note that the key of A flat was chosen deliberately to illustrate the sheer awfulness of the Wolf fifth: http://www.pykett.org.uk/OpenDiap-ET-4thComma.mp3 Now listen to the same hymn using a Stopped Diapason: http://www.pykett.org.uk/StopDiap-ET-4thComma.mp3 This time the fast-beating Wolf has virtually disappeared, and this key in this temperament, while not necessarily to everyone's taste, has now become more or less useable. This could hardly be said for the previous Open Diapason rendition. Why is this? I'm afraid you'll have to read the whole article to find out because the explanation is too involved to give here. http://www.pykett.org.uk/temperament-and-timbre.htm Something to take away from this is that, in the days when unequal temperaments were the norm, it is quite likely that organists were fully aware of this and were perhaps (or probably?) capable of ameliorating the worst effects of the poorer keys by selecting their registrations carefully. In the article I have gone further to suggest that Bach might even have teased us in his output by writing at least some of it in such a way as to highlight the direness of the worst keys, or not, depending on how skilful the players were at disguising the dissonances with a suitable choice of stops. Obviously this is highly speculative, but I couldn't resist mentioning it. It is a phenomenon that someone of his intellectual mightiness must have come across. I mean, if I as a mere amateur musician have noticed it, surely he would have done without scarcely thinking about it? I must also apologise for having recorded these examples using a virtual pipe organ rather than the real thing. I regret not being in a position to have undertaken the necessary retunings on a pipe organ just to make these demo recordings of a few seconds in duration. However the historic instrument which was sampled (St Mary Ponsbourne, Walker 1858) was fully restored not long ago by our hosts, so I hope I might be forgiven to some extent for this heresy. I should also like to thank the organist there for having recorded the raw samples - he has written articles about this interesting instrument in Organists' Review, and he as well as these articles are acknowledged more fully in my web article referred to above.
  16. If some keys in a particular temperament are 'better' than ET in the sense of having purer thirds or other intervals, then as night follows day there will be other keys which are worse than ET. This is a problem which cannot be worked around if we are to retain keyboards with only twelve physical notes to the octave. If the problem could be fixed easily, there would be no temperament issue worth discussing in the first place. Although I'm sure you will know this, it might be worth mentioning. So adopting an unequal temperament means that, yes, you might get some purer-sounding keys which some people might find attractive, but there will also be some which are less so, and some of these can be unusable in certain temperaments. It's largely subjective as to how people judge the importance of these matters. In my opinion everybody is entitled to their view, and they shouldn't be criticised if they decide that unequal temperaments are not for them and they are quite content to live with ET. Or, on the other hand, others might really love the differences in key colour which a particular temperament offers and which can be exploited deliberately by composers. So don't take any notice of those who might badger you to forsake ET - just tell them to live and let live (politely, naturally ... )
  17. He (and the others) are in good company. George Thalben-Ball apparently used to do it.
  18. It's exactly the same with my Hope-Jones research, and in some cases worse. For over a century some eminent people have apparently thought they can just write down their subjective opinions with no attempt at justification, along the lines of "he built the worst organs ever made" , etc. At the other pole are those whose fawning sycophancy verges on the revolting. None of this sort of material is scholarly, regardless of who the authors might be. In the end I decided to put a representative collection of their remarks into an Appendix in the article, mainly for entertainment value to compensate for the bulk of it which must be dry as dust for most readers! The way I got round the myths and legends problem was to deliberately choose an issue (his electric actions) about which I was able to amass sufficient material at an objective, engineering level to counter statements of this sort. In engineering, things will either work or they won't, and if you can find out enough about them you can determine which applies. After some twenty years collecting what material I could lay my hands on, I had become impressed enough with what HJ had done to think about writing it down. I was also immeasurably assisted by the work of a few, unsung, others who generously allowed me access to the fruits of their labours and permitted me to include it. They are acknowledged in the article. I note from one of his posts that one way MM has tried to separate fact from fiction relating to Compton is by correlating information from several sources. Now that is a scholarly approach which historians worthy of the name are trained to adopt, and one which I wish had been more visible in the HJ case. Sorry, I'm hijacking a Compton thread, but it has evoked these resonances with one of his predecessors whose work was to some extent taken forward by him. At the engineering level their work is a bit like honeysuckle - closely intertwined.
