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3. The glorious Silver Bells project turned-out to be only a feasibility study for more functional and astonishing elaboration of the pièce de résistance, the ravishing virtual theater organs, which dream-like instruments come with lots of bells, chimes, harps, pianos. ... All culminating in the extravagant excess of the dubious third keyboard!

THE SOLOVOX OF MY DREAMS ...

But along the way I realized my tiny bell-playing keyboard appeared so ravishingly charming perhaps via another all-but-forgotten ancient obsession, the SoloVox, a lovely Hammond accessory I must’ve seen somewhere in my childhood; they were old-technology even then, tube-based in an increasingly-transistorized age. They were attached below the keyboard of one’s piano — presumably I dreamed of attaching one to our piano — and produced lovely electronic-organish tones through a beautiful Hammond tone cabinet I saw just now on YouTube. I believe in my childish dreams I didn’t understand the tone cabinet part: it’s the brains of the thing, as well as the amplifier/speaker, and the tiny keyboard I incoherently lusted-for would’ve been totally useless without it. ... Comparisons with my current follies will be studiously evaded....

However Youtube also showed the SoloVox’s monophonic voice and large flat stop tabs “inherited” by the solo voice part of my beloved Hammond Chord Organ. ... So my life-long intermittent chord organ yearnings are clarified; although they were also inspired by playing an actual chord organ at the Hudson Guild (a neighborhood Trotskyite outpost) for as long as they’d let me. ... I can still almost recall the beautiful feeling of precious access to the wonderful controls and sounds.

SOME VSTiS FOR SILVER BELLS SOUNDFONTS

Anyway, after hours of search and even test, I’ve learned some things about silver bells (at least as they were ~ 2012) and how to play them within my Reaper DAW maybe:

  • ForteDXI, sold by the usually-admirable PGMusic (the endearing “Band-in-a-Box” people) wasn’t really ready for prime time. It played OK, but not in my new-age 64-bit Reaper. And it couldn’t remember its settings. ... Apparently, it might work good with PGMusic’s Band-in-a-Box product, who’ll remember its settings for it, and don’t need no stinking 64 bits. ... And it’s in the now-totally-obsolete “DirectX” format — which Reaper nevertheless patronized — and it plays a proprietary sample format. ... There’s a demo which probably lasts a month, and $40 gets it; but I didn’t.

  • There are (at least) two “soundfont” formats and I refuse to understand the differences — “SF2” could be the “traditional” soundfont whatever that is, and “SFZ” which is probably more modérne, but still obsolete. SF2 may be more what I’m interested is, and SFZ more for pianos falling down stairs and other such amusements....

  • And The Winner is Cakewalk’s free “SFZ Player”, which initially could only produce “Not Enough Memory” errors which as usual, translated from mumbo-jumboese, means “mumbo jumbo fault”. But the internet is awash with reports on how it plays SF2 and SFZ soundfonts, so after a few months I installed it again and it still didn’t work, but then I tried installing it on a 32-bit XP system and it did, so I googled “sfz 64 bits” and got a cakewalk forum where someone said a different more expen$ive product’d work good with the magical PR32 or PR16 “modes”, but SFZ was happy, too, when I set it that way and who knows. ... Such things may be file-dependent, at least my lovely general MIDI “Chaos_V20” produced the memory error with PR32 but worked good with PR16.

THE WINNER, therefor, was SFZ Player, once I set its “mode” right (to PR16 or PR32?). ... It plays all the sound fonts I played with VSTSynthFont (next), but without weird screens and nonsense. ... But I got my sound fonts from VSTSynthFont links....

  • The previous Owenlabs winner was VSTSynthFont from www.synthfont.com but it was far too confusing....

  • Duplicating the Reaper track and selecting another voice plays two sounds at the same time! ... I thought this was a magical thing I could do with VSTSynthFont because I was confused, but I believe it’s probably the way all of us hot-shot MIDIesque types get more voices.

And then one day I played a ravishing rendition of Flamingo (© 1941 Tempo Music), on the Nord B3 + a VSTSynthFont marimba! ... It was better than my late-lamented Commodore’s “sustain” version. ... Whereupon my obsolete EMU-0404 audio interface immediately became silent, as if in dumbstruck awe at the transcendent loveliness. ... So if you want, download half a meg of B3mid310.mp3 — a rosetta stone version of Flamingo on the B3 + Reaper, Miditzer, and Hauptwerk Paramount 310 — and see if you can hear the UCA222 beeping! ... I couldn’t, but I didn’t try hard....

So, obviously, I grovel in ignorance, but I must report further joyous investigations into Miditzer revealed soundfonts are an integral part of the adorable virtual organ’s sometimes elusive charms. ... And for further pointless delving, you may share my deep thoughts on editing the Miditzer soundfont....


4. I’ve used an E-MU “midi1x1” MIDI/USB cable ($40? Amazon), for various MIDI gadgets, including connecting the Nord’s MIDI-out to the computer running Miditzer, until it was superceded by my obsolete EMU 0404. ... While using a lesser brandx MIDI/USB cable, although it probably applies to them all, I’ve discovered it works a lot better with the sequence (1.) connect-up the MIDI cable to a machine on one end and the converter on the other; then (2.) plug the converter into the USB. ... I think I was trying to plug the MIDI cable into the converter after it was connected to the USB and the machine was powered-on, but whatever I was doing, it worked very poorly, producing weird behavior on an antique CZ-101, which symptoms vanished into the mist when I did things the better way....

