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Why Do We Bother?


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Guest Patrick Coleman
Um . . . consecutive fourths, consecutive, fifths, octaves and inversions . . . Wonderful stuff which we all enjoy. But it proves the gist of what I was saying . . . that it all goes above a congregation's head so they talk - it's ivory tower stuff irrelevant to them - . . . no point in throwing pearls before swine - except of course where there is a really inspiring organ . . . unless, with the most inspiring gem of an organ we can think of, the congregation are . . . .

 

If you really think that the congregation is swine, then you have lost the battle before you begin. They will most of the time live up to your expectations, high or low.

 

Perhaps the moral is to spend less time pontificating about them and more time encouraging them.

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'Superstition'?

 

I tend to think that several hundred years of its being a rule would tend to suggest something more than "a tenuous basis".

 

If you want clumsy sentence construction then the instance I saw at an antiques sale takes some beating: on a nicely-done, green and red enameled sign hung over a rather grand dealer's wares -

 

"We are pleased to also BUY" - I challenge anyone to suggest that this, a split infinitive at its worst, is anything other than extremely ugly.

 

It seems to me (as a simple, Grammar Schooled chap) that when these rules are forsaken either through wanton disregard or by sheer ignorance or carelessness, the results are telling enough - this applies both the the rules of grammar AND Harmony. How many on this list have recollections of the Kitson harmony books? These were standard reading when I was at School and, later, Walter Piston was de rigeur. The fact that they are now almost completely disregarded is very clearly demonstrated by the appalling efforts to which we are subject in the name of 'Contemporary music' - at least all of the letters of the word which I would use to describe it are in the word 'Contemporary'!

 

DW B)

 

The example you quote is clearly an ugly, poor construction. A healthy disregard for the "rule" does not imply that infinitives should be purposefully split at every opportunity. The most important "rule" in any language is to construct clear sentences which convey the meaning succinctly and with clarity; creative writing is a different case, but not what we are talking about here. If to achieve that clarity one has to transgress the odd "rule" here and there, then I think that is perfectly acceptable. Indeed, in 1907 (before you were schooled, David), the Fowler brothers commented (in The King's English) that "the 'split' infinitive has taken such hold upon the consciences of journalists that, instead of warning the novice against splitting his infinitives, we must warn him against the curious superstition that the splitting or not splitting makes the difference between a good and a bad writer."

 

The fact that the split infinitive "rule" has pervaded for generations does not in itself imply a sound basis. Grammarians have argued over this "rule" (and others) ever since its conception. The majority of what most of us know has been taught to us by others, and, in the main, we have absorbed it uncritically. Hence superstitions and downright untruths propagate through generations. A fact becomes a fact through repetition. You would be surprised/disturbed/saddened to learn of the tenuous nature of many facts that you hold dear (as would we all).

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I assumed the building in question to be Coventry Cathedral. Might it not be simpler if you were to just tell us?

Coventry? How dare you, Sir! That is one of the more exciting organs I have played.

 

OK, the organ in question is http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N10583. The problem with this instrument is that there are no choruses. It is essentially an 8' organ. Don't be misled by the paper specification: the upperwork is not voiced to have impact as such; its function is merely to prevent the mass of 8' colour becoming too deadening. On top of that all the stops (all of which are actually rather pleasant individually) are voiced as smoothly as possible with the result that they all sound much the same. The aim, I assume, is to make the successive addition of stops as imperceptible as possible - and indeed the organ does do beautifully smooth stop crescendos. But this is at the expense of tonal interest. The organ makes a "noble" sound, but is devoid of vivid colour. Full organ is as soporific as the Swell strings - lots of smooth Trombas and no brightness. It doesn't even strike you as very loud (though half an hour with a visiting organists association will make you realise that it is actually a lot louder than you first thought).

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Coventry? How dare you, Sir! That is one of the more exciting organs I have played.

