ajsphead Posted April 1, 2011 Share Posted April 1, 2011 I thought I would investigate the sound of different instruments in some blinded tests. I chose eight musician friends who are either singers or instrumentalists to a good standard. Definitely no organists, organ lovers, organ builders or similar as I wanted this to be blinded and as unbiased as possible. I couldn't double blind as I know too much. What I wanted to know was which instrument of 5 I chose communicated the music best, stressing that I was not interested in musical interpretation but solely in the sounds. I managed to find the same group of pieces played across the 5 recordings, although sadly not all pieces were played in each recording but the comparison I think is nonetheless reasonable and the equipment used was high end and therefore sufficiently accurate for the tests as I know the instruments in the flesh and some of them intimately. I felt that avoiding the opinions of organ related people and asking musicians who are aware of the instrument but otherwise not particularly interested, might go some way to addressing the discourse around what is a good sound, what works and what communicates and be as far away as possible from 'what I like'. Inevitably there are limitations as I did not play any European works prior to the C19th or English works prior to C18th, so we have a caveat to start with. We are also to some extent at the mercy of recording engineers but as I know the instruments well enough, I know that the chosen recordings were sufficiently accurate to be comparable. A sample size of 8 is clearly a considerably limiting factor, but the results were more clear cut than I expected. I would have liked to test more instruments, but non organ people can only cope with a certain amount before their ears switch off. I tested an eclectic H&H, a thoroughbred Edwardian Arthur Harrison, an Edwardian Hill, an ostensibly Edwardian JWW and a good mid period Fr Willis. I think we would all have opinions on the choice, but this is the choice given the strictures placed, and the relevance to the UK organ world. I would have liked to have included a Compton, a 60's JWW, a further neo classique/baroque type instrument, an C18th century instrument and so on, but one can only ask people to do a certain amount in the name of research. The choice was therefore predominantly mainstream and typical. It is important to state that I am not in any way making any comment on the work of any of the firms who have or continue to have any involvement with the instruments in question, or continue to produce new instuments. So my findings proved very interesting in one sense, and did cross over into the bounds of similar opinion voiced many times here and elsewhere. Put simply I asked each of the people which sound communicated the music - mainly a range of English & European C19th and C20th repertoire - in what they felt was the most musical way. I had a resounding result for the favourite, and a near unanimous response for the second. The least favourite -God rest its soul as it no longer exists in its recorded state- was also unanimous. It is possible to pick the responses to bits, and like all good research, I have attempted to address the principle points above. So which one did they think was the most communicative... The Edwardian JWW, describing it as full of colour, rich and deep but without a loss of clarity. One respondent was reduced to tears at one point. It was also commented that they thought some of the performance less good, so were clearly not heavily swayed by that. Next, the Hill, only a bit behind, but the difference was in the tonal palette. Little to choose between the Arthur Harrison paraphrased by 'not without merit, but too dense - rather like being hit over the head with a brick even in the quieter passages', and the Fr Willis which won out overall for clarity 'but lacked weight and passion - all a bit sterile, and the responders could not believe it was a mid Victorian sound. An interesting point which could run and run in itself. No prizes then for last place 'thin, lightweight, bland etc'. I deliberately haven't named the instruments but will do so only by pm. The knowledgable could probably guess most of them as there are no surprises. An interesting bit of an evening's work. AJS Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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