Jump to content
Mander Organs
Guest Cynic

Set Free

Recommended Posts

I can remember quite a few years ago, my polish professor friend gave a series of recitals in the uk, and had help from the organists where he played, but at Bolton Town Hall, things went sorely amiss, during the interval I reset the pistons to how he required them for the Reubke and Suite Gothique, and 10 mins later the memory departed this planet, what a job he had, poor man, but like a true professional, he got through it

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Might I be forgiven for re-opening this rather elderly thread? One of my occupations is designing electronic combination (piston) control systems, and therefore I was interested in the 'customer' opinions expressed here, which I found valuable as a 'supplier' (but I hope an informed one, being a player myself). Even when they work, some of these systems seem to be examples of technology gone mad and at the limit of user-unfriendliness. So I hold firmly to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) expressed above.

A recurring theme seems to be that of incorporating a 'neutral' option somehow for at least some of the controlled stops, so that they are not controlled by the pistons. So I have the following questions:

1. Which stops benefit most from being neutral? Couplers, tremulants, piston couplers (gt-ped pistons)? If couplers, should inter-divisional couplers such as swell to great be treated differently to intra-divisional ones such as swell octave? Are there any other stops which should be included?

2. Would it be satisfactory for these neutral choices to be made once and for all by the system designer - hard wired in other words? Or do players want to be able to change them?

3. If players do want to select which stops are to remain neutral, would it be acceptable for there to be, say, an additional button or piston (perhaps placed near to the Setter button) which changed them? One would then, for example, draw all the stops which are to remain neutral and then press this additional button.

4. Of course, such a system would put the same selection of neutral stops onto all pistons. Would this be acceptable, or would a different set of neutrals for each piston be more useful?

5. In my experience, a system which seems to meet the needs of most organists of my acquaintance has a fixed selection of neutral stops on all divisional pistons, so they will not affect inter-divisional couplers (e.g. swell to great) for example. But there are no neutrals on any of the general pistons, thus couplers and everything else will be controlled by the generals. This is a relatively simple scheme (thereby adhering to KISS), but how widely acceptable would it be to members of this forum?

I think this list of questions is long enough for now, though it does illustrate yet again how complex a seemingly-simple issue can be.

Any replies gratefully received.

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi

 

Trust you're keeping well Colin.

 

An interesting question. The best option would perhaps be a simple means of having a "Neutral" selection for any given stop on any piston. Given that that option is really only simply available using physical switches, I suggest the following:

 

Divisionals - all inter-manual couplers neutral, octave & sub octaves on same manual controlled by the pistons, tremulants on the pistons if the trem only affects stops on that manual, otherwise neutral.

 

Generals - all stops including couplers & trems on the pistons.

 

If double-touch pistons are considered, it may be an idea to have the normally neutral stops available on the Divisional 2nd touch settings - or maybe not.

 

Probably no "one size fits all" answer here.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the performer's point of view, I think the KISS solution would be to have a neutral option for every stop, speaking or otherwise, on every piston. The performer would then have complete flexibility and wouldn't have to worry about which stops did or didn't do this or that. However, perhaps the neutral option is not essential on general pistons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank goodness someone on the manufacturing side is asking the question! Whilst every organ is different meaning a "one sze fits all" approach won't work, a bit of consistency would be nice. And perhaps a detailed "instruction manual" next to the tuning book for poor visiting organists to read through during the sermon before the service.

 

Personally I dislike discovering that when I push single division pistons it can bring out couplers - I prefer independent control of Swell to Great or Swell Octave for instance - but others might well disagree. Otherwise I risk ending up with for instance Full Swell and Swell Octave being coupled through to Great without Swell Octave to Great being drawn and then Swell (as it has the octave couplers) ends up being louder than Greater. I do like the Tremulant for a particular manual to be available on that manual's divisionals.

 

My favourite "always on" coupler is Great to Pedal combinations coupled, and here there are plenty of variations. One organ I know, when that is activated, brings on great and pedal stops when pedal pistons are pressed, but only great pistons when great pistons are pressed, leaving me wondering why the pedal stops aren't changing. Another fairly large organ I gave a recital on recently appeared not to have a Gt-Ped combs coupler which gave me a registration headache. At the end of the recital the church's organist pointed out a latchable piston under one of the manuals marked something unlikely such as "G", that when pressed in was indeed the much needed Gt-Ped com coupler.

