Monday, June 27, 2011

Hardman Wurlitzer in Virginia

The theatre organ that Cameron Carpenter uses on his "Cameron Live!" DVD/CD is located in Great Falls, Virginia near Washington, DC :

The reconstruction story is very detailed.

An entire building was built for the organ console and pipes. My understanding is that the local zoning board would not allow the owner to build a new structure that was bigger than his house, so the organ "barn" was built as an addition (connected by an enclosed corridor) to his existing house.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Project KOW : The portable organ project

For my current musical project I thought it would be fun to bring a virtual pipe organ to the recent North Carolina Maker Faire, but a traditional organ console was not very practical. I would need something more portable. Portability was necessary for my situation. But what if portability were a design goal rather than an inconvenience?

This requires a rethinking of the organ console, which has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years. Since I have only recently started piano lessons, I have no preconceptions of how an organ console should work.

The computer side is relatively easy if your goals are modest.

The organ that I displayed at MakerFaire was rather minimal -- a touchscreen, a laptop and a 61 note MIDI keyboard. I ran the jOrgan software under Windows XP.

My goals for the console design are :
AGO standard manual (keyboard) spacing - An organist can play it
Self-contained - No separate computer
Reduced size and weight - I can carry it
Appliance philosophy - The computer is there, but hidden
Don't reinvent the wheel - Use commercially available parts when practical
Flexibility - Be able to experiment with different interfaces without having to start the project over
Modularity - Be able to expand without having to start over

Next : Design

Saturday, June 18, 2011

KOW (Karches Organ Works) at MakerFaire NC

The response to my VPO project at MakerFaire was tremendous. Thanks to everyone that came out. I will be adding more information shortly.

Building a VPO console

For those of you that saw my VPO setup at MakerFaire North Carolina, I have added some links in the sidebar to VPO related sites and resources.

VPO software
If you want to try out VPO software without having to install software to your hard drive, I would try the jOrganPup distribution which boots from a USB key and runs on most PC hardware. It runs very well on older hardware.

The MidiTizer software is an emulation of a theater pipe organ. It is more complex than jOrgan Pup and is intended to run under Microsoft Windows. There is a version that runs in the WINE Windows emulator under Puppy Linux.

The Hauptwerk software is a commercial product that run on Mac OSX or Windows. There is substantial documentation on line. It will run in a limited "free mode" or with a license key. The free and purchased versions are the same...the USB license key activates the additional functionality.

VPO Hardware
M-Audio Keystation 61es - this is a semi-weighted keyboard which is often used in DIY organ consoles. I have been buying my 61es keyboards from Unique Squared, an eBay vendor that sells B-Stock keyboards that have minor blemishes (usually on the case and are fully guaranteed) for $124. Since I am removing them from the case, the blemishes are usually irrelevant. Brand new are about $170, so this saves about $50/keyboard. I have ordered 2 and they are both fine.

Friday, June 17, 2011

MakerFaire tomorrow : KOW Opus 1.0 and Flag-O-Matic

Just about ready for MakerFaire tomorrow. Will have my VPO project (KOW Opus 1.0) and Dad's Flag-O-Matic prototype on display.