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AJJ

Bury St Edmunds

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This looks quite interesting.

 

AJJ

Only 128 levels of general memory? Pathetic. Given that a 4GB memory card can be had for next to nothing, why do these kind of system have such a poor specification? One would have thought 65536 levels minimum would be the benchmark these days! ;)

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Guest Barry Williams
Only 128 levels of general memory? Pathetic. Given that a 4GB memory card can be had for next to nothing, why do these kind of system have such a poor specification? One would have thought 65536 levels minimum would be the benchmark these days! ;)

 

Unfortunately, this is not surprising.

 

Even as recently as 2007 one supplier was still offering solid state mechanism connected to an old-fashioned pin board i.e. pins on wood. Things move slowly in organ building.

 

Barry Williams

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Only 128 levels of general memory? Pathetic. Given that a 4GB memory card can be had for next to nothing, why do these kind of system have such a poor specification? One would have thought 65536 levels minimum would be the benchmark these days! ;)

 

If some is good, more must be better. The "penis size" school of organ specification.

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This looks quite interesting.

 

AJJ

 

Thanks for poiniting that out. I only live up the road from there but haven't managed to get details! I see the Choir and Positive have become one division. There is a 1 1/7 on the Solo which I'm sorry to see is obviously going. It'll be good to have some proper casework on the organ, it's hard to believe that since the 70s the view of the West facing part of the organ has simply been the Trompetta Real plus stays plus some of the main Great and Positive pipework.

 

128 levels of memory doesn't seem many but they've only got 8 at present so I suppose it'll feel like a lot more. I'd have thought an independant sequencer would be better (than the proposed general piston stepper) because it's then possible to easily insert another setting between two existing ones.

 

John R

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It all seems to have been 'rationalised' somewhat and as far as one can tell from a list of stops it will have a more common style than before (meaning speaking with one voice rather than with 'neo' Positive joined with Edwardian N&B etc.). The two big Solo reeds seem to be becoming a trade mark of H&H with a number of their recent jobs getting these. The only experience I have had of this is a recorded one - the big organ at Yale on the Thomas Murray demo. CD from JAV - I'd certainly welcome the choice!

 

AJJ

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If some is good, more must be better. The "penis size" school of organ specification.

Not really. My point was simply that storage technology is so cheap and commonplace these days, 128 levels is a nonsense. Every organ with a new capture system should have massive capacities in the current technological climate. Even my phone has 8Gb and that cost £30 - what price the same capacity capture system from an organ builder?

 

Let's take an organ of 128 stops and couplers. The settings for this could be stored efficiently within 8 bytes of data. So, 128 levels of stepper would require 1Kb of storage. That is ZX81 capacity c.1981! Is the organ building fraternity really that far behind the curve?

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It all seems to have been 'rationalised' somewhat and as far as one can tell from a list of stops it will have a more common style than before (meaning speaking with one voice rather than with 'neo' Positive joined with Edwardian N&B etc.). The two big Solo reeds seem to be becoming a trade mark of H&H with a number of their recent jobs getting these. The only experience I have had of this is a recorded one - the big organ at Yale on the Thomas Murray demo. CD from JAV - I'd certainly welcome the choice!

 

AJJ

 

Rationalised, scaled-down, call it what you will, one imagines a new, somehat smaller instrument will have more room to speak out into the building, especially if some of the pipework can be cantilevered out of the chamber and clothed at long last in some decent casework. (However, the use of the word 'eventually' is this context is not entirely encouraging).

 

Interesting, too, that almost all the reeds will be new. Maybe we can expect a very different sort of sound.

 

JS

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Guest Barry Williams

"Is the organ building fraternity really that far behind the curve?"

 

Yes.

 

Barry Williams

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Overall there's not much to get excited about this proposed rebuild at Bury. The organ will remain sandwiched into the chancel recess, it's purpose compromised by providing accompanyment to the choir and support to a congregation down the nave. What effect the new central tower will have on the overall sound will be of interest. It is disappointing though that yet another 'typical' H&H specification makes an appearance: no doubt the only element of surprise to a distant congregation will be the inevitable blasting from a sonorous tuba stop.