 

And I was playing a piece with wide dynamic range in a certain cathedral recently and at one point hit General Cancel so I could hand register the next section which was very quiet. That section went into full organ, so I hit Great 8 expecting full great and full pedals to come on. Uh-oh, General Cancel had cancelled Gt-Ped combs coupler leaving the pedals to accompany full Great on a bourdon. And try as I might I could not spot where the Gt-Ped com coupler was located (turned out I think to be amidst the Choir stops).

 

My two cents' worth - as I use a variety of Hauptwerk and j-organ virtual organ sample sets at home I am able to switch between quite different organs at the click of a mouse and it certainly takes some getting used to even remembering which side the divisional stops are on for each organ, let alone how different organs implement their combination mechanisms. Indeed if Colin can cope with editing j-organ instruments (open source freeware with lots of freely downloadable organs of various sizes and complexity) it wouldn't be a bad idea to learn to do that and then you can play with it and experiment with all manner of different options to see which ones work best for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I fully support the KISS concept and in making sure things default to the 'obvious' on power up. I've run into several situations where because of the expense/absence of room for more drawstops, various things are operated by reversible piston/light/switch only. Examples include G/P pists, Sw Trem and more at Chester , a well-hidden pair of switches converting S/G & G/P toe reversers to "-" and "+" on the sequencer (Wells) and a system that allowed any piston (including reversers) to do anything (I believe a variant of the Denham system -but I could be wrong) , In the case of Wells someone left the switches on sequencer so the addition of s/g in a quiet psalm by yours truly fired up the final tutti of the previous night's recital (Tuba-Gt and all)....Yes there was a note explaining this - buried under a pile of music.

 

I'm agnostic on whether Gen cancel should take in G/P pists - provided the control is very visible. I did fall over this at Chester where it cancels - a small LED at the top of a stop jamb being the only indication.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm enjoying, and am very grateful for, the responses received to my enquiry - and so quickly too. Obviously I must wait until others have had a chance to reply before launching into further detail on this.

 

However I just HAD to respond to mgp's remarks about whether G/P pistons should ever be cancel-able. I was playing at Salisbury Cathedral some years ago (not something I get to do often, unfortunately!) when exactly that happened. I was in the middle of Stanford's prelude on a theme of Orlando Gibbons (op 105) when a friend who was acting as page turner noticed the fact. Had he not, I would have had virtually nothing 14 bars from the end when there is that wonderful fortissimo stalking pedal motif heralding the coda! Momentarily, I did wonder why he was rushing around the console pulling out just about pedal stop and coupler in sight. Thank goodness he did.

 

Anyway, many thanks everyone for taking my question so seriously. As a result, I already have a relatively simple (I think) scheme in mind which I'll keep revising until the replies stop coming in.

 

CEP

 

PS Yes, thanks Tony (Newnham) - long time, no see. I'm OK, hope you are also. C.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Where there is already a Gt & Ped Combs Coupled drawstop I would imagine that it is trivial to replace with two couplers: Pedal Combinations on Great Pistons and Great Combinations on Pedal Pistons. It makes things much more flexible—for service playing the first is more useful, for solo repertoire the second is better; and for fans of the older coupler: just pull both out.

 

My vote is for everything in the division to be settable on the divisionals including tremulants and octave couplers acting on that division. Any couplers between divisions including octave couplers should only be settable on Generals. And the Gt&Ped Combs coupler(s) may be settable on Generals but shouldn't be affected by the General Cancel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lincoln Cathedral has Pedal to Great Pistons and Pedal to Swell Pistons which those who played when I was there seemed to find useful. I can't remember though whether these worked both ways so to speak - in the manner of a Great & Pedal Combs. Coupled or also whether a different set of combinations was available for each of the two manuals.

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, there was a separate set of switches for the Pedal to Swell Pistons. AJJ will no doubt recall the very orderly cupboard at the bass end of the console and attached to the casework (with framed glass doors) and multitude of switches.

