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November 12, 2003
Vol. III, No. 31

"Digital Counterpoint"
You'll be happy to hear that my next Rampage discusses Bach's organ music rather than digital organs but unfortunately it isn't finished yet. In the interim, I thought I'd dive into the old mailbag. Your feedback to my Rampage "The Monster of Trinity Church" (10/2/03) caused me to refine my position on digital organs and I stated that position in my next Rampage "The Enemy Within" (10/29/2003). On the basis of that position, here are my responses to some of the many, many points brought up in the feedback to "The Enemy Within." (They may make more sense if you first review the Feedback page.)

(This first one below is the big one, folks. It came up over and over again. I put it at the top of the list because while the other points are interesting, they aren't nearly as important as this one.)

Re: Our church can't afford and/or is too small to install a pipe organ.
People are being intentionally misled. In general, people have been convinced that they can't afford pipe organs especially in smaller churches. They have also been convinced that pipe organs are too big for small churches. One thing I know is that they weren't convinced of these things by pipe organ builders. While pipe organs can be big and can be expensive, I assure you that pipe organ solutions for every size budget and every size space are available. A big part of the problem is that most pipe organ builders can't afford the sales staff that's needed to inform the buying decisions of churches on a large scale. Consequently, salesmen representing digital organ manufacturers go into sales situations unopposed and any claims they make go unchallenged. If you know of a church that needs an organ solution, please refer them to a local pipe organ builder or online to the Organ Clearing House (see Featured Links below). They won't be sorry.

Re: Making a living.
Yes, people have to make a living, some playing digital organs. Not my issue. You didn't choose the organ, you're choosing to make a living. God bless.

Re: Digital organs evolving into their own species.
This would be nice but, for now, digital organs are ONLY marketed as replacements for pipe organs and will therefore have a hard time finding a new and interesting place for themselves in the world. A similar thing happened with synthesizers. They started out as interesting instruments but quickly became limited to imitating traditional musical instruments and stopped evolving.

Re: There are more important things.
Yes, this is absolutely true. However, it will always be the case that no matter what cause you champion, however important, there will always be a cause that is even more important. In the Beatles song "Revolution," John Lennon sings "We are doin' what we can." I always thought he was singing "We're all doin' what we can." Anyway, my point is that this issue is one I feel I can handle. I've got this one. Feel free to pick one of your own and let me know how it goes.

Re: Why stir things up?
Some people urged me to be careful, afraid my words might stir things up, creating a rift in the community. Apparently my Rampage wasn't worded as strongly as I thought it was. That's exactly what I was trying to do. I want people to question the decisions their churches are making about the instruments they install. My main goal is to get the word out that the current situation as outlined above is unacceptable.

Re: Introducing a debate that may tear apart congregations.
There's been nothing but fighting in Christian congregations for almost 2000 years. I hardly feel that the pipes vs. digital debate, or the traditional vs. Contemporary worship debate for that matter, is a real concern in this regard. When congregations fight among themselves, unfortunately it says much more about people in general than about the issues they are fighting over.

Re: Calls for Fairness in Discourse.
People who call for fairness in discourse are often eager to defend digitals as equal to pipes but seemingly unwilling to entertain the idea that digitals might be completely and utterly inferior to pipes. How is that fair? Yes, let's level the playing field but let's be very sure that what you're calling level is actually flat.

Re: Choice between a Good Digital and a Bad Pipe Organ
Yes, I would rather play a bad pipe organ in a bad acoustical space than the best digital in a great acoustical space and I've had several opportunities to put my money where my mouth is. Even the worst pipe organ has character and charm. Well, OK, maybe not charm. But definitely character.

(I'm very curious about the several references to "bad" pipe organs. I'd like to know who is having to play "bad" pipe organs and whether they are recent installations. Is anyone prepared to go on the record accusing a current pipe organ builder of being incompetent? Let me know because my experience has shown that lack of maintenance is far more common than a bad installation or design, and you can't blame that on the organ or the organ builder.)

Re: Attacking My Credibility
I was wondering when the salesmen would show up. I'm not running for president of the US but I'll bite. Plus, I don't get many opportunities to toot my own horn so why not?
Believe it or not...
--I have been playing organs in and out of churches for over 30 years (thatís pipes, tubes, reeds, electric, electronic, digital, and digitally-sampled. Did I miss any?).
--I have played and programmed electric and electronic keyboards and synthesizers for just under 30 years.
--I have almost 25 years of experience working extensively with audio, first analog, then digital, both live and in the studio.
--I have worked with computers for over 20 years (mainframe, micro, mini, and PC).
--I received a Bachelor of Music degree from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music with a Double Major in Pipe Organ Performance and Electronic & Computer Music Composition.
--After graduation, I worked for two years at Yamaha as their New York Supervisor of Electronic Keyboard Research and Development.
Now, you may not agree with me but I hardly feel under-qualified to make sweeping generalizations. By the way,

Re: Giving Rodgers credit.
Funny you should mention this. As a matter of fact, at a NAMM show in the late 80s, I had the opportunity to meet the then-President of Rodgers and I took that opportunity to express my dissatisfaction with their products. Not that he cared.

There were many more points brought up but I tried to address those that I felt were most pertinent. As I said, my next Rampage is about Bach, probably my next several Rampages, and as far as I am concerned, the debate is over. However, I will revisit this issue as long as there continues to be evidence that people are being misled.
Click this link to read comments and offer your own:

Updated Pages
Featured Links page:
Added is a link to the Organ Clearing House. From their website: "The Organ Clearing House was founded in 1959 to facilitate the relocation of pipe organs which might otherwise be discarded. Another important service of the Organ Clearing House since its inception has been the provision of information about instruments available for relocation to those institutions or individuals interested in obtaining one."

Community Links page:
Another favorite link added by a community member.

Jokes page:
Added is what's been referred to as the funniest Gandhi joke ever. Is it music-related? Click below to find out.

Christmas is a great time to remember that special organist or choir director with a gift. Why not a framed art print of their favorite composer (even if it's not Bach)? Choose from the world's largest selection of posters and art prints using the link below.

DON'T MISS OUT!!! Annual Christmas and Chanukah Sale at
'Tis the season for musicians to buy their Christmas and Chanukah favorites. It may seem early, but buying music now provides plenty of practice time for the holidays. has put over 60 of their best-selling holiday songbooks on sale at 20% off through November 20th.

Have a great week!

Dan Long

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