 

Not knowing the full situation there I could not comment on the rationale behind scheme etc. but presumably they are doing the best they can with funds available - it seems as if they have been fund raising for a while and the new tower must have cost a bit wherever the money for this came from. Perhaps also however much one might like a new Aubertin or similar it might not always be the answer in all situations. Certainly I could live with what H & H have done at Ely, Lichfield and St Davids in recent years and have no reason to believe that for example Tickell at Worcester will not succeed in a largely 'triforium bound' sitation.

 

AJJ

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Even as recently as 2007 one supplier was still offering solid state mechanism connected to an old-fashioned pin board i.e. pins on wood.

 

The absolutely ideal situation for a village organ with a lone Bourdon on the pedals which is to be electrified (from pneumatic). Why on earth make things more complicated than they need to be?

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Not really. My point was simply that storage technology is so cheap and commonplace these days, 128 levels is a nonsense. Every organ with a new capture system should have massive capacities in the current technological climate. Even my phone has 8Gb and that cost £30 - what price the same capacity capture system from an organ builder?

 

Let's take an organ of 128 stops and couplers. The settings for this could be stored efficiently within 8 bytes of data. So, 128 levels of stepper would require 1Kb of storage. That is ZX81 capacity c.1981! Is the organ building fraternity really that far behind the curve?

 

I was going to say that your facts were correct but your application of them to the art of making music on the organ was misplaced. But I have just noticed the arithmetical error in your second paragraph.

 

In my view, an organ needs 8Gb of RAM in the same sense that a fish needs a bicycle. There are any number of things you could add very cheaply to an organ. The fact you can doesn't mean you should.

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I was going to say that your facts were correct but your application of them to the art of making music on the organ was misplaced. But I have just noticed the arithmetical error in your second paragraph.

 

In my view, an organ needs 8Gb of RAM in the same sense that a fish needs a bicycle. There are any number of things you could add very cheaply to an organ. The fact you can doesn't mean you should.

You are right - 8 x 16-bit words for 128 stops/couplers = 2Kb.. More a VIC-20 than a ZX81 then - but without the colour screen, of course.

 

In my view why should anybody spend a significant amount on a capture system and have to accept that organ builders are offering such poor specifications? No doubt if one wanted twice the capacity, one would have to pay a significant premium? How would that be justified?

 

Organ builders have always innovated, using the knowledge of their period to improve the lot for the organist. In the present day that seems to have been lost, as far as console technology is concerned. I'm afraid I don't accept such complacency and poor value for money, I'm surprised others do.

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We all here use computers none of us uses 5% of their possibilities.

It is so easy to add tons of gadgetry, at the cost of any ergonomic sense!

We could have 50,000 memory levels etc. And then ?

Would the playing or the tone be better for that ?

 

For a modern or romantic biased organ a simple system is OK, provided

the organist can understand how it works in ten minutes; if it needs more

it is useless.

For a baroque one: absolutely nothing save the stops handles and the couplers.

 

Pierre

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And isn't there the danger of becoming overly focused on the gadgetry whilst losing sight of the best overall organ tone and purpose? I would rather listen to an exciting organ with rich harmonic development, rather than be impressed with the seemingly dextrous way the organist can move about the manuals and pedal. Time and again the most impressive organs to me are either the old gems of the baroque (whether in Germany or France) or the more recent genius of Cavaille-Coll. There seems to be more than enough to entertain and inspire from organs such as St Maximin or St Sulpice, without the need for 21st Century computer power gismos. In the case of B St E, if H&H produce an inspired rebuild of the organ, with perhaps a fresh and inspirational approach to the new stops, then surely isn't that enough?

Absolutely! And, if H&H's recent work is anything to go by, there's an extremely good chance of a really musical and beautiful result at B St E which is appropriate to its surroundings and function.

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To be fair, I don't think criticism on the number of stepper levels is getting overly hung up on the gadgetry. You write as if technology and art are mutually exclusive. My argument is that by using widely available, low cost technology the organ builders can concentrate on spending most of the money on the main event, i.e. the rest of the instrument !

 

Wasn't it Notre Dame (I could be wrong - but it was certainly one of the major French instruments I think) which used to be "powered" by two IBM PS/2 computers not so long ago?...