 

As a brief digression (apologies for which!) : I don't know if I'm alone in thinking it a pity that the otherwise well-preserved 1898 Lincoln console (very advanced, gadget-wise, for the time) languishes somewhere up in the Choir triforium. I believe St. Patrick's Dublin has a similarly abandoned 1902 console (possibly with the "Hoc organum.." nameplate whipped off) but otherwise in a good state of preservation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And some older Harrison's had a "Swell & accomp to Ped" and a "Solo & accomp to pedal" offering another set of sub-generals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

As a brief digression (apologies for which!) : I don't know if I'm alone in thinking it a pity that the otherwise well-preserved 1898 Lincoln console (very advanced, gadget-wise, for the time) languishes somewhere up in the Choir triforium. I believe St. Patrick's Dublin has a similarly abandoned 1902 console (possibly with the "Hoc organum.." nameplate whipped off) but otherwise in a good state of preservation.

 

Yes, the St. Patrick's console is preserved in a case in the north transept, and a very handsome piece it is, with its large Willis ivory drawstops.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And some older Harrison's had a "Swell & accomp to Ped" and a "Solo & accomp to pedal" offering another set of sub-generals.

 

FHW also adopted this device. I believe that Lincoln (1898) was one instance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Yes, the St. Patrick's console is preserved in a case in the north transept, and a very handsome piece it is, with its large Willis ivory drawstops.

 

....And with its mis-engraved 32ft. reed: ('CONTRA POSANNE 32')

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, there was a separate set of switches for the Pedal to Swell Pistons. AJJ will no doubt recall the very orderly cupboard at the bass end of the console and attached to the casework (with framed glass doors) and multitude of switches.

 

As a brief digression (apologies for which!) : I don't know if I'm alone in thinking it a pity that the otherwise well-preserved 1898 Lincoln console (very advanced, gadget-wise, for the time) languishes somewhere up in the Choir triforium. I believe St. Patrick's Dublin has a similarly abandoned 1902 console (possibly with the "Hoc organum.." nameplate whipped off) but otherwise in a good state of preservation.

 

This is fairly standard H&H practice. Exeter Cathedral had the same set-up (although the Pedal and G.O> piston coupler was normally engraved 'Great & Pedal Combinations Coupled' - or some abbreviation of this.

 

With regard to Lincoln cathedral: as far as I can recall, the last time I played there, the G.O. and Pedal Pistons coupler worked both ways (i.e.: affecting both departments with either the Pedal foot pistons or the G.O. thumb pistons).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many thanks to those above who have replied to my questions about combination capture systems, and in particular

how best to incorporate a 'neutral' option so that certain stops are not affected by the pistons.

It seems that people would prefer a system which allows an arbitrary selection of neutral stops to be settable

on each piston on a given memory level, rather than a fixed set of neutrals affecting all pistons. The issue

then becomes not so much the technical difficulty of implementing it, but how to do so in a simple user-friendly

manner. With this in mind, a sketch is shown below of two (rather than the usual one) setter buttons/pistons.

 

SetNeutrals-SetActives-Labels.gif

Note: if for some reason the picture does not appear on your PC, you can access it independently from my website

using the following link:

 

http://www.pykett.org.uk/SetNeutrals-SetActives-Labels.gif


I envisage both buttons occupying the traditional place at the left hand end of the lowest key slip which is

currently occupied by the usual (single) setter button. The sketch suggests labels might be attached explaining

what each button does, simply because it might be difficult to cram the suggested names onto the small head of

each button. But it might be useful as well for the buttons to be identified by the engraved numbers 1 and 2,

as suggested in the sketch.

The system would work as follows:

Button 1 captures a combination for a given piston and memory level in exactly the same way as an ordinary

setter button does now (thus no neutrals are possible using button 1). Button 2 - optionally - will then

capture a (different) selection of stops which are to be neutral for the same piston and memory level. This

neutral selection is in effect overlaid onto the combination captured by button 1.

The stop selections captured by either button can be adjusted independently. For instance, if you just wanted

to add another neutral stop to a given piston, you would use button 2 only. The combination captured previously

using button 1 would not be affected in any other respect.

The system will apply to both divisional and general pistons.

Hope this is clear. It's the simplest scheme I've come up with so far.

I could patent this I guess, but having put the idea into the public domain at least nobody else can now patent

it!

