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Least Musical Stop


Vox Humana

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Only rarely do I post into this realm of the more learned and talented - but having perused within this thread, I found myself wondering :- is it entirely wise for a member of this great and goodly place to enquire of unmusical stops, and then to sign off as 'Vox Humana'. ?

 

Not really fair of me I suppose, I did find one not so long ago that was extremely useful - as a component of the 'honk-note' punctuation in Hornpipe Humoresque..... then again, musicality wasn't really a consideration, though it seemed to me marginally more musical than the concerted foot-stamps from the audience.

 

Oh yes, while I'm here, might I put in a motion for the defence, in favour of the poor old Dulciana. Some of you are are uncommonly rude about the only thing I've got on my Great that doesn't hurt after a good Saturday night. Those of us with the smaller organs (oh no...) are often grateful for something quiet to pop down on to the pedals, while fiddling about with whatever's stringy on the Swell. If you ever heard my Sub Bass, you too would be entertaining thoughts of a Destroyer saluting the flag as it enters Pompey. So 'shimmer 'n throb ain't available, might as well try for a little Dulciana/violon solo off the floor...

Then again, there's dulcianas and dulcianas isn't it? I can think of one not too far away from me that sounds a dead ringer for our paper shredder at home.

 

Unmusical - well there's always the Fundaton 256' I suppose. I left the details of this on the web some years ago - might still be around, maybe.

 

Cheers,

Chris Baker - Durham UK

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I found myself wondering :- is it entirely wise for a member of this great and goodly place to enquire of unmusical stops, and then to sign off as 'Vox Humana'. ?

Glad you appreciate the irony! :D

 

I have a very faint recollection of once having come across an H&H Vox Humana that was bearable, but it could just as well be wishful thinking. The Cavaillé one at Aix, when used as it should be with the 8' flute, actually sounds acceptable - if its Hauptwerk incarnation is anything to go by. By and large, though, I regard the stop as no more than a necessary evil because the French did so insist on using it; but why any builder felt obliged to perpetuate this awful noise, or even invent it in the first place, beats me.

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Glad you appreciate the irony! :D

 

I have a very faint recollection of once having come across an H&H Vox Humana that was bearable, but it could just as well be wishful thinking. The Cavaillé one at Aix, when used as it should be with the 8' flute, actually sounds acceptable - if its Hauptwerk incarnation is anything to go by. By and large, though, I regard the stop as no more than a necessary evil because the French did so insist on using it; but why any builder felt obliged to perpetuate this awful noise, or even invent it in the first place, beats me.

One of the best Vox Humanas I've come across is at the Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam. This also works best with an 8' flute. One can see the point of them after experiencing this organ.

 

I agree with the earlier comment about Dulcianas not being objectionable. I know at least organist that does most of their practice at my church on just the Great Dulciana alone. It's a handy stop - when added, it transforms the 8' Clarionet Flute into something more like a claribel flute (I've heard many worse real Claribel flutes) while 8' Dulciana and 4' Harmonic Flute is a very remarkable sound, reminiscient of some consort registrations found on early South German and Austrian organs with experiemental string stops, etc. Just the sort of thing for Froberger and Kerll- one hardly misses meantone temperament!

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I do find the sound of diapason chorus with 2 2/3 but no mixture to be incorrigibly dull and never quite understood the point of having a Great with nothing above the 2 foot, no mixture, and a 2 2/3 foot to muddy the waters further. I can't ever remember the last time I used a manual Quint 5 1/3 either.

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Guest Echo Gamba
I do find the sound of diapason chorus with 2 2/3 but no mixture to be incorrigibly dull and never quite understood the point of having a Great with nothing above the 2 foot, no mixture, and a 2 2/3 foot to muddy the waters further. I can't ever remember the last time I used a manual Quint 5 1/3 either.

 

I don't find a 12th "muddying" - rather it gives not only a different sound, but also seems to re-inforce the fundamental.

 

And of course, it can be used with the 8 & 4 flutes as a solo voice.

 

I have never played an organ with a 5.1/3 Quint, but I think there was a topic some time ago about this stop. (I know the bloke who started it well! :D = Might be worth looking back for it.

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I don't find a 12th "muddying" - rather it gives not only a different sound, but also seems to re-inforce the fundamental.

 

And of course, it can be used with the 8 & 4 flutes as a solo voice.