 

/edit: Ah yes, it was... http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html...;pagewanted=all

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Guest Barry Williams

"For a baroque one: absolutely nothing save the stops handles and the couplers."

 

The feature of most church organs in this country is that they are there for the accompaniment of worship, not because they are 'baroque', 'romantic', 'Edwardian', or even 'modern'.

 

 

"....the organist can understand how it works in ten minutes; if it needs more it is useless."

 

I could not agree more! Why should it take as long as ten minutes? Some of the systems are so complicated that they take longer to learn how to operate than it does to play the pieces. Further, the instructions as to how to operate the systems are not always available.

 

A large number of memories is very cheap and easy to provide, but there is little point if the system is cloaked in complexity.

 

Electrifying a lone Bourdon on the pedals would hardly justify the cost of installing of a solid state system, though I am all for getting rid of bad pneumatic actions in favour of good electric (or electro-pneumatic) actions.

 

Barry Williams

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I could not agree more! Why should it take as long as ten minutes? Some of the systems are so complicated that they take longer to learn how to operate than it does to play the pieces. Further, the instructions as to how to operate the systems are not always available.

 

It is often quicker to learn to hand register even the most complicated pieces, it is amazing one one has to achieve on organs that don't have sophisticated systems, and indeed, the musicality of the instrument and performance is often improved by hand registering.

 

Jonathan

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Out of (genuine) interest - how?

 

Perhaps because the instrument is being played in the way the composer intended (assuming the music was written before, say, 1970). Look at the constant stop changes in Bairstow's scores - he must have managed them purely with hand registration.

 

With electronic gadgetry, the player can make registration changes the composer could never have contemplated. Maybe he would approve, maybe not.

 

Having to change registration by hand may also restrain the player from adopting tempi much faster than the composer intended.

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Perhaps because the instrument is being played in the way the composer intended (assuming the music was written before, say, 1970). Look at the constant stop changes in Bairstow's scores - he must have managed them purely with hand registration.

 

With electronic gadgetry, the player can make registration changes the composer could never have contemplated. Maybe he would approve, maybe not.

 

Having to change registration by hand may also restrain the player from adopting tempi much faster than the composer intended.

 

Go along with part of that. Rudimentary stop control systems have been around for much longer of course, from shifting mechanisms through composition pedals and early settable pistons from the, ooh, 1930s? Possibly earlier? And of course there have always been registrants...

 

I find hand registering forces you to think about the noises you want to make rather than merely having an approximately correct percentage of stops sticking out and saving them.

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Not really. My point was simply that storage technology is so cheap and commonplace these days, 128 levels is a nonsense. Every organ with a new capture system should have massive capacities in the current technological climate. Even my phone has 8Gb and that cost £30 - what price the same capacity capture system from an organ builder?

 

Let's take an organ of 128 stops and couplers. The settings for this could be stored efficiently within 8 bytes of data. So, 128 levels of stepper would require 1Kb of storage. That is ZX81 capacity c.1981! Is the organ building fraternity really that far behind the curve?

 

At the risk of seeming pedantic :) I don't agree with the calculation in your second paragraph but still very much agree with your general point. A memory bit is needed for each stop/piston/memory permutation which can give a huge number of permutations. Systems these days normally have enough memory reserved per memory level so that each piston could theoretically be a general piston (thus needing 128 bits for 128 stops say). Allow for 128 pistons per memory level. Thats 128 x 128 bits = 16,384 = 16K per memory level. For 128 memory levels, 128 x 16K = 2Mb would be needed although much of this in reality is like to end up redundant due to maximum parameters not being generally used on most organs. I do admit however this is getting a bit academic because 2Mb of memory is still pretty cheap. As a 1Mb serial Eeprom costs about £2.00 this is peanuts compared to the cost of the coil driving outputs, PCBs, case, connectors, design. etc.

 

John R

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I guess it all depends whether you consider a stepper level to be a single, instantaneous representation of the stop/coupler state (i.e. like a single general piston) or whether it acts as a memory level which can store settings against each piston. As you say though, memory is cheap!

 

I'm grateful for the thoughts on how technology could detract from the composer's intentions. However, how far do we take such an approach in trying to represent the 'authentic' thoughts of the composer? An impossible task?

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