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  • Big Bourdons

    Hello all, I have been absent a while.

    So I have been thinking about Bourdons lately and and their usefulness due to their half-length construction.

    Firstly, there are organs that have quite a number of stops, but don't seem to have the room for full-length 32s. Now I live in Queensland, Australia my cathedral of choice is St John's Anglican in Brisbane. It's in my opinion the most beautiful Cathedral in the country, and even has a the only large stone-vaulted roof in the country which obviously does not hurt the acoustics or beauty of the place! I had an opportunity to play on the organ there one night when the cathedral was closed, and it was truly exciting. But despite 82 stops over four manuals, there are no full-length 32s due to space constraints (the organ is quite elevated in the building). As such it has an acoustic 32' and an half-length 32' Contra Posaune.

    But now I have mentioned more than is necessary to the discussion, this is surely not the only church to have space constraints like this in the organ chambers.

    So firstly, assuming no cost factors, why would organs with an healthy selection of 16' stops not use a 32' Bourdon for true 32' sound (or so they can even have 32' sound)?

    Secondly, by extension, with some of the big organs in the world (ones that have a good selection of 32' ranks) not use 64' Bourdons for that extra-special bit of bass? Again, there are only two organs in the world that have full-length 64s and both of them are reeds. But I am aware of organs, and have even played one, with an acoustic 64'. So again, why not do it properly with a 64' Bourdon?

  • #2
    Even a 32 ft contra bourdon is an expensive stop to build, so "assuming no cost factors" is not really a valid assumption. In addition to the cost and weight of the stop, there needs to be enough wind to support the stop. Most churches, I suspect, can handle the height of the stop.

    But a 32 stop has, for at least the bottom half of the lowest octave, if not nearly all that octave, is not easily audible to most listeners, and the listener's position in the building will change how he hears that stop. The cost and trouble to include these stops probably doesn't seem worth their benefit in many installations. Many builders have used electronic supplements for these lowest voices, though the acoustic issues still remain.

    Comment


    • davidecasteel
      davidecasteel commented
      Editing a comment
      IMO, the impact of 32' stops is not via hearing, but feeling. One can sense the power of the air vibrations even if one doesn't perceive it as sound. It sort of envelopes one in waves of pulsing pressure.

      My church's Klais instrument has 2 32' stops, but both are with half-length resonators, and there is a full-range 64' Resultant stop. I was on the Organ Selection Committee and really wanted our new church to have a full-length 32' Open Wood, but it didn't happen. I still think it should have one and may eventually see one added--our bass is a little "thin" in my estimation within our big worship space (seats 1300). There are ways that full-length 32' pipes could be accommodated, but not easily.

      (Hi, Sathrandur!)

  • #3
    Originally posted by Sathrandur View Post
    Hello all, I have been absent a while.
    You have, indeed!!! I've thought of you several times when certain classical topics come up. I trust you had a good Summer and are ready for Winter.

    My guess regarding why there are no 32' Contre Bourdons in some of the larger organs has to do with the presence of speech. Of course, we all know the longer the pipe, the slower the speech tends to be, however, I know some of those characteristics can be mitigated somewhat with voicing adjustments. In a stopped pipe of that length, the slowness of speech tends to be longer than a shorter pipe, no matter how good the voicing.

    I've seen many examples of a 16' Bourdon, but none of the 32' variety. They exist, of course, but only in some of the largest organs, and in those organs, there are other, more present-speaking-stops that can be employed until the 32' Contre Bourdon weighs in and provides the foundation. I could be wrong, but I think it also takes longer for the sound to stop in a larger pipe as well.

    Just my uneducated guess. Now, ask a pipe builder!

    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

    Comment


    • Philip Powell
      Philip Powell commented
      Editing a comment
      My brother has played an organ with 32' bourbon stop and the builder was actually there and he told my brother that 32' bourdons are not common because of the cost and the difficulty to install. I believe the difficulty to install has something to do with making the pipe have adequate speech. This is all I know (or my brother knows!).

  • #4
    Personally, I would probably opt for a haskelled 32' stop...that still has the advantage of less than full length height BUT the quicker onset of speech would be a great advantage, because, as someone else has pointed out, 32' bourdons are quite slow to speak even if roller beards or other voicing techniques are applied. The other advantage of the haskelled stop is the better harmonic development. Bourdons, as do all stopped pipes) emphasize the odd order harmonics so the pedal line has less definition.