5. Note that in my Miditzer / Hauptwerk system the beautiful Nord C2 functions as a collection of MIDI keyboards + buttons. Which could undoubtedly be replaced for far less money — without the Nord sounds of course....

6. As must be obvious, despite my vast technical pretensions I still know little about these virtual organists and their organs. But apparently this has been going on for years! ... With the most primitive tools! ... Jim Henry, “Mr. Miditzer”, is apparently still at work on an alpha version of the next Miditzer for the greater glory of theater organs; which probably isn’t the grand $100-donation Miditzer 260SP three-manual version 0.883, since the old reliable model 216 is version 0.881; so maybe there’re more in the works, and he’ll get up to 0.9 or even 1.0 someday! ... And the shadowy forces behind Hauptwerk are doubtless equally devoted, at least if the vast quantity of forum postings that have piled-up in the byways and shady lanes of the internet are any indication....

I came across a PDF of Mr. Henry’s about how to get your Miditzer going with the “MIDIbox” (some sort of wonderful open-source hardware project @ http://midibox.org/forums/). I mean, there are diagrams and screen shots and it just goes on and on! ... I cringe just to imagine going through such technical ordeals, but these heroic characters did it every day apparently for years if not decades, enabling lazy spendthrifts like myself to just plug something in without a giant retro-fitted console and endless agony. ... Some moderate agony[20], to be sure, but nothing compared to the history of it all....

And take a click at that => informative, inspiring and frightening diagram to get some idea of the current state of the art; it just takes my breath away. ... Oh I didn’t realize; there’s not just one diagram, it goes on and on....


7. Authenticity. Wikipedia says Hauptwerk was a British guy Martin Dyde, who was then acquired by Milan Digital Audio which, of course, is based in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. ... Hence the “cryptic” in “cryptic Teutonic omniscience” as per my beautiful chart.. ... Two other Hauptwerk highlights are the official forums — where someone else Hauptwerked his Nord C2! — and http://www.pcorgan.com/indexEN.html, where I realized that, comparatively, I’m normal. ... It’s a Dutch site on all things Hauptwerkian, and the photos are particularly impressive. The picture <= is a relatively subdued Hammond — a model or so up from my late-lamented Commodore — that someone has presumably MIDIfied and Hauptwerked, but there are immensely more intricate and extravagant consoles pictured, most in Europe, mostly classical rather than theater organs. ... Where it appears there are firms who manufacture MIDIesque keyboards / consoles for the hobbyist / church Hauptwerk hordes. ... Who knew?

THE TRACKER ELECTRONIC ORGANIST

Most of these organists were presumably imprinted in a formative year or so with “The Mighty Organ”. ... I, on the other hand, wallowing in snooty progressive Nueva York, was led somehow to “The Tracker”. Which Wikipedia disappointingly describes merely as a mechanism, omitting entirely the modern religious movement with E. Power Biggs as its prophet. The cult encouraged related devotions, to baroque stops and low wind pressure, but mechanical “tracker” organ movements were at the heart....

Nothing, seemingly, could be further from a tracker organ than our electronic super-keyboards, especially my beautiful Nord, but yet! — there is a common theme: smallness. ... The trackers, as well as rejecting the pneumatics / relays of “modern” (post 1850 or so) organs were also, inherently, small organs. Catch Diane Bish in one of her lovely informative videos strewn over the cable channels playing a real historic European organ — better yet, a genuine historic Ohio tracker organ — and, while the machines are hardly small and quiet, she is obviously working hard to get the keys to go, and there is an apparent limit to how many pipes can be played with one tracker key.

Which limitation, indeed, was the reason for the pneumatic and electric systems of the Age of Progress, so like everything else organs could become vast and amazing. The tracker philosophy was a post-modernist rejection of all that, and they doted on lovely small organs you could easily put in a shed, at your charming summer place you could somehow afford on a professor’s salary. ... I associate “chiff” with these organs — a brief lovely sibilance when the pipe first speaks — and that’s probably something to do with the low wind pressure which, of course, would be part of the anti-progress package. I’m surprised they didn’t demand manual bellows-pumping; although I believe there are experiments....

The demo/sample classical organ that comes with Hauptwerk is intentionally small to “fit” in the free Hauptwerk’s 256-note-polyphony / 1.5 gigabyte limitations. But it is larger than the instrument I played at St. Peters. ... And, wackily, theater organs, despite the enthusiasms of their fans, were not, typically, large organs, although to be sure there were fabulous famous exceptions. ... Loud, yes; but cheap also, with maximum flash. ... And thus, there’s a surprising advantage to living in the past: my simple-minded historical tendencies do not challenge the free Hauptwerk’s limitations! ... But playing, incompetently as ever, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love on the Paramount 310 is a transcendently lovely experience....


8. Prices! Johannus has prices! ... And truly, if I’d known they’d had a $7K or $8K organ I might well have bought it, instead of my precious beautiful infuriating home Nord endless project — and missed all the excitement and merriment! ... And then of course a price is not a sale, and who knows if they’re actually capable of consummating such a thing? + delivery + in$tallation. ... And I’m looking around the site, and it appeared to be difficult to contact anybody! ... That is so sad; it’ll make the purchase experience so much more challenging. ... But still; it’s definitely a step in the right direction. ... And behold! “The Johannus Advantage” button led to a link to the “nearest Johannus dealer”, which gets to the address, phone number, and email of two characters! ... And the “Available Immediately” button got a used $14,300 3-manual unit in Connecticut requiring “dealer move and installation” for some unnamed sum, and the advice “call or email” with a phone number and no email address; I’d’ve been tempted. ... But not that much....

