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davidh

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  1. Last year Folo Paril told me of the problems that he had synchronising with singers, given the distance and the finite speed of sound. He told me that his negative delay system hadn’t worked well as he had hoped. He now has a far better arrangement, a detached wireless console which allows him to sit almost among his choir. Folo is never satisfied, and now, listening to the organ where he can hear it better, he is aware that the pipes in the treble speak sooner than the ones in the bass. He thought about the design of the pallets, aware that their perimeter was more important than their area and he increased their leverage to admit air more rapidly in the bass. He also played with the voicing and concluded that the physics of the system would always mean that a larger pipe would take longer to reach full speech. The only way to achieve simultaneity was to delay the treble pipes so that they began sounding at the same time as the ones in the bass. He accordingly added delays to the signals from the console, in proportion to the speaking delay of each pipe. Of course that means a slightly longer time before the notes are heard, but nothing like the delays that resulted from tubular pneumatic actions – and organists coped with them. Now he is not sure that he likes the sound of it. Perhaps the slightly different delays help us to distinguish between the different voices in contrapuntal music. Perhaps the ear is aware that in nature large things move more slowly than small ones. He is assembling a panel of psycho-acoustic experts and musicians to judge the effects of sychronising pipe speech. Notes. 1. The designers of electronic instruments should not make all voices sound simulteously without considering whether this is really desirable. 2. Televisions, DVD players and soundbars all perform a lot of processing, each with its own delay time. The standard remedy is to add extra delays to the fastest units so that sound and vision are in synchronisation. This is easily defeated by television stations which do not equalise the processing times of sound and video paths, but sometimes the fault is in the receiver - try changing channels and then change back again to clear the sound buffers.
  2. This needed to be debatted.
  3. There is the legendary story of the gents toilet in a certain music school where someone wrote "What do you think of Stainer's Crucifixion" and someone else replied underneath, "It would be a good idea".
  4. Colin Pykett recommended a Zoom recorder and he mentioned that similar devices are available from Tascam. I go on annual organ tours with the same group of people, a few of whom have very high-spec recorders, but several have Zooms and Tascams. I bought a Tascam DR-05, currently about £85, and had little time to play with it before the last trip, and certainly no time to work through the extensive options in the manual, so I just did the minimum amount of set-up, put it on a camera tripod and set it to record. I am very pleased with the results. It is easy to transfer them to a PC where they need little editing, other than cutting the pieces from a recital into separate tracks.
  5. There may be many other sites, but I often listen to http://orgelradio.eu/ in spite of the commercials appearing between some pieces. It offers a good selection of music from CDs and has a 24-hour programme announced in advance. There is also http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/ with 2-hour programmes, each devoted to a specific topic. I would be interested to hear of any other similar sites.
  6. Folo Paril told me of a problem that he has just solved. He often has to accompany the church’s favourite soprano, but, as he is high up in the organ loft and she is almost at the other end of the church, it is difficult to provide a sensitive and responsive accompaniment. There is a perceptible delay before the sounds of the organ reach her and the same delay before her voice is heard back in the organ loft. His first attempted solution was CCTV and the almost instaneous response of an old analogue system might have helped, but modern digital systems respond too slowly. Folo eliminated the return time from the singer by placing a radio microphone near the singer to relay her sound back to his headphones, but there was still the delay before the organ sound reached her. He then had a new idea. He has a digital reverberation system attached to the electronic organ on which he practices at home. His device is entirely digital. It stores sound samples in a circular buffer and the samples are read out with various delays and summed in various proportions to simulate a variety of different acoustics. Folo observed that by selecting only values close to a particular delay it is possible to create an echo effect with a delay expressed in microseconds as a number greater than zero. He has now modified the software in the device so that it will accept negative numbers and this produces a negative delay. Thus he hears the singer in perfect synchronisation with his playing. I told him that this contradicted the basic laws of physics. He passed me his Tascam sound recorder and sent me downstairs with the instruction that I should not press the start button until I heard his first note. I protested that the recording would omit much of the first second of his music, but he told me to try it. When we played it back there was a brief silence before his first note was heard clearly from the beginning. Somehow it had started recording before I pressed the start button. If readers doubt this, I urge them to experiment with a Tascam or similar recorder, and they will prove for themselves that these have the gift of prophecy, beginning to record two seconds before the record button is pressed. · A Tascam can buffer the sounds that it hears before it starts recording, and when the record button is pressed it will transfer the contents of the buffer to the output file before it starts adding new sounds. For this to work it has to be switched to ‘pre-record’ mode.
  7. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soissons_Cathedral which has a brief mention and further links.