I think this depends very much on how the stop is scaled and voiced. I am no great lover of the stop myself as - on British organs at least - I find it tends to obscure counterpoint, but if carefully balanced in the diapason chorus it can provide a reedy tang which has its uses.

 

In my humble opinion I think that on a majority of British organs the Great Twelfth is probably voiced rather too stridently for effective use with the 8' + 4' flutes alone. I have heard too many players kid themselves that it sounds OK when actually it doesn't at all - I've done it myself in the past. I agree that when the stops do balance it is a useful sound, but, being diapason-toned, the Twelfth will always have a tendency to draw attention to itself over the flutes and that needs an attentive ear.

 

Actually I am rather uncertain about the point of the stop in symphonic organs. I know its function is to strengthen the second harmonic and on a clasically voiced organ with a vertical chorus I can understand its use in enriching the ensemble. But on Romantic organs? Whatever its purpose it was not to enable us to draw pseudo-Baroque registrations, that's for sure. I would assume that its reedy tang was intended to prepare the ensemble for the addition of the Great reeds, but on a Romantic organ the Full Swell would already have been coupled before this stop was drawn, so its impact is hardly noticeable. What am I missing?

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Guest Echo Gamba
I think this depends very much on how the stop is scaled and voiced. I am no great lover of the stop myself as - on British organs at least - I find it tends to obscure counterpoint, but if carefully balanced in the diapason chorus it can provide a reedy tang which has its uses.

 

In my humble opinion I think that on a majority of British organs the Great Twelfth is probably voiced rather too stridently for effective use with the 8' + 4' flutes alone. I have heard too many players kid themselves that it sounds OK when actually it doesn't at all - I've done it myself in the past. I agree that when the stops do balance it is a useful sound, but, being diapason-toned, the Twelfth will always have a tendency to draw attention to itself over the flutes and that needs an attentive ear.

 

Actually I am rather uncertain about the point of the stop in symphonic organs. I know its function is to strengthen the second harmonic and on a clasically voiced organ with a vertical chorus I can understand its use in enriching the ensemble. But on Romantic organs? Whatever its purpose it was not to enable us to draw pseudo-Baroque registrations, that's for sure. I would assume that its reedy tang was intended to prepare the ensemble for the addition of the Great reeds, but on a Romantic organ the Full Swell would already have been coupled before this stop was drawn, so its impact is hardly noticeable. What am I missing?

 

Absolutely agree about the voicing. I have come across Twelfth's that are quite "flutey" and work well as solo mutations but do not blend with the diapason chorus. This was the case on the Great here where I was Organist in the mid '80s. [i am not going to begin to surmise why there is one on the Swell - I used to just accept that it was there, and used it as a variation to Swell to Fifteenth Vox-any ideas?!] Whereas this one where I play once a month is very diapason toned, and adds a "reedy tang" to the chorus; it can also stand in as a Cornet solo with just the Open Diapason. (Allan Wicks discovered that when he gave a recital there some years ago)

In anothere recital there, David Poulter deliberately added it BEFORE the Fifteenth. (Can't remember in what)

 

Vox, you raise a very interesting point regarding the Twelfth in Romantic organs. There are many organs where the Great extends just to a 12th and 15th, in which cases it cannot be to "prepare for the addition of the Great reeds" if there weren't any. I have always assumed that the strengthening of the 2nd harmonic was the point; or simply to add something to the ensemble beyond Great to Fifteenth. Here, it states that it serves to "bind together the 8 & 4 in a diapason chorus"

 

I suppose it could also be seen as an additional, optional rank in a mixture? I have seen some piston settings where the Twelfth comes on after the Mixture. (I seem to recall that Thalben Ball did this at the Temple Church.......)

 

Can anyone offer any thoughts on Vox's comments?

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Since Abbé Vogler devellopped his ideas, in the very beginning

of the 19th century, the mutation stops - I mean Quint and Tierce

as independant stops- were meant as a "backbone" to full registrations,

in order to reinforce the foundation tone.

This was so at the Walcker organ in the Paulskirche, Frankfurt, and all

the romantic builders followed, not the least Cavaillé-Coll.

 

With baroque organs those stops are there for color, while with

"Reform" organs they are there for stridence. This is the reason

why they differ widely between those three styles.

 

Pierre

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I do find the sound of diapason chorus with 2 2/3 but no mixture to be incorrigibly dull and never quite understood the point of having a Great with nothing above the 2 foot, no mixture, and a 2 2/3 foot to muddy the waters further. I can't ever remember the last time I used a manual Quint 5 1/3 either.

