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October 29, 2003
Vol. III, No. 29

"The Enemy Within"
Dear community,
I apologize for being out of touch for the past four weeks or so but I assure you that it was not without reason. I heard from many community members after my last Rampage on Trinity Church's digital organ and I would like to thank you for your support and thoughtful responses. I also heard from a few community members who apparently feel that there's plenty of room in the world for all kinds of organs and that choosing to play a pipe organ instead of a digital organ is simply a personal preference, as in your choice of car color or how one likes their eggs. It was as a result of these latter responses that I decided to spend some time dwelling on the debate over pipe organs and digital organs and attempted to write a Rampage that would offer some sort of definitive resolution to this issue.

However, after four weeks of work, I still didn't have a Rampage but it certainly wasn't for lack of material. In my quest for the perfect metaphor to illustrate the superiority of the pipe organ, I had generated enough material to write a book, albeit one that I'm sure I'll never find the time to complete. In any event, it was from on top of this mountain of evidence that my focus suddenly shifted from the questions posed by the pipe/digital debate to the validity of the debate itself. This new perspective allowed me to see that we don't have to participate in this debate. The organ community is not Smallville Elementary School or the United Nations and we don't have to play nice or be accepting of other people's choices. I was wrong to ever allow myself to feel that it was somehow necessary to defend the integrity of pipe organ in the first place.

Look at the piano world. They don't accept the idea of replacing their concert instruments with digitals. Please let me know if any major pianist is currently using a digital piano in concert or is expected to accept digital pianos as being on the same level as an acoustic grand piano. What a laugh! Yet we organists allow people to get away with making ridiculous claims like digital organs are just as good as pipe organs. We allow manufacturers to get away with taking advantage of unsuspecting churches by making false claims that digital organs are cheaper and better investments? Meanwhile, The American Organist magazine openly endorses digital organs by accepting advertising revenue from digital organ manufacturers. How did it ever come to this? Why do we allow ourselves to be pushed around so?

You may have heard the expression "We have met the enemy and he is us." Well, at the end of my exploration I've decided that we are our own worst enemy. Sure, the only organists who call for joining hands and creating one big happy organ world are the ones who play digital organs but we're the ones who stand by, sanctioning their efforts with our silence. Last July I wrote a Rampage stating that reports of the pipe organ's demise had been greatly exaggerated. I still believe that the pipe organ is alive and well but I also feel it's important to respond when people attack the integrity of the pipe organ or try to tear down all that it stands for.

I propose that we reject this current state of inclusiveness, draw the line at pipes and close up ranks (pun intended). Plain and simple, anyone who stands up for digital organs is an enemy of the pipe organ. You cannot serve two masters. (And before anyone brings up Virgil Fox, he took his act into rock clubs and "turned on" a generation. When other organists can do that with their digital organs, I'll make allowances for them, too.)
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Have a great week!

Dan Long

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