WERSI

And after leaving this shameful Johannus plug here all these years I should at least depict another dubious contender, the Wersi “OAX” line of ridiculous European instruments ~ 9/15, rumored @ the glorious Organ Forum.

PRICELESS

... And I might as well note some other priceless contenders are the splendiferous Lowrey (the only organs I’ve actually seen for sale, @ Florida Bob’s Piano & Organs) and Rodgers (recently acquired by Johannus).


9. Voicing the home electronic organ: The Behringer DSP1124P aka “Behringer DSP1124P Digital 24-bit Feedback Suppressor/Parametric Equalizer” aka the “Feedback Destroyer Pro” aka “BFD”, $110 at Amazon. I got it because I thought the Hauptwerk Paramount 310 pedal Eb was weak.[13] Of course if I’d just give-up and buy the insane millionaire Hauptwerk, I could voice the individual pipe! But that’d just encourage them. And leave my beloved miditzer in the dust. ... Whatever, the DSP1124P fixed it, somehow. ... But somewhere in the fog of audio adjustments I unfairly condemned the poor BFD as noisy, and when the Nord Imperium regrouped to a better land without wolf notes or at least, what with moving the speakers around and all, not so much that I noticed, yet, I briefly decomissioned it, never to EQ again, or anyway as it turned out, just for a while....

The BFD in its turn was an improvement on my previous Behringer FBQ3102 31-Band Stereo Graphic Equalizer because (1.) the BFD is cheaper, (2.) the parametric adjustment was so much more precise than the crude 1/3 octaves available on the graphic EQ and, finally, (3.) adjusting all those tiny fiddly controls on the graphic EQ is actually harder than the considerable agony involved in programming the parameters on the BFD — which also has ten presets — storage areas, so I could have one for the Nord, and one just for the Hauptwerk Paramounts.

HEAVY METAL

Both Behringer EQ devices appear to be subsidized for our amusement by the rock and roll industry, which uses them to control microphone feedback at concerts. ... If you are blessed, you’ve never heard the appalling howling that can occur when a microphone or other transducer is afflicted by vast quantities of amplification, a typical rock concert health threat. ... The cheaper BFD parametric EQ supposedly can fix that automatically; I suppose the graphic version is still favored nevertheless by the old school — but then again, apparently my FBQ3102 had a manual feedback suppression feature I never knew about. ... BFD documentation is filled with dire warnings about turning-off the automatic mechanism by accident after it’s adjusted; i.e., the gargantuan concert amplification feedback could presumably explode your head....

+ BROKEN WINDOWS PROGRAM

There’s a Windows program DSP1100.EXE which was actually available from the Behringer DSP1124P page and in various versions around the web. It’s supposed to let one adjust the BFD in a user-friendly graphics screen but, as far as I can tell, is totally without function. ... Well, not totally; it puts up a nice graphic which can be noodled-with, but it is unable to perceive the MIDI on various machines in the owen laboratories and when I exit, it puts me in a configuration screen which, when I try to configure it by clicking the “MIDI” menu item, infallibly crashes — ecumenically: it did that on XP, Vista, and Windows 7, on machines with and without attached MIDI devices. If it worked, I’d probably be able to plug into those MIDI receptacles on the back of the DSP1124P and save/restore/edit the filters, but it doesn’t and I couldn’t. Instead I made myself a nice friendly spreadsheet with the numbers I set the filters to, and I didn’t acutely feel the lack of computer support. ... And at last there’s a glorious alternative....

SACRED TONE CONTROLS

I should note that parametric EQs including the BFD are not ideal as general-purpose tone controls. The bass / treble / mid controls on the Nord, and my mixers, are far more convenient. ... But I was raised in a progressive household and my parents, like the other intellectual beatniks, had a hi-fi with an enormous speaker. Later in life, my father was bitter, betrayed by stereo, and he played everything with cheap tape players and worse, and loudly scoffed at hi-fi pretensions. I, however, grew-up in the faith, and retain an atavistic horror of touching the tone controls. ... Hi-end stereo today is increasingly a staged evocation of my father’s and friends’ hi-fis, down to the tube technology, but they are also very negative on tone controls, except when something expensive comes with some, but most don’t. And I still tremble to touch the forbidden dials, and somehow doing it with a higher-tech gadget like the BFD isn’t nearly as troubling. ... I should be in a 12-step program. ... And then it turns out, inhibitions or not, the BFD is often a better tone control; more precise. Of course. ... But definitely less easily-adjustable.

MORE EXPENSIVE?

The Absolute Sound 2/13 p 88 puffs “DSPeaker Anti-Mode 2.0 DualCore Digital Signal Processor” $1200 which might be a high-quality version of the BFD. The only web source has prices strictly in euros....

CHEAPER/BETTER?

Not to be outdone, Stereophile 1/14 mentioned a “miniDSP” which has a stereo version on the web for a $140? or so; I have no idea if it’s any good but the Stereophile article puffed its more expensive sibling. The miniDSP web site does not inspire confidence, all aglow with childish electronic hobbyist enthusiasms and lack of specifics. ... After idle months of lazy contemplation, I finally figured-out that by “plug-in” they seem to mean “the software user interface(UI) used for control/configuration of the DSP from a PC/Mac environment” — well actually they say so, but everywhere else on the site it’s just “plug-in”, which is an ignorant/illiterate usage when what they mean is “PC software”. ... And I’m an expert....