    Comment


    • #5
      First off, I am glad you were able to experience playing a large organ in a massive cathedral that has 'live' acoustics and no other people in the building (that you knew of). Been there. Done that. Remember it like yesterday. Want to do it again.

      What personally thrills me about the 32' bourdon is the rumble it adds. Others have commented on the weight and expense involved to install this rank. Its my understanding that some organs will have a pedal stop that is 10' and some fraction, which due to the nature of harmonics will give a nice rumble when played with a 16' principal. I'm pretty sure there are other ways to get the rumble with more conservatively sized ranks blended in.

      In short, if you are just going for the low end rumble, you can get there without a 32' stop of any kind.
      Hammond RT-3, Estey circa 1903, Baldwin Acrosonic spinet piano, Fender Rhodes Mark I 73 stage piano.

      Comment


    • #6
      The "no free lunch" principle seems to have been forgotten in this discussion. It is tempting to want to consider stopped pipe construction as a 'free pass' to 32' (64'!) tone with a high SAF (spousal acceptance factor). Doesn't quite work that way. Besides the speech issue, there is the fact that, in order to sound like a Bourdon at all, a bottom octave 32' rank stopped pipe needs to be double the width of the equivalent open pipe to preserve the scaling that confers the timbre consistent with the construction.

      That is the main reason why, ever since they became widely available, organ builders have been using digital extensions for the 32' ranks. And APOBA allows member builders to remain in good standing even when they use digital extensions in their work. IMO resultants rarely work as the only 32' voice in an organ. The best examples are extremely soft. They purr more than they rumble. When rumble is needed. accept no substitutes. Insist on genuine stopped, or open, 32' ranks™ (or their digital equivalents).

      Comment


      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        Agreed, Leisesturm. However, your spousal acceptance factor may be different than mine. When I play an organ with good 32' stops, she plants herself, crosslegged in the middle of the floor and soaks it up! I'm guessing she likes the song, "I feel the earth move under my feet...."

        Michael

    • #7
      I wonder how many home organs are in rooms that would not be able to produce the standing wave length of the fundamental of a 32 foot stop. This would probably not be a problem in a church or concert hall, but I suspect it would be for many residences.
      Bill

      My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

      Comment


      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        Bill, you make a great point. Perhaps people are hoping a 16' room will do?

        Michael

    • #8
      Originally posted by voet View Post
      I wonder how many home organs are in rooms that would not be able to produce the standing wave length of the fundamental of a 32 foot stop. This would probably not be a problem in a church or concert hall, but I suspect it would be for many residences.
      About that ... is that actually necessary? I mean ... I don't think my living room is that large but I have no trouble identifying a 32' stop when one is used in anger in an organ recording. Even without the sub-woofer on, my towers manage to make a clear distinction between 16' stops and 32' stops. Anyone else notice this?

      Comment


      • j reimer
        j reimer commented
        Editing a comment
        My take on this is that you are hearing harmonics of the 32' note, or (if you are lucky) your brain is picking up on resultants produced by the 3rd harmonic of the 32' note and the fundamental of the 16' note.

      • samibe
        samibe commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm having deja vu with this conversation. And I think the last time we had it, we determined that having a room large enough to match resonance with large stops was not required (headphones for example). Sure it's not as efficient and the speakers work harder, but their frequencies are still produced and move through the air even if they can't form a standing wave in the room.

    • #9
      Regularly listening to concerts at a church that added a Walker 32 stopped flute, The building is large and very live. I have noticed that almost all players now use the stop as often as they play a pedal part. It is not so loud as to be heard as a subbass but its presence as an harmonic support is incredible. It supports the 16 foot line and you have to ask how the 16 foot become so strong but not loud.

      Comment


      • Sathrandur
        Sathrandur commented
        Editing a comment
        You get a like for using the correct indefinite article.

      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        Amen to that, Sathrandur! Proper English is rapidly disappearing.

        Michael

      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        It's an historic issue!

    • #10
      Regarding the cost of materials one idea that I have mentioned before on a previous thread that may work is using a cheaper material like cardboard. It's not an unheard of idea as it was recommended as a cheaper alternative in the book Organ Building for Amateurs by Mark Wicks. The only major concern I have is how thick or strong the cardboard needs to be so the pipes don't collapse under their own wight.

      Another idea that might work at saving money and space on a 32' stop is the idea of organ pipes that can play more than one note.
      Recently a video appeared of a one of a kind Wurlitzer 32' diaphone where each pipe can play two notes.