  19. I think I know something of what you are experiencing. I wrote a long diatribe about a far narrower subject, the development of Hope-Jones's electric actions in his early years before he left for the USA, and even that ran to some 37,000 words and 90-plus A4 pages, whereas you are covering the entire life of an organ builder. My first thought was to publish it, but the sheer difficulties involved - trying to interest a publisher, tweaking the manuscript into the format they would have wanted, etc, etc - rather put me off after a few initial sorties. So, as I already had a website, I merely stuck it onto that as a PDF file for all to see. It didn't make me any money of course, not that I was looking to turn a profit, but it would have been nice to have recouped at least some of my expenses of the sort you will undoubtedly have incurred. However it has now been so widely read, used and commented on that it has generated the consolation prize of giving me a lot of satisfaction at having done it. I also feel pleased that I was able to present what I believe to be an objective view of H-J's achievements which overturned quite a lot of the rather shabby so-called 'scholarship' which had gone before. So against this background I wish you well for these final stages of your endeavours, and hope they turn out as you would wish. (Incidentally, the last major update of my article was back in 2010 and I have now amassed so much additional information that it all really needs to be integrated into a new edition. So I suspect it won't be too long before I'll need to get immersed in going through the same processes all over again. Just think, you'll no doubt reach the same point in years to come ... !) PS. Have you thought about registering with a university and getting a PhD out of it - seriously?
  20. I'm not sure I can contribute much more to a debate which hinges on what someone said to someone else - surely the simplest thing is to go back and ask the originator to expand and clarify? I'm sure this would be incomparably better than further huffing and puffing on my part. But in the meantime, it might be relevant to recall that Willis was close to Wesley, who mourned the passing of unequal temperaments. And Cavaillé-Coll's temperament(s) are being re-examined as the following example of several known to me shows: http://www.isabellelagors-christianott.fr/files/downloads/Les_temp--raments.pdf The first paragraph says: "A few decades ago, the vast majority of musicians, organists, organ builders and musicologists were convinced that Aristide Cavaillé-Coll had always left his instruments in equal temperament. But the information we have today shows that he used unequal temperaments! " But as I said in a previous post, these things are not fixed, they evolve over time. What a builder might have done at one time and in one instrument isn't necessarily what applied to another at a later date. And the preferences of the customer and consultant can exert an influence as well, over and above what the builders themselves might prefer to do. For instance, this might have applied to the temperaments sometimes used by Willis at Wesley's insistence, though the evidence here can be rather flaky. But none of this is really surprising. In this era (the first half of the 19th century roughly speaking), one has to set temperament in general and tuning practices in particular against the contemporary zeitgeist. It was not much earlier that written tuning instructions were still of the form "let this fifth be nearer perfect than the last tho' not quite"! No mention of beats, and therefore nothing on beat rates either. Helmholtz and Rayleigh had still to come along and give some real theoretical underpinning to the science of acoustics, which at that time was still poorly understood. Only a few milestones exist in the codified literature before that, in particular a remarkable book by Robert Smith c.1750 who was one of the first to understand what 'tuning' should actually entail. Among many other things he said that "times of beating may be measured by a watch that shews seconds or a simple pendulum of any given length". But he was a mathematician and a classicist and his book remains difficult to read even today, so whether the average tuner would have bought it or even come across it is doubtful. And most of them couldn't have afforded it anyway. All this underlines the importance of what Bruce Buchanan said above about the scientific abilities of Cavaillé-Coll, which are all the more remarkable when one sets them against the background of his time. (I mean, how many other young organ builders were giving lectures on theoretical acoustics to the Parisian Academy of Sciences or comparable institutions elsewhere?)
  21. Hugh Banton may know the answers. He has written a detailed, highly readable and very interesting account of the origins of Makin Organs which includes their roots in the rump of Compton - as you may know. It's on the web at: https://www.organworkshop.co.uk/images/files/Makin_history_1972-1992.pdf Just a thought. I can't think of a better person.
  22. I hesitate to keep banging on about temperament as it's a subject which inspires a spectrum of interest ranging from complete indifference to neurotic obsession. In addition, it's fruitful ground for those who enjoy discoursing about things which by definition have no end point, not unlike philosophy or theology for instance. So I'll just mention a couple of things and then go away. Firstly Cavaillé-Coll's and Willis's temperaments almost certainly evolved during their lifetimes, as did those of most builders during the 19th century as temperaments and the sheer mechanics of tuning moved away from the vaguenesses of late 18th century practice (which are often the subject of present-day anachronism by some who insist things were better defined than they actually were). There were several reasons for this which I won't go into. So when one asks questions like "what temperament did they use", one also has to ask "and when were they using it and in which instruments". But another point is that people do not perceive temperaments (i.e. small tuning differences) in the same way. Some are extremely sensitive to it, whereas others are pretty laid back., so even if they notice it they might not bother overmuch. As just one example, how many people know (or did know) that most analogue electronic organs from the mid-1970s until their demise were tuned to a mildly unequal temperament in which two fifths were tuned pure right across the compass (D-A and Eb-Bb)? (Yes, I know they were awful, but bear with me). In ET, which they were supposed to be tuned to, all fifths should be slightly flat (narrow) from pure. And this was fixed precisely by the way they worked, so even if the overall tuning drifted, these intervals maintained their relative tuning and remained exactly pure. Did it matter? Well, having tuned some digital and pipe organs to it more recently, I find it quite attractive, but then, I'm not an impartial observer since I had a priori information, having known about the phenomenon anyway. The more important point is whether it was noticed by those who didn't. This only goes to show what a slippery subject the whole thing is, not a million miles away from trying to pick up water.