TONE CONTROL REDUX

And then I felt a lack of bass in my beloved Miditzer and installed a hifi graphic EQ which remedied the fault and included a defeat switch, so I could turn it off easily for the bass-adequate Nord baroque and the other organs. ... But the hifi EQ will tune no wolf note forever. ... But then I had time to reconsider and reflect — after the chaotic period of the Imperium’s resurrection — and as far as I can tell now, in this room, Miditzer’s OK and Hauptwerk’s got too much bass. And after all, it all changes as I adjust levels, including the speakers and the sub-woofer. ... But my puerile pro-Miditzer prejudices pan-out at last....

OBITER DICTUM: THE KID’S ALL RIGHT ...

And then at last I felt that, if I was going to hook-up a hifi EQ, I might as well get back to the hard stuff, and so I did, and gloriously concluded the DSP1124P wasn’t noisy despite previous delusions. In the interim I’d improved various signal-to-noise ratios, most recently discovering the mysterious hidden (to my eyes anyway) Miditzer “Master Gain” control, but before that I’d installed clouds of HD400 gadgets. And now the DSP1124P runs again, and will crush newly discovered Nord wolf-notes and/or push a little harmless EQ here and there as I see fit, and is without blemish.

... Especially that now there’s ...

ROOM EQ WIZ aka “REW”: WORKING DSP1124P SOFTWARE

My DSP1124P dreams were considerably enhanced by discovering this fellow who has a free (donations solicited) “Room EQ Wiz” (henceforth “REW”) which I downloaded and installed, and it does indeed send EQ settings to the DSP1124P, which makes setting the thing up considerably easier than the hardware interface and my spreadsheets. Sadly it doesn’t upload them (i.e., back from the DSP1124P to the PC), which would’ve been nicer; the fellow says Behringer never documented that part. The REW software includes much extraneous — for me — stuff with which you can “tune” your listening room using various arcane arts, and his site is not so copacetic although to be sure far better than many and showing numerous signs of life, including the guy responding to questions....

His acronym for the DSP1124P is “BFD” although he goes to considerable lengths to insist the Keepers of Room EQ will not be using the feedback destruction feature. I think it’s an ironic tone thing so to speak, so I am happy to adopt it for my further frenzied delvings and endless notes. ... Which now include a work flow of preparing an EQ curve on a comfortable desktop PC, saving it in a file using an REW function, copying the file to my organ laptop (through my ridiculous network), and then, on the laptop, loading the file into REW and downloading it to the USB/MIDI-attached BFD. ... REW can even save a jpeg picture of the curve you concoct. ... However, even in REW I must prepare the EQ by adjusting 12 filter numeric parameters, just like the BFD itself — except it’s immensely easier in REW. The software is complicated, particularly since I have to thread my way through the room EQ parts which I don’t use; but it’s still much better than my spreadsheet and manual system. At the very least, REW takes care of the ridiculousy-intricate BFD frequency adjustment, which on the actual hardware requires two adjustments, one of which is a number representing 60ths of an octave! ... And at last a new wolf note popped-up in the duck reserve — i.e. after months and months I noticed it — and the BFD fixed it good....


10. The Hauptwerk-despised Windows “System Restore” is a popular and beloved feature of the Windows operating system, which operating system is so likely to get itself tangled in knots after installing some wacko program, which includes Windows’ own updates. After which “system restore points” provide a mechanism by which such disappointing contretemps can sometimes be undone. Indeed, before installing the esteemed-but-menacing Hauptwerk, and Miditzer for that matter, or almost any interesting software or even some boring stuff, I set a system restore point in anticipation of cranky programs wreaking havoc. Your modern up-to-date software is supposed to do that for you but I of course never trust them....

At the very least, Hauptwerk’s dubious system restore prohibition implies that you will dedicate a PC to the beautiful virtual organ, which I’m sure would be meet and right so to do, but perhaps inconvenient, and costly. ... And reeks of the apparently latter-day pro-Macintosh bias exhibited by the once-Windows-only software, i.e., because Macs never go wacko. ... And always cost more.

My very own OwenShow directory/file viewer also has a restore problem I never fixed, because I’m lazy and my vast following hasn’t complained, but it has something to do with file names. Windows apparently restores files in any and all directories based on the name of the file, probably mostly the extension, and if your program happens to use one of these 4,000 magic extensions for something Not Approved, shame on you! ... For mortals, which extensions/names are involved is forbidden knowledge; but Microsoft probably has it documented somewhere in the Endless Caves of Knowledge & Folly, and Hauptwerk should go and find it and fix it, instead of foolishly suggesting we just stop using an essential operating system feature because they’re too lazy. ... That’s my job....

The Two-Drive Solution?

One approach to working-around Hauptwerk’s crotchets might be to somehow install the thing on an extra drive, and then I believe it is possible to exclude that drive from the restore system. But Hauptwerk for some bizarre reason won’t let me install the program anywhere but on drive c: — I say bizarre because lots of other software doesn’t have this restriction — but the “custom” installation option let me install everything else — the bulk of Hauptwerk’s vast samples and who knows what — on another drive, as I have verified. I guesstimate that the “c:\program files” Hauptwerk doesn’t have Windows-restore-averse files in it, and you can exclude a particular drive from Windows restore. So that should work perfectly!

