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Why build an organ without any C#1?

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  • Why build an organ without any C#1?

    Hi All,

    Curiosity has got the better of me as I have searched the web and can't find any references to this apart from this particular organ. There is a new pipe organ in the town of Azzio in Northern Italy built by the Mascioni company (and recently released as a VPO sampleset). It has been built without the lowest C# on either of the two manuals or pedal. I can't figure out any reason why you would do this? Is it an historical or traditional practice and even if it was why perpetuate it in a modern organ? Surely it would limit the usefulness of the organ to some extent. Thanks in advance!

    https://www.mascioni-organs.com/en/azzio/


    Peter

  • #2
    I've seen pictures of historical pedalboards that are only meant to be played in one particular key, and are therefore missing accidentals.

    Why anyone would build a new one this way is beyond me.

    I have a zither that doesn't have any D#s or A#s. At first I was annoyed, this precludes playing anything in Bb, or really even F! But I've gotten used to it and just don't play anything in those keys. The condensed compass makes it much easier to play. In fact most of the time I could live without some other accidentals on it.

    Comment


    • #3
      32' pedal ranks are sometimes built without the lowest accidentals because the board feet of lumber required could build a small house! One can also reasonably make the claim that few can hear the difference between c and c# or d and eb in the 32' octave. In the 16' octave these notes should be present IMO and their omission is pure economy, both of materials, space and ostensibly, price. Period. I wonder, however, how the client is supposed to know whether or not they indeed have been saved the expense of the missing pitches. What if the price quoted could adequately furnish those missing pitches at the cost of some profit to the builder? I have to play monthly on a modern neo-baroque tracker that only has 54 note manual keyboards (two) and a 25 note pedalboard. Some stops are only available on their dedicated manual and the remainder can be placed on either manual needed but never both at once. This instrument did not cost any less than "fully functional instruments" of similar size. Why does it matter? Well... have you tried to get a job playing organ anywhere lately?

      Comment


      • #4
        Good theory, but in this organ it is not a case of missing pipes. The C#1 keys are actually missing from the keyboards and pedal (see photos in above link). So they have been deliberately omitted from the organ and this is noted in the stop disposition. I guess it could be a way to save money but the rest of the organ doesn't look like much expense has been spared and surely there are better ways to save money?

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        • #5
          If the lack of perceptible difference between C and C# plus the cost difference of omitting C# were the driving forces, I would hope that the builder, for the organists sake would add a false C# bump to the front of C. If not, and I had permission, I'd attach one.