  23. Coincidentally, I also am trying to find out about a mixture which in this case once actually existed on a Victorian English organ but was subsequently removed. Like Matej, I was (and am) intending to seek the help of forum members. But I've been pipped to the post! Regarding the current question, it is at least possible if not probable that the hypothetical mixture in this Keates organ, had there been one, would have contained a tierce rank. So it might be of interest that there was a very thorough and detailed article on this subject in the BIOS Journal some years ago. See: "Thoughts on the inclusion of the Tierce rank in English mixture stops, 1660-1940", William McVicker and David Wickens, JBIOS vol. 32, 2008, pp. 100-162. This can be obtained via the BIOS website at: https://www.bios.org.uk/store/products_results.php?pageNum_WADAproducts=1&totalRows_WADAproducts=50 (although I should point out that I was grateful to obtain a copy from a good friend who is also the titulaire of the instrument mentioned above).
  24. You spoke of 'false accuracy', though I'm unsure what that means. If something is accurate, then it's accurate, and vice versa. I think precision is the word which better describes what you mentioned above. There are two issues here which are often confused. One is the fact that acoustic instruments cannot realistically be tuned to minute fractions of a cent, though even if they could, you quite rightly point out that it would be a waste of time because of subsequent tuning drift. However the second issue is that it is also proper and necessary when doing arithmetic to maintain numerical precision to fractions of a cent (desirably two decimal places) throughout calculations on temperament, otherwise there is a danger that truncation or rounding errors will accumulate excessively in the final step. There is nothing new in this - one should always use at least one more decimal place in the intermediate steps of a calculation than that required in the answer. Padgham himself agreed and said so (though it is then unclear why he broke his own rule later on in his book!). Exactitude necessarily lies at the heart of temperament studies of the sort Padgham undertook, otherwise we can't decide at what point to call off certain debates before they become meaningless. One example is the difference between the fifth (Syntonic) comma and sixth (Pythagorean) comma meantone tunings (this latter being the so-called Silbermann temperament). As you doubtless are aware, the relative merits of these continue to excite discussion, but I sometimes wonder whether the fact they are very close is missed by certain interlocutors. This is because the two commas are nearly equal - the fifth comma equals 4.30 cents whereas the sixth comma is 3.91 cents - and note the two decimal places! So, less than half a cent between them, or three parts of naff all in practice to a tuner. This being so, can the subjective and allegedly musical differences between these tunings really merit the amount of scholarly time that has been spent on them? Plus the fact that, if you tune one of them as best you can, it will have drifted off anyway in one direction or the other by the time tomorrow comes? I do suspect that those who have immersed themselves in this and similar issues might have misled themselves through the use of digital instruments, which of course can hold their tuning precisely to fractions of a cent, whereas acoustic instruments cannot. Another issue, and one which Padgham appreciated, is that some so-called unequal temperaments are to all intents and purposes equal. This is true of Silbermann's sixth (Pythagorean) comma meantone tuning for example. One cannot realistically use all keys of course unless one is in a particularly masochistic frame of mind, and in this sense the temperament is unequal. Yet in the 'good' keys in which the Wolf fifth does not appear there are no differences in key flavour, just like in equal temperament. This arises because, apart from the Wolf, the remaining eleven fifths are narrowed or flattened by the same amount. This makes it an equal temperament for the 'good' keys. Another similarity with equal temperament which is of practical interest to tuners is that the beat rates in sixth comma meantone are exactly twice as fast as those in ET. This might be why Silbermann is reputed to have switched easily between his (allegedly preferred) sixth comma meantone and ET, to pacify people (allegedly such as Bach) who objected to his Wolf. One can switch easily because of the simple relationship between the beat rates just mentioned, since a tuner accustomed to tuning one by ear will have no difficulty tuning the other merely by shifting to an adjacent octave to lay the bearings. Which brings us back neatly to where we came in. These insights only attract our attention because we (should) undertake theoretical temperament studies to a degree of precision which is inappropriate for practical tuning in the real world. There is therefore a place for exactitude, but I agree with you that it does have to be kept in its place. I hope your piano tuning seminar will be all you hope it to be, though if it were me I would soft-pedal your belief that (quote) "in the piano world it is a matter of ignorance and fear of the unknown"! I had always assumed that world contained quite a few clever, rather than ignorant, people. One of them is Fred Sturm, who wrote a multi-part, highly detailed and very scholarly series of articles in the Piano Technicians' Journal which are among the best I have ever seen on temperament. If you haven't come across it I commend it to you. But maybe pianists don't lurk on here though, so you might be OK.
  25. Padgham's book is indeed useful in many ways, but I'm afraid it contains many numerical errors. The following article enumerates those I tracked down a few years ago: http://www.pykett.org.uk/padghams-well-tempered-organ.htm
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