With a laptop, one would “partition” a drive out-of whatever you got, which is an intricate dangerous process and could easily destroy your equipment, if not your entire local ecosystem + beloved pets, so only the mad and the dangerous undertake it. ... When I did it on my trusty Windows 7 / 2010 laptop, first I “shrunk” the existing partition by 100 gigabytes, then I made a “simple” partition in the freed-up space, called it “drive d:”, and it was good. ... But really, this is a ridiculous amount of dangerous tinkering for mortals to go through, just so that a wacko virtual organ’ll have a chance of surviving in a restored windows system. ... And this just in: I tried restoring such a partitioned system, and it didn’t explode; Hauptwerk continued its beautiful virtual effusions. ... Conclusive random evidence!


11. HAUPTWERK DONGLE CONSIDERED STUPID. So I paid my fare and bought the $250 “Basic” Hauptwerk and got the dongle, and first in the Stupidity Hit Parade is SECURITY. The dongle isn’t shipped ready-to-use. The user — me — must go through one of these wonderful computeristic rituals to make the thing work the first time. This was not clear from the web site, at least in my casual perusal. ... I can just see them, lounging around the Milan Audio & Trucking foozball game, “Well, they’re computer organists; it’ll be easy!” ... I will not describe the details of the procedure since these things have a tendency to change with whim and moon phase — the little multiple-language cardboard in the Hwerk box, which I didn’t trust, had different instructions from http://www.hauptwerk.com/forms/license-updates/, which I found by googling “Hauptwerk license update file”. But following the cryptic orders, I did a procedure in Hauptwerk which created a file — you computer organists all know how to save files, and then find them later, right? — which I then uploaded to the web form, whereupon the next day Hauptwerk sent me a return email with an attachment, which I saved, and then followed another procedure in Hauptwerk to get the thing and “activate” the dongle....

This annoyance — me doing all this stuff, instead of them — is probably to promote “security”: presumably theirs, from thieving low-rent employees who would otherwise be tempted, as they pushed the buttons on some PC robot, to appropriate the odd dongle or two. Hauptwerk’d have to control this, which usually means higher salaries or other forms of annoying monetary impact, hence the obvious simple solution, universally adopted by software vendors everywhere: torment the user. ... Well actually I’m undoubtedly overstating the security problem; probably it’s any salary at all they’re trying to avoid....

BELOVED SOCIALISM

OK, I’m ranting like a socialist here; someone’s got to pay the freight, and if not I, thou. That’s why Milan Audio keeps it in dark obscurity. I would suggest codifying and publicizing the ordeal; a cheaper, uglier, larger dongle would be nice, but I suspect that’s not part of the modern technical landscape....

THE GOOD NEWS is the dongle worked on two test machines. ... That is, the ridiculous ritual to get it to go, after paying $250, made me suspect they were pulling a single-machine installation scam, whereupon I would’ve had to rise in wrath and despair and dispute the credit card charge, just for the sake of the right and good. ... But thankfully, for the peace of the universe and the NY State Attorney General, this was not the case, and aprés activation the dongle seems to enable Hauptwerks on different computers without qualms. Obviously, one at a time....

STUPID DONGLE ANNOYANCE SCREEN

However, THE BAD NEWS is the dongle appeared to cripple Hauptwerk so it had an additional startup annoyance delay. ... That is, after my $250 and the intricate activation ritual, the Hauptwerk installation worked good — in my case, with the free Paramount 310 and St. Anne’s, indistinguishably from the free version — except I don’t have to press a key to clear the free/evaluation screen at startup. But removing the key and starting Hauptwerk, as well as restoring the free/evaluation screen, roused a new annoyance screen, which waited 30 seconds for me to plug in the dongle with a censorious air of “what are you trying to pull now?” ... Amusingly, this frolicky new screen would often get “lost” as I jiggled windows around, desperately clicking the Hauptwerk icon and “stealing” the “focus” as we computery guys might put it, so there’d be no window, just the delay.

Well, anyway, the next step of our Stupidity Sweepstakes is me, the stupid user, not carefully reading the new annoyance screen, every single syllable — well, on one of those occasions when I hadn’t hysterically managed to click-away the focus — where it says right there in black and white that I could “change or disable this delay on Haupterk’s general preferences screen”. ... I never did actually manage to read that in my struggle to defeat the thing; I perused the manual where the same information is available or at least hinted-at — or I vaguely-remembered it going-by while option spelunking? — but, indeed, “General preferences” / “Advanced preferences” tab / “Maximum time to wait for Hauptwerk USB key on start-up (seconds)” was set to 30 seconds — before the dongle, it’s set to 0 seconds — and restoring it to 0 cleared the newly-hatched annoyance screen. ... So all is well, and what was I so excited about, anyway?!?!

... THE BOTTOM LINE: if you’re using the free Hauptwerk with the St. Anne’s Moseley classical organ that comes with it, or my beloved free downloaded Paramount 310 theater organ, there’s almost no incentive to buy the official Hauptwerk product with its annoying dongle, and some disincentive. ... Well unless you got in after the version 4.1 annoyance feature. ... Before that, I did feel morally-elevated for paying the freight, and now that I’ve figured-out how the dongle’s supposed to work, I’ve even deployed it at the beautiful Nord....

But I must not omit the final stage in the March of Stupidity: the Hauptwerk dongle is a tiny tiny little thing; not quite the smallest USB key I’ve seen, but only, apparently, so they could print a tiny “Hauptwerk” logo on it. And it costs — not counting user agony — at least $250. So I immediately put a lanyard on it, one of which I fortunately had left-over from some adorable obsolete video camera probably, and I would advise others to do likewise, enhancing the chances it won’t blow-away forever when someone slams a door while you’re distracted or something. ... Hauptwerk, of course, includes no such accessory, which is too bad for you non-lanyard-collecting dullards; but there is at least a tiny hole to attach one....