      Comment


      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        WOW!!! All I can say is, WOW!!! What will they think of next?

        I wonder how well it would work on flue pipes of 16' or 32' pitch. I would think the mouth might pose a problem.

        Michael

    • #11
      It may well be that diaphone construction, or paper, or fiberglass ... yah, no question, these products will have some small advantage over construction lumber for making very large organ pipes. Not enough to make it worth the trying though. It simply cannot be denied that sampled waveforms, reproduced, amplified, and dispersed through subwoofers have a colossal advantage in materials savings. There is no contest. And I don't know how much of an argument from a sound quality standpoint can be supported. Rumble is rumble, for the most part. Most pipe organs don't have any 32' stops actually. For the vast majority there isn't any kind of pipe or pipe like construction that will make it happen. Truth to tell, quite a few struggle to obtain 16' tone in any variety.

      The pipe organ entry in Wikipedia for years has floated the argument that 32' stops are not only not necessary but they are detrimental, and just reflect badly on the builders penchant for excess. That has always made me grind my teeth. Who allowed that to go unchallenged? The truth is that since most installations simply don't have the resources to make acoustic 32' tone happen, they console themselves by saying "well who needs those big old scary sounds anyway".

      You have to be under a pretty big rock to not notice that the stoplists of VPO samplesets of any size include at least two 32' stops, and three or four are not at all unusual. I am even seeing 64' stops pop up here and there in the odd sampleset. The gauntlet has been thrown down! If pipe organ builders want to stay relevant in the 21st Century, they will not be able to dismiss 32' tone as wretched excess. Obtaining these ranks digitally is the only supportable proposition from a sustainability standpoint. As I said earlier, APOBA (Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America) readily recognizes this and gives member organizations full dispensation when 32' tone is obtained digitally in an installation.

      Comment


      • #12
        Take a 10 foot piece of 3/4 PVC schedule 40 conduit, blow into the bell end as if it were a trombone, you'll like the sound.

        Comment


        • #13
          I have to confess that I'm not a huge fan of incorporating digital voices into pipe organs as I just feel that it ruins the magic of the idea of a machine that creates music by blowing air through pipes. But I guess what else can be done as 32' stops aren't getting any smaller and I'm not sure if any of my crazy ideas are enough to solve the issue of space.

          Comment


          • myorgan
            myorgan commented
            Editing a comment
            What is the issue with a double-open wood? They make great choir benches unless someone sits on the mouth!

            Michael

          • davidecasteel
            davidecasteel commented
            Editing a comment
            We'd have to put them horizontal above the Swell or hang them on one of the Transept walls (my favorite idea).

          • F Kalbrenner
            F Kalbrenner commented
            Editing a comment
            Oh sorry for the long wait, I didn't know anyone had responded to me comment.
            But anyway I guess my concern is that with wide spread use of digital 32' stops I feel that this is a reminder of how difficult it is for even in a big cathedral to have flute or principle pipes at 32' pitch. I'm kind of desperately looking at ways of designing a flue pipe that sounds like a 32' Contra Bourdon or a deep flute but also physically much smaller than a 32' flue pipe, but I feel like I would have better luck at inventing a perpetual motion machine.

        • #14
          This is probably going to expose my limited understanding about pipe construction, but hopefully I'll learn something.

          Is it possible to fold a flue pipe similar to a transmission line speaker? How wide are 32' boudon pipes, usually?
          Last edited by samibe; 05-21-2020, 05:12 PM.
          Sam
          Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
          Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

          Comment


          • #15
            There is an excellent article by Stephen Bicknell that is a thorough discussion of many of the topics discussed in this thread. Not only does he point out many of the solutions to achieve low bass, he gives insights that will help an organist use harmonics more effectively.

            Here is the link: http://www.stephenbicknell.org/3.6.01.php
            Bill

            My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

            Comment


            • F Kalbrenner
              F Kalbrenner commented
              Editing a comment
              Thank you for posting this article. I have been interested in designing a house organ and I think there are some ideas in this article that maybe quite helpful.

            • voet
              voet commented
              Editing a comment
              Good luck to you, F Kalbrenner. Be sure to keep us posted on your progress.

            • F Kalbrenner
              F Kalbrenner commented
              Editing a comment
              Thank you, If this does ever happen I'm sure to post any updates on this ambition of mine.
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