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October 6, 2005
Vol. V, No. 20

"Busy Making Other Rampages"
John Lennon sang "Life is just what happens to you, While your busy making other plans." He could have been referring to the way I often write Rampages. I may work for days and days on a Rampage and before I know it weeks have gone by and it's still not done. Then, out of nowhere, some idea catches my attention and all of sudden I'm sending out a Rampage. The other unfinished Rampage goes into a folder and may or may not ever see the light of email.

Anyway, hopefully I'll continue working on that Rampage but in the meantime I've been reading "The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner" by Dorothy J. Holden. At the rate I'm going, I may never finish the book but I thought I would quote some business that really irked me.

In the 1860s: "But American organists and organ builders were not content to stop with the approximation of orchestral sound which was characteristic of the European romantic instruments. They desired an organ which would, as closely as possible, imitate the symphony orchestra. In order to interpret efficiently the orchestral transcriptions which were now much in vogue, they needed an instrument which not only had massive tone, but also possessed a variety of color in the form of stops which imitated the sounds of symphonic instruments, together with the dynamic flexibility of the symphony orchestra."

"In order to approach imitating the smooth and full-bodied tone qualities of orchestral instruments in an organ, it was necessary to have higher wind pressures....One great disadvantage of this [mechanical] action was that the more stops employed or the higher the wind pressure used, the more difficult it became to depress the keys. Thus, the wind pressures, as well as the size of the organ, were limited by mechanical action."

"Sometime around 1898 Ernest Skinner invented his high-speed pitman windchest action which....not only afforded greater speed and fluency in organ playing, but was also capable of operating on far higher wind pressures than were possible on the old mechanical action slider chests. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities in the realm of pipe voicing and organ tone. As Skinner himself stated, '...the modern organ, with its magnificent power and wealth of orchestral color and perfection of mechanism, is made possible wholly through the disassociation of the touch and the wind pressure.'"

So let me get this straight, you take away perhaps the most important expressive capability of an instrument so that you can use it to more effectively imitate a completely different instrument. Sure, it makes perfect sense.

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Sheet Music Store:
(Originally featured April 9, 2002) I just noticed these two anthologies today that I think you'll find very useful. The first is "The Complete Lord's Prayer for Every Busy Accompanist." ($12.95) The title's a bit much but you get 12 different arrangements of the classic Malotte "The Lord's Prayer," all in one volume. The arrangements are for voice with either organ or piano accompaniment in five different keys (E-Flat, D-Flat, C, B-Flat and G), plus solo organ and piano versions.

The second book is called "The Complete Ave Maria" ($10.95) and offers piano and organ arrangements of both the Schubert Ave Maria and the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, each in three different keys and each of those with a choice of a piano or organ accompaniment. Solo piano and solo organ versions are also included for a total of sixteen versions in all.

Talk about being prepared for any situation! I wish I'd known about these books years ago.

RAMPAGE FLASHBACK (It was four years ago today, about)
"Starting Over" September 28, 2001
"In my last email I shared with you my experience of living and working through the tragic events which occurred here in New York City two weeks ago. While it was natural for me to focus then on events that were affecting me directly, we all realize now that this wasn't another in a long parade of news stories happening "over there" or "here at home." The global nature of the events of September 11 is reflected in the fact that families and friends of victims from over 70 countries are now in mourning. With the military deploying, the circle of mourners is sure to widen." Click the following link for more:

WHAT I'M READING..."The Life and Work of Ernest M. Skinner" by Dorothy J. Holden. I'm finding that I'm enjoying the Life part of this book more than the Work part of it. EM was a real character, the kind that you don't see much of anymore. I guess there was something about that time in America. I strongly recommend it though, especially to all those organists who are interested in the organ from the perspective of imitating an orchestra. Click the link below for more information on this book:
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's Book Club:

Have a great week!

Dan Long

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