And then the earth made a couple of whirls — well, probably one — and I got the Paramount 320 upgrade for $100, and the new required procedure may have calmed down a bit. But probably it was just more familiar. ... But it worked, and my hwerk dongle got itself upgraded to certify the new organ and all was calm in the virtual garden....


12. After idyllic months of organizing I got to the second Orgelbuchlein chorale prelude, which cannot be played, as written, on the Nord C2’s 27-note pedal board. But Gott, Durch Deine Güte actually can be played, an octave lower with a 4’ pedal stop. Apparently the Master went through the unusual trouble of writing “Man. Princip. 8.F.” and “Ped. Tromp. 8 Fuss [foot]” on the manuscript, about which my Ditson editor makes an obscure fuss so to speak, but I think Bach was just trying to get across to himself or more likely some subordinate who might play the piece in the future, that the pedal was supposed to be a prominent part of the polyphony, and he was hardly likely to keep scribbling “or, play it 8va lower with a 4’ stop”. Although he did make the part fit that arrangement.

... Whatever, the complete Bach literature does require a 30-note range up to F, so I will not be playing the Tocatta in F on the Nord; or probably the lovely Trio Sonatas. ... All of which I wouldn’t be playing anyway unless I got bit by a radioactive organ or something. ... I could actually fix the Nord with a tremendous expenditure in plywood and jam my languishing 32-note pedal board in there. And I may do that some stormy night....


13. The Grand Eb Excuses: Reverb & Moon Phase. In the beginning, the Hauptwerk Paramount 310’s low Eb was weak. I was playing I’m Getting Sentimental Over You and the Eb was gone; it was not there, MIA, unheard-of! The “Beatle change” at the end of the arrangement was kaput; I started playing an Ab or something for the chord, just so there’d be a bass note! ... Since I’m an expert on standing waves, I was certain that was it: that is, I had a vague suspicion that somehow whatever was making my pedal F too loud, also discriminated against the nearby Eb. And with the DSP1124P, I could tune the wolfy F down and the Eb right next to it up! ... But time passed and I entertained various novel delusions, including the precise Eb octave whereabouts — it was the low Eb1 I’m almost absolutely certain — and/or that the FEX800 reverb suppressed the Paramount 310’s Eb, and to a lesser extent the Miditzer’s, but barely molested the Nord pipe organ pedal — so appropriately for “cathedral” reverb! — but also the frequently-secular B3; possibly, I conjectured, because neither indulges in the throbbing theater organ tremolo which somehow clashes with the delay time and the pitch or something, and which might well happen in a real cathedral. ... I actually went as far as buying and installing (and returning) a replacement Lexicon MX200 reverb; a disappointment, producing an obviously unsatisfactory cathedral as compared with the cheaper FEX800, apart from any Ebs....

And as the world turned and the dust settled, and the era of True Loudness commenced, the Eb crisis subsided. The Paramount 310 Eb is still weak; but not so much. Conceivably, I could’ve missed the whole thing, in its current milder incarnation, depending on how often I play I’m Getting Sentimental on the 310, and my affections have shifted to the Miditzer. In the grand summation — well, I finally read something on the web about room effects, and my ignorance simply expands in ever larger widening waves. ... And anyway, it was probably the warts in some POW pedal notes, which other vtpoers have eventually complained about.


14. Virtual testing sadly requires real hardware, demonstrating once again the beautiful free organs aren’t really. ... I of course bought my ridiculously-costly Nord C2 before I even discovered Miditzer and Hauptwerk, but most people are cheap. Searching for “88 key keyboard” @ amazon.com turns-up numerous 88- and 76-key devices @ $300 or less, which probably emit MIDI although one must check. Or you might already have a MIDI-emitting keyboard around the house. Then, at least in Miditzer, you can split the keyboard to play one or two manuals and the pedals; Hauptwerk docs say it’ll do that too — and by golly, I tried it and so it does! ... This is probably the cheapest route to virtual testing, and actually might be an appropriate performance strategy for certain purposes, i.e. maximum portability. ... Of course you still have to have speakers and a computer and a MIDI interface and an audio interface maybe and 5 million cables.....


15. The Miditzer versus Hauptwerk hardware hookup story: if you’re planning on wiring-up one of these ambitious three- or 4-manual consoles and MIDIfying it along the way — something far beyond my hopes & dreams & competence — the MIDI-related software challenges of Miditzer versus Hauptwerk’s admirable “auto-learn” feature won’t make much difference, because the console is so much work it dwarfs the VTO configuration. Through assiduous promotion and perhaps even merit, Hauptwerk has convinced the virtual organ enthusiast community — at the VTPO forum anyway — that it sounds better, and the console projecteer is seemingly obliged to choose — to match the engraved stop tabs to the virtual organ’s voices, at least?

... Or I’m probably delusional, and if the console has a more-than-adequate supply of tabs the voice matchup isn’t such trouble. And is seemingly an inevitable issue in a software product, with the Paramount Organ Works’ endless parade of new models, and even Miditzer has an assortment. And I have seen at least one VTPO posting lamenting too many virtual organs versus too few tabs. ... For someone who doesn’t care about giant consoles and tab engraving and somehow obtains an already MIDIfied organ, then Hauptwerk definitely is easier to install. Before the Nord C2 I didn’t know of any such wondrous devices, at least retail below $20K — but I was ignorant; of Hammond/Suzuki, and Ebay treasures which are occasionally referred-to in the VTPO forum with below-$500 prices....