Will it work? Now I have to write the software to find out if there are any hidden gremlins ....

CEP



Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find all this discussion amazingly stimulating - but a million miles away from my current experiences where even on medium sized three manual instruments there are very few registrational aids at all. Consequently my default position is hand registration first then use of whatever mechanical combination pedals are available together with judicious alterations to whatever is preset on these. The original builders often set these up with an eye to this sort of technique so that whatever is set can be changed with only a few added stop movements.

 

It is interesting to note that even on smaller instruments where an electronic stop/combination action is introduced vast numbers of pistons and choices of their allocation are introduced. There is one particular instrument near here where a Victorian two manual was recently 'electrified' and has more pistons and pedals per division than actual stops not including a set of generals etc. along with their associated plethora of memories.

 

I feel sometimes that solely hand registration rather than being a handicap is a good discipline and that if perhaps some kaleidoscopic change is not possible then perhaps it shouldn't be considered from a musical point of view. I certainly feel that complex electronic systems on smaller instruments sometimes are there just for the sake of having them. ...or maybe I'm a just luddite!

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMHO you're not a luddite at all, AJJ. I agree with you entirely. As a schoolboy I once attended a recital by the late Ivor Keys on a three manual mechanical action instrument in Nottingham - he and the console were in full view, and the fact I still remember the occasion so clearly is because I was astonished by his lightning-fast hand registration throughout. No registrant(s) either I might add. That's the standard I feel ought to be aimed at.

 

But if there are to be electronic combination systems, I feel they need to be reined in a bit in terms of their complexity and user-unfriendliness. That's where I am coming from in all this.

 

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Colin, your proposal looks very straightforward and intuitive to me. If I may suggest, I think there is a potential irritation in that, assuming one always wants the couplers to be neutral (which I guess most of us probably do most of the time), one would have to set all of them specifically on each and every neutral piston. On a large organ this could be a tiresome process. Would making the non-speaking stops default to neutral compromise the KISS principle?

I have some sympathy with AJJ. Sometimes registration can be too clever by half. The organ is not an orchestra and never will be. However, this is a completely off topic issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your confidence CEP and your sympathy Vox - I suppose it's just that I am not against electronic combination systems themselves - rather I am in favour of those that are there to aid sensible music making....which it seems you both are too!

 

A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agree the pointlessness of multiple pistons on small organs - and equally the bewilderment of once being given the keys to a >100 stop 5 manual organ with a grand total of 8, non-adjustable pistons to the entire organ.

 

I was also asked to give a recital on a large three manual with multiple piston memory levels but allowed no practice time beforehand. I picked my repertoire chronologically starting with baroque, and between each of my earlier pieces had to cycle through the memory levels and pistons on each manual until I found one that was roughly increasing volume from 1-8 on each manual. I used that for the later pieces with a reasonable certainty that the pistons were doing something vaguely predictable.

 

In both cases KISS rocks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agree the pointlessness of multiple pistons on small organs - and equally the bewilderment of once being given the keys to a >100 stop 5 manual organ with a grand total of 8, non-adjustable pistons to the entire organ.

I remember playing for a concert on this organ (http://www.andriessenorgelbouw.be/organs/GsbShow02.jpg) and resorting to sticking post-it notes on the stops I might want to use. (Didn't have time to set the generals.) I played Karg-Elert's Nun Danket on full organ throughout as I got the tutti on and couldn't get it off again. Quite a racket!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember playing for a concert on this organ (http://www.andriessenorgelbouw.be/organs/GsbShow02.jpg) and resorting to sticking post-it notes on the stops I might want to use. (Didn't have time to set the generals.) I played Karg-Elert's Nun Danket on full organ throughout as I got the tutti on and couldn't get it off again. Quite a racket!

 

Crikey, is that an organ console or a relic from the NASA moon landing mission control centre?

GsbShow02.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I may have missed a post whilst reading my way through all of this so please forgive me if I repeat anything! I can remember having to leave notes in the tuner's books to ask for piston registrations to be changed on quite a few organs! One organ I used to play was a Victorian war horse that had electro-pneumatic action with four pistons to the Swell and Great, four combination pedals to both the Swell and Pedal, and three pistons to a Choir organ with only five stops, all of which were 8, except for a 4,flute!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...