          I'm not sure why but I don't see such images following that link.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Powerin View Post
            Good theory, but in this organ it is not a case of missing pipes. The C#1 keys are actually missing from the keyboards and pedal (see photos in above link). So they have been deliberately omitted from the organ and this is noted in the stop disposition. I guess it could be a way to save money but the rest of the organ doesn't look like much expense has been spared and surely there are better ways to save money?
            Good theory? Do you seriously imagine that the pipes are actually there in the chambers but the builder peevishly omitted them from the keyboard? And, if as is likely, the pipe(s) are indeed missing entirely, why make a key available to play a non-existent pipe? That would simply be mean. You 'guess' it could be a way to save money? There is no better cost saving measure in all of organbuilding than the omission of large 16' or 32' pipes, either through the omission of entire ranks, or just the accidentals of the lowest octaves. Even though it appears the instrument is a cost no object work of the organbuilders art, the client pays what the builder asks for. Only the builder knows whether or not they have been fair to the client and delivered them true value for their money spent. I'm sure they think they do. Decades of tradition have cemented the thought in their minds that so many ranks should cost so many dollars. That gets re-assessed over time. First rate builders of 'real' pipe organs are down to single digit rank counts for multi-hundred thousand dollar instruments. The only way to cut the client some slack when you are dealing with instruments this compromised is to shorten keyboard (or pedalboard) compass and/or take out accidentals. And since this was historic practice way, way back, it has the added cachet or historical authenticity. I can't wait until my VPO is finished and I never have to accept some church's compromise instrument built to a budget and lacking in almost every quality that makes an organ a fine example of its kind.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
              Good theory? Do you seriously imagine that the pipes are actually there in the chambers but the builder peevishly omitted them from the keyboard? And, if as is likely, the pipe(s) are indeed missing entirely, why make a key available to play a non-existent pipe? That would simply be mean. You 'guess' it could be a way to save money? There is no better cost saving measure in all of organbuilding than the omission of large 16' or 32' pipes, either through the omission of entire ranks, or just the accidentals of the lowest octaves. Even though it appears the instrument is a cost no object work of the organbuilders art, the client pays what the builder asks for. Only the builder knows whether or not they have been fair to the client and delivered them true value for their money spent. I'm sure they think they do. Decades of tradition have cemented the thought in their minds that so many ranks should cost so many dollars. That gets re-assessed over time. First rate builders of 'real' pipe organs are down to single digit rank counts for multi-hundred thousand dollar instruments. The only way to cut the client some slack when you are dealing with instruments this compromised is to shorten keyboard (or pedalboard) compass and/or take out accidentals. And since this was historic practice way, way back, it has the added cachet or historical authenticity. I can't wait until my VPO is finished and I never have to accept some church's compromise instrument built to a budget and lacking in almost every quality that makes an organ a fine example of its kind.
              Sorry if I offended you...it was not my intent. Yes I realise the pipes are also missing. However you talked about the omission of expensive 32 and 16ft pipes which might not be so noticeable. This organ is missing the C# all through up to mixtures. It just seemed such a drastic and irreversible thing to leave out a whole note on all divisions, that I had a hard time believing it was just to save money.

              Enjoy your VPO!

              Comment


              • #8
                To actually answer the question: it's a historical thing. if you look at early baroque french organs you will notice that they have a 48 note compass, C to c''' but missing C sharp. The C sharp didn't actually make a reappearance on french organs until well into the classical period. on these organs, there was a pedal in the place where a C sharp pedal would be on any other organ, but it sounded an A on octave lower on the reeds, adding Gravitas to the instrument (I can't remember what it's called in french). I assume that the reasoning behind this would be that the low C sharp was never used in the music of that period in Italy and France, and was therefore omitted. It's the same reasoning behind having a short compass in the lowest octave, as the accidentals were rarely used they were omitted in favour of easier chords and fewer large pipes to make.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
                  To actually answer the question: it's a historical thing. ...
                  ...
                  ... I assume that the reasoning behind this would be that the low C sharp was never used in the music of that period in Italy and France, and was therefore omitted. It's the same reasoning behind having a short compass in the lowest octave, as the accidentals were rarely used they were omitted in favour of easier chords and fewer large pipes to make.
                  Perhaps it is an extravagant version of a short octave.

                  A real short octave would have no accidental notes below tenor C, either on the manuals or the pedal. The seven notes - C D E F G A B - would have been assigned to the keys - F# G# A# F G A B - in that order.

                  To clarify, the pitches C-D-E would have been assigned to the keys F#-G#-A#; the keys F-G-A-B would have played F-G-A-B. This explains why you can find old keyboard music where the left hand indicates C-C-G to be played as a single chord. It could have been rolled or arpeggiated, or it could have been played using the keys we would identify as F#-C-G.

                  So the question MIGHT have been - "In addition to the short-octave notes, which accidentals would we like to include?" B-flat and F# for sure, E-flat and A-flat would also be nice. C#? Nope, not really necessary.
                  [Please note - this is just a thought - not a guaranteed reason for this particular organ]

                  They might have looked at the repertoire to be played and discerned that C#1 could be left out without any loss.

                  This seems to be an interesting extension of the exercise - "We want this type of organ (pipe [mechanical or not] or digital) with this many manuals; we have these budget or space limitations (and perhaps other limitations). What can we come up with?"

                  We also don't know what this organ is replacing and whether the new organ needed to reflect certain aspects of the previous instrument. In certain historic situations, there can be specific limitations applied, whether they make sense to us or not.

