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Am I Hearing Things?


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1 hour ago, Colin Pykett said:

Is the D flat one Andante con moto?

YES. A lovely miniature. According to Wikipedia Hindmarsh stated that FB "was not an organist" but to my mind that doesn't mean he couldn't play. I can sing, but I'm not a singer. The two sets of three pieces, pre WW1, are delightful - many redolent of his piano pieces such as Rosemary. Allegro marziale is the one I like least, though it's quite often performed. Allegretto grazioso is heavenly, but I've heard some clumping clodhoppery performances with too much organist-ego and not enough self-effacing delicacy. The later collection from the 1940s is more astringent and less often heard. Processional was a great favourite of my teacher Andrew Seivewright.

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1 hour ago, AJJ said:

In my experience they discuss with an organist. A piece I commissioned from a non organist was essentially a keyboard piece. I took it and edited, played it to the composer who liked what she heard and all were happy!

Thank you.  I was wondering in the case of Frank Bridge whether there were any clues, such as the dedicatee of the Three Pieces for Organ, whom he might have consulted.  Currently I can't access my copy of John Henderson's invaluable Directory of Composers for Organ, but from an American website discovered that the dedicatee was another Henderson, Archibald Martin Henderson, who had studied in Berlin and held an organist's appointment in Glasgow from 1908 - three years after publication of the Three Pieces, just to complicate things.  AMH was also conductor of the Glasgow University Choral Society.  So, although no more than a possibility, clearly their paths had crossed. 

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A M Henderson was Organist and Choirmaster to Glasgow University 1906 - 1954 , Lecturer of the History 

and Practice of Church Music

He was an active recitalist  both in Britain ,France and Germany - he edited a large quantity of piano,organ and choral music

His publication “Musical Memories” 1938 highlights the many virtuosos he encountered during his career

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 22/04/2020 at 10:35, Colin Pykett said:

Thank you for opening this new window for me, Stanley.  My education has been sadly neglected until this day.  Is the D flat one Andante con moto?  And am I right in thinking that Bridge didn't even play the organ?  If so, it's that bit more remarkable how he wrote for it so atmospherically.  Sheet music is available on IMSLP, and several recordings on CD and youtube (e.g. 'Sounds Idyllic' on a disc by Peter Dyke).

Forgive me quoting my own post, but it mentions a CD which I've since obtained, prompted by Stanley Monkhouse's remarks above about Frank Bridge.  I have to say that I've found it quite beautiful, though others may not agree of course.  In some ways I would admit that it's not ideal e.g. rather old and probably not obtainable new any longer.  However there seem to be lots of pre-owned ones around and I obtained one for a trifle from ebay.  It was recorded just before the Hereford organ's rebuild in 2004, so on some of the quieter numbers you can hear some action noises which are occasionally rather too intrusive.  But otherwise, the 25 tracks, together with the sound of the instrument and Peter Dyke's playing, are just my cup of tea - the Little Organ Book in memory of Hubert Parry, Stanford's six short preludes & postludes op 101, and the six organ pieces by Bridge as mentioned above by Stanley.  It's called 'Sounds Idyllic', Lammas Records LAMM 148D.

The words from 'Blest Pair of Sirens' quoted by Alan Gray in his piece (no. IV in the 'Parry' collection) seem particularly apposite at this time when choirs, organs and churches are silent: 'O may we soon again renew that song'.

(Just a cautionary note - if your CD player is a bit of a prima donna about the discs it will play properly and those it won't, as one of mine is, you might possibly have trouble with this.  Playing time is nearly 76 minutes, a tad over the recommended 74 minute maximum, and some decks even struggle with this.  However I have an old Sony player which seems to accept just about everything I shove into it fortunately, jammy fingermarks and all.)

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8 minutes ago, Colin Pykett said:

Playing time is nearly 76 minutes, a tad over the recommended 74 minute maximum, and some decks even struggle with this.  However I have an old Sony player which seems to accept just about everything I shove into it fortunately, jammy fingermarks and all.)

The 74' limit was part of the original "Red Book" specification for CDs.  However, it pretty quickly became a dead letter...

When twenty years ago I was mastering a few CDs, the CD pressing plant told me that the established practical requirement was to limit the length of the disk to 79'50" - and disks approaching that have been commonplace since around the millenium.  I had a couple in the 1990s which skipped at about 78', but this was considered to be down to poor manufacturing.  In the last ten years I have seen several published CDs of over 80', the longest being nearly 84'.

