Author Topic: Inspired by quality?  (Read 2506 times)

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MusingMuso

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Inspired by quality?
« on: May 10, 2012, 01:36:31 PM »
I was musing again, and considering the subject of "inspirational organs," and something clicked in my brain.

It seems to me that we place a certain over-emphasis on how an organ sounds, (quite rightly), but oten at the expense of other factors such as suitability, build-quality and reliability.
I further mused on the fact that a lot of neo-classical organs built by certain builders in the 1960's and 1970's, have been re-built expensively, and even thrown out due to ongoing problems; especially with electro-pneumatic actions and solid-state switching.  That has opened the door to electronic substitutes, and skewed the market to some extent, by leading church authorities towards the false belief that pipe-organs are more expensive in the long-term than modern electronic organs. This is not surprising, considering the cost of a new pipe-organ, which must realistically last 50 or more years to be economically viable and even competitive.

Not all modern organs are poor by any means, and the organ I play, (all mechanical), whilst having had a few small problems recently, (slider seals and one stop-knob with a badly calculated length of travel; both now put right), it is generally reliable, stays in tune and, as a bonus, sounds wonderful.

However, I was thinking about some of the old organs I have played in various churches over the years, both as resident organist and as a visiting recitalist from time to time, and certain instruments stand out for their build-quality and outstanding reliability. For instance, a fine Fr Willis organ which was functioning well after 90 years, a superb pneumatic-action  Binns organ which was still functioning, (a little noisily), after almost a century, an old tracker Isaac Abbot organ in good playing condition after a similar length of time, Arthur Harrison instruments which soldier on long after everything should have crumbled to dust, and others, (far too many to mention) by such builders as Compton, Forster & Andrews, William Hill etc etc.

Is it a fair proposition to make, that build-quality and action-reliability are the two most important factors in the long-term viability of pipe-organs and pipe-organ building?

If a new organ is going to expire within 30 years, (as some indeed have and continue to do), is this not the best advertisment for the makers of digital-organs, who only have to sit back and wait for disillusioned customers to knock on the door?


MM
« Last Edit: May 11, 2012, 11:45:31 AM by MusingMuso »

KB7DQH

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Re: Inspired by quality?
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2012, 06:40:17 PM »
Quote
Is it a fair proposition to make, that build-quality and action-reliability are the two most important factors in the long-term viability of pipe-organs and pipe-organ building?

Based on my research (much of which is scattered about the boards of this forum ;)  I would not make that argument :o 

It is an important "selling point" for high-quality instruments, but, the largest market for pipe organs has been the "church" and as such there has to be a desire within the "church" to obtain an  "organ"  of any sort first,   and then the decision of which type of "organ" can be made from there, based on the "usual limitations"...  Beyond that there are other markets where pipe and electronic instruments compete, and I am thinking here of "concert halls" whether academic, municipal, or those owned by the Symphonies themselves...  and electronics in these environments have not fared well...   One in particular here in the US, upon selling the pipe instrument and the subsequent installation of the electronic "they" realized they had made a big mistake and tried to buy their pipe organ back :o

"Art" and "Faith" are two factors in the equation which defy any reasonable "statistical logic" and add a dimension (or more ??? to the decision-making process, far different than when considering purchase of... any reasonably complex anything.

This explains why instruments in some cases have been built and rebuilt and have lasted far longer than their "fashion" would indicate, and others "still under warranty" are cut into pieces and thrown into a skip...

Eric
KB7DQH
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Janner

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Re: Inspired by quality?
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2012, 06:51:54 PM »

............... and even thrown out due to ongoing problems; especially with electro-pneumatic actions and solid-state switching.............
 
MM

Could you expand a little please MM? Not questioning your statement, merely interested in what goes wrong.

Thanks.

J.

MusingMuso

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Re: Inspired by quality?
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2012, 11:01:41 PM »
I'm just over 60 years of age, and in that time, I have seen organ-actions change dramatically; first away from the electro-mechanical systems using telephone-exchange technology, to the early electronic, transistorised systems and now to the computerised systems of to-day. In effect, not only has the technology changed every 20 years or so, it means that there is now the same sort of planned obsolence we see in motor-vehicles, where spares become increasingly scarce as time marches on. Although I have no reason for suggesting this, I also wonder how reliable the hall sensors of some modern key-actions will be, knowing only too well that a motor-vehicle ABS and engine-speed sensors have a distinctly limited life.

Of course, the same arguments apply exactly to electronic instruments; many of the earlier ones now almost irrepairable; especially where they use dedicated IC's.

Compare this, if you will, to certain tracker instruments, which clatter and clank away throughout Europe, making every piece of music sound like a stage presentation of "River Dance." At the very least, they still work, albeit with a few problems and the occasional bit of maintenance.

Even the worst pneumatic actions usually lasted 30+ years, and the best of them three times longer, but with one massively important difference. With both mechanical and pneumatic actions, even a skilled mechanic, engineer or DIY enthusiast could make sense of them and effect the very minimum of a temporary repair or even something more permanent. Glue, bits of leather, iron wire and screw drivers are still remarkably common-place in hardware stores and elsewhere.

At the re-opening of a certain cathedral organ in the UK, a "spike" in the electrical system caused a considerable delay in proceedings, and it wasn't until the second-half of the programme that the full organ could be used.

I just wonder of there isn't a certain attractiveness in transmission-systems which require little more than a few multi-plugs and a minimum of wiring, but at what cost long-term?

MM



 


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