 

OK, the organ in question is http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N10583. The problem with this instrument is that there are no choruses. It is essentially an 8' organ. Don't be misled by the paper specification: the upperwork is not voiced to have impact as such; its function is merely to prevent the mass of 8' colour becoming too deadening. On top of that all the stops (all of which are actually rather pleasant individually) are voiced as smoothly as possible with the result that they all sound much the same. The aim, I assume, is to make the successive addition of stops as imperceptible as possible - and indeed the organ does do beautifully smooth stop crescendos. But this is at the expense of tonal interest. The organ makes a "noble" sound, but is devoid of vivid colour. Full organ is as soporific as the Swell strings - lots of smooth Trombas and no brightness. It doesn't even strike you as very loud (though half an hour with a visiting organists association will make you realise that it is actually a lot louder than you first thought).

I didn't say I'd agree with the comments about the organ if it had been Coventry, I was just trying to think of large 4-manuals built about 50 years ago in a building with interesting stained glass. Glad it turned out to be elsewhere as I like the Coventry organ too.

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Speaking as someone who couldn't distinguish between an augmented fourth and a half a pint, I am disappointed to find that makes me 'swine'.

 

J

 

 

Um . . . consecutive fourths, consecutive, fifths, octaves and inversions . . . Wonderful stuff which we all enjoy. But it proves the gist of what I was saying . . . that it all goes above a congregation's head so they talk - it's ivory tower stuff irrelevant to them - . . . no point in throwing pearls before swine - except of course where there is a really inspiring organ . . . unless, with the most inspiring gem of an organ we can think of, the congregation are . . . .

 

 

Spot

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Guest spottedmetal
Speaking as someone who couldn't distinguish between an augmented fourth and a half a pint, I am disappointed to find that makes me 'swine'.

 

Dear J

 

Don't believe you on either count! B) My leg has grown by at least two inches . . .

 

The reality is that people can take the organ for granted as part of the scenery. It's clear that some people in some places aren't losing the battle. What's their secret? The instrument has lost status in popular admiration and culture. What can one do to wake people from the near-dead? It's a tall order, but let's hope it's possible.

 

Full organ is as soporific as the Swell strings - lots of smooth Trombas and no brightness. It doesn't even strike you as very loud (though half an hour with a visiting organists association will make you realise that it is actually a lot louder than you first thought).

 

Um. One finds that the first thing an organist does when approaching an instrument of many more stops than that to which they are accostomed is to come to pull them all out as soon as possible and then let that registration stay put . . . Very deafening!

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

 

PS By the way, although railing against Bach when at risk of being overlooked as musak, in case there is a misunderstanding I'm not an anti-Bach luddite - the Easter Monday recital includes BWV 547 and later this season we have a solo 'cellist playing 5th and 6th Suite BWV 1010 and BWV 1011

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"I love that saying, whoever wrote it, that says, "Rules were made for the obedience of fools, and for the guidance of wise men."

Douglas Bader.

"

 

 

I have always been familiar with this quotation in a slightly different wording viz " Rules ARE made for the STRICT OBSERVANCE of fools and the guidance of wise men" . I would suggest that this formulation may make it slightly clearer that the point is not to condemn all obedience to rules but to commend the wisdom of knowing when to depart from them. (This would be just as valid when applied to split infinitives as to musical conventions) It was Virgil Fox who used to say that you had first to know the rules in order to break them, which, of course, in the opinion of many, he did with great frequency. But it brought him a fan base which still exists to this day, which must have some kind of significance, surely ?

 

BAC

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I'm not an anti-Bach luddite

 

Being anti-Bach would only count as Luddism if you thought no decent music had been written since the death of Josquin. Mind you, you'd be a bit limited as to repertoire for the organ in the case.

 

Not liking Bach but liking something that came after him is a much graver sin, I am afraid.

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Guest Barry Williams
He very often did, but I have certainly seen the odd true consecutive fifth. Just don't ask me to quote chapter and verse!

 

There are loads in music of this type and period. They are almost invariably on inside parts or resolve in contrary motion. They are frequently difficult to spot because they do not sound bad. The issue is not fifths (or octaves) as such, but the ugly effect they make when written badly - just like ugly split infinitives.