  8. Thank you for those suggestions. I'm sure that a modern continuo organ would be very effective, and its compact format would not be obtrusive. Is that format a recent invention, or were there much earlier instruments like these? The Lorenzo da Pavia organ, 3.20 m high, would not be so convenient - and there were to be two such organs. The illustrations of early instruments that I have seen are far from compact. What compass would be necessary? Without checking the whole score, I know that the bass goes down to at least DD, and while a chittarone might play the lower notes, there are occasions when only the organ is marked in the score. Why two organs? Perhaps to permit echo effects! Wonderful though Monteverdi is, his scores leave a lot of room for guesswork today.
  9. Monteverdi's opera Orfeo requires a large variety of accompanying instruments. Much of the score is melody + figured bass, with the continuo players left to realise the notes. Among the instruments are "two organs of wood" and a regal. Does anyone have any information of what these organs might have been, and perhaps even a link to an online source with an illustration of anything similar, please?
  10. In many Dutch churches there are raised galleries for the notables. I assumed that they were to provided so that the occupants could see and hear the preacher better. Now I see that they were put in the "sweet spots" for the organ. I propose that UK churches with good organs should build similar galleries so that those musically inclined could share the best recording microphone position.
  11. I am very sad to hear of the death of John S Smith. My aunts, who were his neighbours, introduced me to him just after his father died and they thought that he would appreciate some company. At our first meeting in his home, about 1957, he played the adagio from BWV564 on his reed organ - and on that instrument it sounded very well. At that time I had only heard transcriptions, hymns and rather sentimental pieces on the organ, but John introduced me to Buxtehude and Couperin which sounded very strange until I quickly became hooked on "real" organ music. I went with him to Hove Town Hall just before their Willis was sold 1959 to Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School - and before the Town Hall burnt down. He played, among other pieces, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in F, BWV 540, and he let me play a hymn tune, so I was one of the last people to play that organ in its original home. I have encountered John on many occasions since then, nearly always at recitals. He eventually swapped his reed organ for an electronic, and started buying organ recordings. With both of these he was critical about sound quality, and waited until there was equipment that he could bear to listen to. He was always enthusiastic and encouraging, very well informed and willing to share his knowledge. I owe my passion for the organ to John. If it had not been for him, I don't know whether I would have ever known about the instrument's potential, and certainly I would not have become aware of it so early.
  12. Oscar Wilde is credited with saying,"Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best". He was probably quoting from an old notice which said: Non occidete pulsator organum; ut optimum faciat. ( Pray you do not shoot the organist for he doeth his best )
  13. ... and also at http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/apr/08/peter-williams-obituary
  14. At present there are no satisfactory substitutes for 32’ and 64’organ pipes, but they require a lot of space and a lot of money. Folo Paril recently suggested a new approach. It is well known that inhaling helium (now considered risky) raises the pitch of the voice. It follows that heavier gases will produce lower pitches from physical systems of identical size. He proposes organ pipes sounding in atmospheres of Xenon or Sulfur Hexafluoride. The speed of sound in air is 343m/s, in Xenon it is 169m/s and in SF6 it is 134m/s. He is currently researching other gases with even lower speeds of sound. Therefore substantially smaller pipes will be sufficient for the lower frequencies. He suggests that the 32’ and 64’ terminology should be retained, even though the pipes will no longer be those physical lengths. It is unreasonable to expect the audience to breath unusual gases, so the bass organ chambers will be enclosed in solid surrounds with fronts of gas-tight but acoustically transparent membranes. As the chambers will be be sealed, the gas can be recirculated through the blower. The heat gained by compression in the blower will be lost as the gas expands through the pipes, so low-energy thermal controllers will be sufficient to match the temperature in the enclosure to the surrounding air, avoiding mismatches of pitch. Mr Paril is prepared to licence his technology to builders, subject to the usual agreements on commercial confidentiality and the payment of large sums of money.
  15. A great loss to the musical world. His "Life of Bach" had the merits of being brief, scholarly, offering new hypotheses and very readable. For we organists there is nothing else comparable to his book "The Organ Works of Bach". I still remember with great pleasure a piece which he wrote for Early Music, about 40 years ago, entitled, "A toccata and fugue in D minor for organ by J. S. Bach" in which he questioned every part or the title. "Toccata AND FUGUE"; no other pieces of that time had that title, "Toccata" was enough as it would automatically end with a fugue", "In D minor"; there is a good case for arguing that the original key was a minor. "For organ"; it fits better on a violin. "By J. S. Bach"; there are no early manuscripts or attributions to JSB, the piece is crude by his standards, even as a student work, and there were some unusual harmonies (but then JSB often did unusual things). Whoever wrote it, there is a good case for asserting that it was originally for violin solo, and the limitations of the fugue were to make it playable on that instrument. In A minor it works well as several recordings have demonstrated.
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