Would Contrabombarde mind if I pointed him at this article:

 

http://listserv.albany.edu:8080/cgi-bin/wa...=R8435&I=-3

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Would Contrabombarde mind if I pointed him at this article:

 

http://listserv.albany.edu:8080/cgi-bin/wa...=R8435&I=-3

--------------------

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinion

Proverbs 18:2

 

Oh dear, I'm sorry to have been a fool by airing my own opinion!

 

Thanks for the Stephen Bicknell link, though it rather confirms my suspicions. I'm not saying there is no place for a twelth, but rather, why put one in an organ that has no mixtures and goes no higher than a fifteenth? And how often do you use the combination 8 4 2-2/3 2 and no mixture or higher harmonics on instruents where they are available? I think the point is that on classical organs you would usually use the twelth in conjunction with higher upperwork, and on romantic octopods there's little call for mutations in general.

 

Put another way, if I was designing a very house or small church organ I wouldn't choose a twelth, I'd prefer a second fifteeenth for the Swell or larigot or perhaps even a light reed. Thoughts?

 

Contrabombarde.

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Put another way, if I was designing a very house or small church organ I wouldn't choose a twelth, I'd prefer a second fifteeenth for the Swell or larigot or perhaps even a light reed. Thoughts?

 

Contrabombarde.

 

I found a point for my Twelfth for the first time ever today. It's a long story involving a 1970s mixture called Acuta 19.22 which I thought would be interesting to try out as a b21.23 just to see what the old 'Armonics would have sounded like (it's an Harrison). And, blow me down, it was absolutely magnificent - but the Twelfth was essential.

 

Another use for a Twelfth is, as I have demonstrated on one or two occasions, on its own in the left hand of a trio sonata, transposed down a fifth. Try it - it goes fine until you look at the keys, then you're sunk. The Romsey one was an absolutely ravishing Flute (in fact it was transposed and called Harmonic Flute 4 for many years, even though it's just open wood) which made the enterprise worthwhile.

 

If you're into improvising trios (or anything with a solo line), using a solo mutation without unisons as a solo or one part is, I found, quite a good way of freeing the hands so they can be controlled by the brain rather than vice versa, since you are forced to rely exclusively on what you are hearing and not familiar finger patterns. The instant you start to employ anything to do with visual or muscle memory, you fall over, I guarantee it. Fun times!

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Has anyone ever mentioned a Dolce? What use are they?

To pick up on one of the other threads, the Pedal Dolce on the Grove organ in Tewkesbury Abbey is a triumph. Soft, clean, slightly stringy and so much more versatile than a Bourdon. It's completely in keeping with the concept of the instrument, and a great shame IMO, that we don't encounter more pedal basses like it, particularly on smaller organs although there are many similar examples often with different names on our larger ones.

 

AJS

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I found a point for my Twelfth for the first time ever today. It's a long story involving a 1970s mixture called Acuta 19.22 which I thought would be interesting to try out as a b21.23 just to see what the old 'Armonics would have sounded like (it's an Harrison). And, blow me down, it was absolutely magnificent - but the Twelfth was essential.

 

Indeed!

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To pick up on one of the other threads, the Pedal Dolce on the Grove organ in Tewkesbury Abbey is a triumph. Soft, clean, slightly stringy and so much more versatile than a Bourdon. It's completely in keeping with the concept of the instrument, and a great shame IMO, that we don't encounter more pedal basses like it, particularly on smaller organs although there are many similar examples often with different names on our larger ones.

 

AJS

 

I can imagine that type of sound being v useful on the pedals. I play an organ near me once a month that has an 8' Dolce on the Great, that is very soft and slightly stringy - too soft to accompany the Oboe, so I wonder what use it is! On this organ too, there is a (very soft-attenuated by enclosure) Dulciana on the Swell, which I don't think can be very common - the only other one I can think of is Bristol Cathedral.

 

Also on this organ, the Hohl Flute is why I hate Hohl Flutes, and the Large Open on the Great is far too big to build even a chorus to mixture on - it just dominates everything. I tend to use it as one might (very occasionally!!!!) add the Tuba to full organ.

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I can imagine that type of sound being v useful on the pedals. I play an organ near me once a month that has an 8' Dolce on the Great, that is very soft and slightly stringy - too soft to accompany the Oboe, so I wonder what use it is! On this organ too, there is a (very soft-attenuated by enclosure) Dulciana on the Swell, which I don't think can be very common - the only other one I can think of is Bristol Cathedral.