 

A modern and pleasing use of consecutive fifths is in that lovely anthem by Richard Lloyd's 'View me, Lord, a work of Thine' with glorious consecutive fifths on the inside parts, to great musical effect. We all have to learn rules when we first acquire any skill, whether it is writing harmony or driving a car. Breaking those rules requires knowledge and skill if ugly and inappropriate effects are to be avoided. Unfortunately, many of the 'composers' of that which is sometimes referred to as 'contemporary christian music' have not learned any of the rules and thus write ugly music, with incorrect accents on words, faulty lines, etc. This is why those who try and compose without skill and training make such a mess of it - just like some folk who 'rebuild' organs.

 

It is interesting to reconsider the CSSM Choruses that were so denigrated in my youth. Despite some very sentimental harmonies, they were all well written.

 

I gather that very little formal harmony is taught in schools nowadays and not all university music courses require it. I know of one organist who obtained a degree in music after a three year course in composition and learned no formal harmony at all.

 

Barry Williams

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I assumed the building in question to be Coventry Cathedral. Might it not be simpler if you were to just tell us?

 

Coventry Cathedral has a good acoustic, which is also quite resonant.

 

I think that one would indeed be a difficult person to please if it were perceived that the organ of Coventry Cathedral was anything other than superb - whatever one's preference for a particular style of instrument.

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Yes, but although they are consecutive fifths, they are also secondary sevenths and thus resolve inwards, as is most effective.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

=======================

 

You're just showing off now, aren't you?

 

:lol:

 

MM

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"I love that saying, whoever wrote it, that says, "Rules were made for the obedience of fools, and for the guidance of wise men."

Douglas Bader.

"

I have always been familiar with this quotation in a slightly different wording viz " Rules ARE made for the STRICT OBSERVANCE of fools and the guidance of wise men" .

BAC

 

Pedantry again, but it wasn't Douglas himself who 's quote this is, but his flying instructor Harry Day.

http://www.mander-organs.com/discussion/st...cons/icon10.gif

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Pedantry again, but it wasn't Douglas himself who 's quote this is, but his flying instructor Harry Day.

http://www.mander-organs.com/discussion/st...cons/icon10.gif

 

If one wishes to be pedantic, your comment is incorrect. It should read '...Douglas himself whose...' . 'Who's' is a contraction of 'who is' or 'who has' - but not the possessive 'whose'. Arguably better still, re-phrase it as 'The quote came not from Douglas, but was attributed to his flying instructor, Harry Day.'

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Coventry Cathedral has a good acoustic, which is also quite resonant.

 

I think that one would indeed be a difficult person to please if it were perceived that the organ of Coventry Cathedral was anything other than superb - whatever one's preference for a particular style of instrument.

 

Coventry is an ace instrument for England. Such cohesion against all the odds. Every time I hear it, play it or teach on it, I am leaving the Cathedral quite despondent, as I wonder why the rest of the country preferred to luxuriate in a style so unlike it. Every instrument has short-comings (if you rummage hard enough), but for an English instrument in a cathedral this wins hands down. All slaps on the back, and thumbs up for/to Dr S C.

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

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Guest Cynic
Coventry is an ace instrument for England. Such cohesion against all the odds. Every time I hear it, play it or teach on it, I am leaving the Cathedral quite despondent, as I wonder why the rest of the country preferred to luxuriate in a style so unlike it. Every instrument has short-comings (if you rummage hard enough), but for an English instrument in a cathedral this wins hands down. All slaps on the back, and thumbs up for/to Dr S C.

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

 

 

 

Yes!

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Absolutely not! "It cannot live or kick"; alternatively: "It can neither live nor kick". Here endeth the first lesson. :)

 

Pass the Movicol... (again).

 

Yes, of course. I stand corrected, thank you, although I think the second version less clumsy. :rolleyes:

 

Have we further lessons to come?

 

After the surgery I'm having tomorrow, I guess I shall be needing some Movicol too!

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