I have myself (using special blanks) made CD-Rs approaching 90', and only once ever encountered a player that couldn't handle them.  Blanks are available for 99' CD-Rs, but some players reject anything over 90' because the addressing of tracks beyond that is more complicated and requires extra non-standard handling in the firmware.

I would treat a player that didn't handle 80' disks as simply faulty.


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On 11/04/2020 at 16:07, Colin Pykett said:




On the music front, over the last 20 years or so I've become progressively less fond of Bach's (and similar composers) restless contrapuntal style, turning instead to later romantic works with lots of colour and heavy chords.  Rachmaninov is bliss!  I do wonder whether this is something to do with how my hearing has changed, much as Stanley has described (presbyacusis, basically).  Hearing aids are good for speech as we've discussed exhaustively on previous threads, but for me they don't really cut it for music and I prefer to use other things such as graphic equalisers.


A while ago, I experienced a similar phase, although it was mercifully short-lived. In my case, I ascribed it to increasing laziness; I was losing enthusiasm for the discipline necessary to the performance of this musical genre.  Romanticism can be just that and from a performer's point of view, a convenient disguise of shortcomings of technique.  This view is likely to generate some flak but after more than 70 years of "restless" contrapuntalism, I'm probably too old to change. Besides, I'm not really enamoured of the large instruments generally associated with this stuff.  

Sadly, I'm much too deaf to perceive any characteristics of decaying notes. And I find that graphic equalisers, compared with hearing aids, seem to lack "immediacy" or "grip" - don't ask - which is why, most of the time, I prefer the latter. Nevertheless, I'm all too aware that much of what used to be there, now is absent. I'm thinking of those wonderful recordings made by Lionel Rogg on the Großmunster (Zurich) Metzler many years ago which, to me, proved so revelatory. Rather like the electrification provided by Glenn Gould 10 years earlier.

I suspect being banged up for so long is getting to me . . . .


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  • 1 month later...
On 12/04/2020 at 14:07, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

This intriguing question set me off to look for a book, " The Acoustical Foundations of Music", 2nd edition, by John Backus, published by W W Norton. This is the only technical book my wife possesses, and was a set book for her music degree. She claims never to have opened it - judging by its condition, I believe her ....



On 12/04/2020 at 16:16, Colin Pykett said:

... I agree the book mentioned by Damian sounds very much worth getting hold of - thanks Damian.

Rather more than two months later I've succeeded in getting hold of this book which I had not come across before.  However  I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wants to augment their knowledge of the physics of music as it's pretty hopelessly out of date.  Mine is the first edition (1969), published in the UK in 1970, thus 50 years ago now.  Consequently it does not (because it could not) address a lot of the research into musical instruments which has been done since.  For instance the explanation of how organ flue pipes work is now quite wrong and merely repeats what was currently understood in the Edwardian era when people such as Audsley were active.  And of course, the chapter on electronic and computer music is similarly pretty useless now.

Damian's later edition might be somewhat better in these respects.  However if, like me, you enjoy reading material for its historical value then it's a book that is more worthwhile.  This is as true for the physics of music as it is for the organ itself, where few would criticise Dom Bedos, Hopkins & Rimbault or Audsley for writing works which perforce can represent only their time and place.

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Oops - I didn't expect people to spend money on my book recommendation! The edition I have is from 1977, so as Colin correctly says, since then the field has developed and even some principles reconsidered, but it is nevertheless representative of its time.

The thread started with perceptions of pitch and diplaclusis - the sense of hearing the same tone differently in each ear. This is part of the field of psychoacoustics. Searching for a CV of a British engineer in the field which I had read, but whose name I have subsequently completely forgotten, I came across the WIkipedia entry for it. WIkipedia may have its faults, but for scientific and engineering matters it's usually pretty good as a guide to a subject if you're new to it, easy to see if someone has been sabotaging entries, and often has a good selection of proper references.

If anyone's interested, especially for things often discussed here such as hearing non-existent fundamentals, octave illusions, masking etc, it makes for an interesting read, and anyone with access to an organ (real or virtual) could probably perform some decent experiments of their own. Something to stir the stir-crazy locked-down brains to mull over 🙂






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