But I suspect the vast majority of virtual organ set-ups are not of the authentic console or MIDIfied organ flavor but just decent hacked keyboard + pedal lashups (i.e. like that <=), probably with a PC (as opposed to a Mac) and where you’re probably going to use the PC screen for stop/combination setup — for such, unless you’ve decided Hauptwerk sounds better, the Mitz and Hwerk are close in terms of technical agony.

In my completely non-partisan sniping-at-the-rich-and-powerful role, I recommend trying the free Miditzer first, just because it’s much easier to download and install. And don’t forget to investigate using the PC keyboard to control Miditzer combos buttons — which is probably the only way, excluding extreme technical measures. ... With the free Hauptwerk you can probably set-up the combos to be activated by almost any MIDI instrument key/button or PC key. ... Perhaps as compensation, Miditzer never had annoyanceware....


16. I resisted the third keyboard with scornful indifference and mockery of the console-obsessed, but then the darkness drew me in and I contrived a pitiful shelf thing that’d prop my beautiful Nord up in the air enough to tuck-in something like an M-Audio Keystation 61ES 61-Key Semi-Weighted USB MIDI Controller ($140 amazon). I made the shelf about 2’’ too deep, and so had to perform a death-defying whole-shelf circular-saw truncation, which actually was easier than fabricating the silly thing in the first place, and involved no lost fingers!

The feasibility study was conducted entirely on the Nord’s 2nd Christmas, using attractive wood from somebody’s some-assembly-required kitchen furniture found @ the curb, which I disassembled months or years ago but still retained for a project just such as this, the result being immensely enhanced by the lovely plastic real-wood finish although still obviously the work of an enthusiastic and destructive amateur — just like my organ performances! ... And I played the Nord on its new shelf, and it seemed as lovely as ever, and I got the 3rd keyboard and tried it out. ... I’ve already ranted about how this kind of tinkering can be self-defeating, because of the inevitable “breakiness” it introduces into my up-to-now mildly-reliable home organ — but I was still curious how nice it would be, whether it’ll be better than without, and I’ve cunningly done the mutilation so it can be reversed without serious harm; or so I jejunely hoped.

Whether the mutilation reversibility includes the re-heightened organ bench wasn’t tested. The new height of the Nord swell up on my shelf was tiring, so I 3’’-wallboard-screwed the pieces I shaved off from the bench — which I hadn’t saved carefully, but found cowering amongst random scraps in the garage, alone and afraid — and it hasn’t fallen over yet! ... I got a little extra height back, since I left the slider felt thingeys on the bottom of the previously-shortened surface. And, oddly, it really doesn’t look like an atrocity unless I examine it closely. ... And the increased height is definitely nicer. ... But then my feet are a little too far from the pedals again, so I propped-up the pedal board a bit, which is not quite as silly as it sounds since the alternative’d be lowering both the table + bench and a lot of trouble. But it was silly-enough; my pedal glissandos rattled, so I put it back....

BEHOLD...

But then behold the third keyboard! ... It was exactly as I’ve dreaded: plug-in, configure, chaos! ... It is the way of the future children where all is beauty and nothing works. ... And I’m an expert. ... My M-Audio interface got power-starved when I plugged-in the M-Audio keyboard and was exceedingly unhappy, making little LED-meter blips of pain which, fortunately, I had anticipated and left unamplified and unheard. This when I foolishly tried to turn my system off, including the USB hub power, which my USB devices don’t like at all. So I rearranged things wildly, no doubt making some unknown future crisis worse. ... And the keyboard seemed to be just a little taller than advertised, which is unfortunate since it barely fit under my ridiculous shelf, and required the application of beer coasters (kept in plentiful supply for tasks such as these). But then again, I want it to be close, since everything barely fits, so it’s all probably for the best....

And then I got the stuff working for an hour or two. ... And I still only have two arms! ... And whatever is the Mitz 260 solo manual for? I’ve sort-of noticed previously, but now it’s obviously a lesser manual, even with its authentic Wurlitzer stop list. ... Indeed most of my combinations worked OK, even ’though I contrived them in those innocent days when the Nord swell controlled both great and solo — because the solo just duplicates some of the great stops, so I didn’t bother using any solo voices anyway[23]. ... So I put my beloved tibia on the solo, with fluteish accompaniment, and then a handy bell or so on the great, which was nice for Toyland. ... I still play a stirring rendition of I’ll Be Home For Christmas on the accompaniment and great — but then what’s that other manual for? ... The odd chime? ... As I’ve noted repeatedly in these pages, I don’t do flashy keyboard changes, also known as “competent keyboard skills”, so that’s out.

... But another morning still brings the occasional unspeakable imbroglio, and I fight with the USB. Which tends to skitter around uncontrollably when anything changes. ... And this is exactly why I dreaded the menacing third keyboard, even as I grow fonder. ... And the 3rd keyboard, it turns out, forgets its brains whenever power is cycled, so I had to tell it every time what MIDI channel to use, which was barbaric, until I realized both hwerk and miditzer’ll work OK with the 61ES’s default channel 1, and another annoyance recedes (i.e.. the lovely virtual organs distinguish by device as well as MIDI channel). ... And then White Christmas organ sheet music came in the mail and all was serene and lovely with my third keyboard and sleigh bells ringing in the snow....