 

Also on this organ, the Hohl Flute is why I hate Hohl Flutes, and the Large Open on the Great is far too big to build even a chorus to mixture on - it just dominates everything. I tend to use it as one might (very occasionally!!!!) add the Tuba to full organ.

I am familiar with an instrument in South Wales where the word Tuba could be inserted in the name of every stop on the Great, it creates an undeniable blend of tone, best heard from the channel. Tuba is a wonderful acronym.

 

AJS

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[Also on this organ, the Hohl Flute is why I hate Hohl Flutes, and the Large Open on the Great is far too big to build even a chorus to mixture on - it just dominates everything. I tend to use it as one might (very occasionally!!!!) add the Tuba to full organ.

 

But surely the Edwardian (and later) Large Open wasn't designed as the basis for a chorus - that was the function of the Small Diapason (or number two). Rather like the tuba, the Large Open was for special effects - or huge congregations!

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[Also on this organ, the Hohl Flute is why I hate Hohl Flutes, and the Large Open on the Great is far too big to build even a chorus to mixture on - it just dominates everything. I tend to use it as one might (very occasionally!!!!) add the Tuba to full organ.

 

 

But surely the Edwardian (and later) Large Open wasn't designed as the basis for a chorus - that was the function of the Small Diapason (or number two). Rather like the tuba, the Large Open was for special effects - or huge congregations!

 

Indeed - but the one I cite is absolutely horrendously oblierating. It even obscures the Great Mixture, which, on top of the chorus on the small open, can easily accompany a full church.

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Oh dear, I'm sorry to have been a fool by airing my own opinion!

 

Thanks for the Stephen Bicknell link, though it rather confirms my suspicions. I'm not saying there is no place for a twelth, but rather, why put one in an organ that has no mixtures and goes no higher than a fifteenth? And how often do you use the combination 8 4 2-2/3 2 and no mixture or higher harmonics on instruents where they are available? I think the point is that on classical organs you would usually use the twelth in conjunction with higher upperwork, and on romantic octopods there's little call for mutations in general.

 

Put another way, if I was designing a very house or small church organ I wouldn't choose a twelth, I'd prefer a second fifteeenth for the Swell or larigot or perhaps even a light reed. Thoughts?

 

Contrabombarde.

I think you're only a fool if you delight in airing your own opinion but don't like learning new things... So if you enjoyed the SB article, it can't be said you're actually a fool...

 

At my church (were SB was consultant - and, surprise, surprise - there's a twelfth scaled and finished to the fifteenth, to Walker scales, exactly as described in the article... in fact I wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg...), the effect of the twelfth is quite different to what has been described (muddy, ruining clarity, etc - what have you guys been playing?). The chorus has a slight quinty twang in the bass, where the foundations delve into relatively vast scales and the upperwork is much more stringy, but in the treble everything converges into a straight chorus, where the twelfth really clarifies things, reinforcing the foundation and throwing out quite a bit of brilliance - the effect is rather like a very gracious mixture (in fact, the typical Walker mixture in the treble is 4, 2 2/3, 2, all scaled to the fifteenth...).

 

So generally, the Twelfth is added either just after or at the same time as the fifteenth but before the great mixture. The combination 8.4.2 2/3.2 is used all the time... hymns, as a pleno - it's the backbone of our organ, only augmented further by the double, mixture and trumpet.

 

And it's utterly wonderful. I wouldn't be without it.

 

However, it's worth bearing in mind the scaling and treatment of the twelfth need to be carefully considered. We were very, very careful and threw out a twelfth that a lot of people would have kept. But it didn't fit in. If the scaling and pipes of the twelfth are not consonant with the rest of the chorus, the chorus will lack cohesion. I'm come across lots of very poor twelfths, usually added in rebuilds where the nature of the original pipes and chorus is not fully understood or respected and the comments listed above seem quite pertinent.

 

I was quite interested to read DC's comments about the Twelfth at Romsey. I would have thought it is not impossible that the original twelfth would have been thrown out when the harmonic flute was installed and when the twelfth was restored in 1982 (at the same time the party horn was installed and the pressure to the Barker level raised (and was the wind system in the organ revised at this time too - I don't remember?)), they just used the old harmonic flute, transposed and maybe cut it down? Can anyone confirm? After all, the work in 1982 was not noted for its sympathy to the rest of the organ, however much the organbuilders working on it would have venerated the qualities of the original instrument.

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