                  Related to this, a friend and I, while visiting new (or new-to-us) pipe organs, at some point would ask ourselves, "If we had to eliminate one stop, which one could we do without? If we could add one stop, what would we ask for?"

                  In the end, without knowing the reason(s) for leaving out the C#1's, all we can do is speculate. Note also that the organ has no combination action and no swell shoes, and it has only 11 speaking stops and 14-15 ranks. Small organs often require (and permit) special solutions.
                  Last edited by regeron; 12-27-2017, 07:03 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Very interesting indeed. By the looks of it someone though that the lower c# was useless, that would be my guess.
                    Instruments:
                    22/8 Button accordion.

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                    • #11
                      Anyone can name a piece that actually uses this note? A piece in its key it was written in.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
                        To actually answer the question: it's a historical thing. if you look at early baroque french organs you will notice that they have a 48 note compass, C to c''' but missing C sharp. The C sharp didn't actually make a reappearance on french organs until well into the classical period. on these organs, there was a pedal in the place where a C sharp pedal would be on any other organ, but it sounded an A on octave lower on the reeds, adding Gravitas to the instrument (I can't remember what it's called in french). I assume that the reasoning behind this would be that the low C sharp was never used in the music of that period in Italy and France, and was therefore omitted. It's the same reasoning behind having a short compass in the lowest octave, as the accidentals were rarely used they were omitted in favour of easier chords and fewer large pipes to make.
                        The bolded. Period. Period. In the 17th Century a C# was not a theoretical concept. In a small monastery in Italy there was good reason to eliminate one or even two C#'s in the lowest octaves. The reason then was economy and the reason now is economy. Most VPO realizations of historic instruments usually augment the smaller instruments with extended ranks (to 61 notes if foreshortened in the originals) or additional ranks to 'complete' the tonal schema. Why not? Why limit a 21st Century musician to the hardware limitations faced by a 17th (16th?) Century player? Historical authenticity? . Well yes, but clearly some builders of modern reproductions of historic instruments be they virtual or 'real', differ in the degree to which they feel it is necessary to go to be authentic.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Powerin View Post
                          Sorry if I offended you...it was not my intent. Yes I realise the pipes are also missing. However you talked about the omission of expensive 32 and 16ft pipes which might not be so noticeable. This organ is missing the C# all through up to mixtures. It just seemed such a drastic and irreversible thing to leave out a whole note on all divisions, that I had a hard time believing it was just to save money.

                          Enjoy your VPO!
                          I am neither offended nor upset, nor am I convinced that all the c#'s up to and including mixtures are missing from that instrument. And 'economy' today usually means dollars, but in centuries past it took many man hours of work to craft something like a 16' octave pipe. Eliminating just one or two of them was a real savings in every sense of the word but chiefly, in time spent on the project. In a large instrument, with short octaves a builder could easily not have to craft two dozen huge pipes. By cutting the manual compass to 58 or 56 notes at the top end eliminated dozens of smaller pipes dozens because these instruments often had four or more mixtures on each manual. The client could have their instrument in six months vs a year or more. Thats why digital and VPO creators that do not actually deal with the manufacture of pipes can (should) sidestep the real constraints that the pipe organ builders solved with the elimination of notes. Modern pipe organ builders have lots of machines and processes that make the production of pipes and pipe mechanics easier than the craftsmen working centuries ago. When a modern builder of neo-baroque instruments sells slavish reproductions of 'historic' instruments to a 21st Century client I have to sigh at the claim that it is justifiable for authenticity's sake. But that's just me. Peace.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've been thinking of this thread for a while, and remembered something from the far reaches of my brain--but couldn't bring it forward. FINALLY--here it is....

                            Could this keyboard be related to any of the following:
                            I knew it had to do with an historical instrument, but couldn't remember the details. Ah, the beauties of old age.

                            Michael
                            Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                            • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                            • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                            • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Havoc View Post
                              Anyone can name a piece that actually uses this note? A piece in its key it was written in.
                              Which note? Low C#? I don't know, but the "Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue" might be a candidate...

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