Later I was inspired to play my traditional year-end Das Alte Jahr Vergangen Ist on the Nord pipe emulation with Hauptwerk’s St. Anne’s Moseley free demo classical organ. Actually I could’ve done this any day, third keyboard or no, but I hadn’t which I could tell ’cause I had to tune the St. Anne’s up eight cents to match the Nord. I mapped the third keyboard to the St. Anne’s swell, and the Nord great/pedal to St. Anne’s. So now I have an imitation 3-manual baroqueish organ with enhanced great/pedal + two comparable swell manuals, but each quite lovely and unique. ... The St. Anne’s by itself is not quite “all there”, but has some lovely stops, and so it’s all so beautiful now. ... Actually regardless of the third keyboard, the combination really fills-out the Nord baroque organ, particularly the pedal section. I suppose I could’ve coupled the Nord great to the pedal to get a trumpet for chorale prelude Bach polyphony, but it seems easier with the “spare” St. Anne’s....

The Third Arm: A Hosa FSC-501 “latching” foot switch for Paramount sostenuto. Sadly my beloved Miditzer doesn’t do sostenuto/sustain, except on the wacky 160C, but Hauptwerk does it good! — at least on the Paramount 310/320. Both the Nord and the new 61ES keyboard have a sustain input for an add-on foot switch, but I totally misunderstood how it works, or at least for some reason I thought the 61ES’d work differently than the Nord and hold-up the MIDI note-offs coming from the keyboard. Which might be nice; but in fact it just emits a MIDI code, and whether you get sustain/sostenuto or not depends entirely on the gadget receiving the code, in this case, mitz vs. hwerk. ... Anyway, another theory not yet obviously fallacious is that a latching foot switch’ll work better for three-arm simulation: I’ll hit some chord and use the foot switch/sostenuto feature to hold it while I amuse myself with the other two manuals. The “latch” is better for this because otherwise I’d have to hold-down the foot switch, thus depriving myself of a foot which could otherwise help make more noise, like banging a “toy counter” gong. ... The Paramount has sostenutos only on the great, and maybe I would’ve preferred something else, but I’m sure it’ll all work out wonderfully....

KEYBOARD WIDTH

And then bitter certainty followed a week of fitful suspicion: my cheapo M-Audio 61ES keyboard is 1/2“ thinner than the Nord! From low to high C outside edges, the 61ES is 2’ 8⅞’’ versus the Nord’s 2’ 9⅜’’! ... And a five octave span on my Yamaha electronic piano is even thinner: 2’ 8½’’. ... I thought I had no deeply-held opinions about keyboard equality; now I will assume even Steinways vary from year to year, grand to spinet, room to room, and measure no more....

CONCLUSIONS & EXCUSES: At $150 + the usual ridiculous unpaid labor, it was still worth it: it amuses me enough. ... A “must-have” for the home electronic organ? ... I guess not. ... When the USB works, and it’s worked for months, it’s fun, but mostly for playing the odd bell in otherwise two-manual pieces — alternate right-hand lead voices seems like a likely advantage, although I can’t say it’s panned-out so well, i.e. as opposed to just poking a combination button to change the sound. ... My finest achievement so far was rendering a slam-bang ending to Auld Lang Syne with chimes as clanging New Year’s bells on the solo while holding a closing chord on the accompaniment/pedal, + repeated smashing of the “toy counter” gong with my right foot via a Nord pedal + software trickery[20]. ... It made quite a racket, and I was so enthusiastic I almost fell off the bench ... but is it art?

Competent organists presumably get more out of extra keyboards; actually you can see one here with the Paramount 450 and his 4-manual gadget and a sostenuto pedal; also spare-finger-on-another-manual technique, which I suppose I couldn’t do with combination buttons. ... But at my skill-level, the third manual mostly amuses me because of its convenience; it enhances my ad-hoc amateur arrangements, and makes it more fun. ... A feature of modern times and vicious global free markets: a home organ with three manuals, just for the sake of my idle amusement — i.e., as opposed to a profes$ional performance (or practice) instrument, for the historic silent movie theaters of yore or contemporary restorations. ... The home organists of the ’60s and ’70s were lucky to have two manuals, mostly those truncated offset things, not the opulent five octaves of our ridiculously wealthy era, where I can get a three-manual digital home organ with incomparably better sound for half the price of those ancient electronic things. ... But without the historic real-wood-tone furniture, to be sure....

And I still only have two arms....

AMATEURS? And then it occurred to me that, like the obviously amateur-night crescendo pedal, perhaps the third keyboard is for the organically-challenged! ... Who would use it just as I do, as a convenience feature aka “crutch” for an additional voice (or more, with more manuals) without having to figure-out the intricate combinations and/or 5 million tabs! ... The maestro would set-up a couple of combos, and then my iconic wandering piano player would use just those buttons and the manuals, changing manuals/combinations to suit for the movie action. Or it’d be combined with the crescendo, so any position of the pedal would produce a softer accompaniment, louder great, and appropriately “solo” voice, the whole group graduated in loudness at each crescendo position, so the itinerant pianist’d just “dial” the thing up as per the movie scene/section. ... It would explain the otherwise unlikely expense — it’d work for the virtuoso for marvelous effects, but the money’d be justified by making it easier to hire cheap keyboardists for the hum-drum everyday matinées....


Wednesday 9/27/17 8:20 am