• CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    A better solution - strike a match to it. It sounds like it would be so altered it isn't worth preserving. Might change my mind if I heard it, but those heavy actions were the reason many of those instruments were reworked with electric consoles. Then came organ "reform" tampering which destroyed the original sounds of the instruments.
  • Tracker actions which I have played have had a variety of touches. Some were 'normal', neither too heavy or too light. Some were too light, being as touchy as the 'action' on an electric typewriter. Others were heavy. Yet others were almost as heavy as a carillon action. The worst are those that are mushy, heavy mushy or light mushy. These are most apt to give one no more control over speech than a non-tracker instrument - and, they are no fun to 'touch'. But I have always enjoyed a heavy action (so long as it was not mushy) because it was good exercise for the fingers and technique. And, of course, a good tracker doesn't cover up deficiencies in technique, which, the truth be known, is really why some people don't like them. They haven't the technique to play them well, so, naturally, they blame it on the organ.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    I have played "good" trackers and some not-so-good. I'm certain the technology and materials have improved greatly over what was in some of the older instruments.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    And, of course, a good tracker doesn't cover up deficiencies in technique, which, the truth be known, is really why some people don't like them. They haven't the technique to play them well, so, naturally, they blame it on the organ.


    And some just like doing things the hard way because they are closet Calvinists who think they earn merits in heaven through suffering.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • music123
    Posts: 98
    Some of us also have physical issues which make playing trackers pretty much impossible. So I am not fond of them.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Some of us also have physical issues which make playing trackers pretty much impossible. So I am not fond of them.


    No physical issues, but I don't like be buried in the instrument. It is nice to hear what the congregation hears. "But I can't play Bach correctly," is the justification for them I often hear. I would be surprised if anyone really knows how Bach played Bach, since there were no recordings.
    Thanked by 1bhcordova
  • It's always easier and more face-saving for some to say 'ugh. tracker action organs are awful, and they are outmoded technology, and they (blah blah blah).....' than to say 'I don't have the technique to play tracker organs - but I've noticed the beautiful results from those who do'.

    As for 'playing Bach correctly' - well, Charles is right: we can never know just how Bach played himself. But we can come closer to what his playing likely was on a well designed tracker instrument, which at least is what he knew intimately, lived with, and played. From all accounts, Bach's playing was near miraculous to all who heard him, and his fingers were likened to the rapid movement of spiders over the keyboard. He could, descriptions of his playing would suggest, improvise praeludia, fugues, and chorale treatments that were as complex as those he left us in writing - and could do so for hours on end.

    Still, there is no reason to excoriate those who play Bach on a non-tracker organ if such is all they have or prefer. Ultimately, it is musicianship and faithfulness to period ethos that we judge one another on - how well one's playing rises to those spiritual heights of which artful musical craftsmanship is capable. Is a thought process discernable in someone's playing, or are we just hearing notes played in their correct order?

    Actually, we needn't carry on as if one kind of action or one school of tonal design were the only right one. We are blessed to have them all, and those who are wise can appreciate them all for what they are.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Jackson, the point is that there are many bad trackers out there. Also many bad organs with other actions. Having a tracker is not any indication of quality.

    WWBD? What would Bach do?

    Bach also didn't have antibiotics (could have helped Lully to be sure), didn't have electricity, (what about those surly organ pumpers that had to paid in order to practice) and walked through horse poop to get to the church to play. Authenticity is not always what it is cracked up to be.
  • .
  • Bach would do what he had to do to make a living and feed his family.

    Writing the Coffee Cantata was not a bid for immortality.

    Nor was it a move to corrupt the music of the church.

    And he did get paid to make sure that the tracker organs being built were good trackers, not bad trackers, causing organ builders to shake when they found he was hired to judge a new organ in a church before the final check was handed over.

    And many of those tracker organs, with maintenance, are playing today. While tons and tons of EP organs have been built, played and trashed in the last 100 years. Up until the introduction of electricity to organ building, organs were built to last.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Bach was Lutheran so I doubt he thought much about Catholic music, but he was definitely a working musician. Much of his music was "commercial," but we could say that about many composers.

    Those trackers lasted because they were rebuilt over and over again and probably improved along the way with better materials. The EPs and direct electrics last too, if you properly care for them and rebuild them as necessary. Today, if any pipe instrument needs rebuilding, it may get trashed. Can you say, "Allen," kiddies? So what if it needs replacing in 25 years. It's the next pastor's problem. By then the church building may be a pizza place.
  • Rebuilding tracker organs was and is not required and is actually frowned upon.

    They are actually artistic works of a builder and anything done to them can destroy the original vision of the builder for the centuries to come.

    Maintaining the key action and stop controls plus releathering bellows and reservoirs are all that needs done.
    Thanked by 2MarkS CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Parts wear on them, too. I have seen, in my time, some nearly unplayable. There is no real reason one can't be maintained and remain playable for a couple hundred years, or more. But they are placed in buildings with fluctuating temperatures, varying humidity, dust, dirt, and so on. Not to mention that not everyone who comes in to play has any business even touching the organ. One of the things most damaging to the old instruments, I am told, is central heat and air.

    Also, the trackers in my area have as much, sometimes more, down time than my Schantz. Some are by prominent builders. One in particular, has parts that stick and bind and seems hyper-sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.
  • Does anyone seek a reason (valid or not, objectively genuine or not) to cast dispersions upon tracker organs, new or ancient? If such a reason is desired most any data of whatever provenance (just any will do) or lacking universal (or even general) applicability will be found ready at hand and argued shamelessly to death. For some, it's just a matter of what I like, any worthfulness to the contrary notwithstanding.

    Of course there are/were bad tracker instruments! There are/were good and bad everything. So what? It is really disingenuous, even facetious, so often to blurt this or that about 'bad trackers', as if their existence invalidated the good ones. So what? That proves nothing - except the perdurant ubiquity of bad faith and objective ill will masquerading as authoritative oracles.
  • The Absolutism of Organists has destroyed more than one organ company.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • Well said, Noel.
    One might well observe that Absolutism in any sphere is a great destroyer of that of which it would be the defender.
    Absolutism destroys soul, whether that soul be real or figurative.

    This is representative of one of the great conundrums of the ages: how do we preserve a thing in all its integrity without putting it in a straightjacket?
    And, the corollary, how much can we bend it or modify-adapt it before reaching that nebulous point at which it stops being itself - is no longer what it is/was.
    Thanked by 2Carol CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    In my situation, a tracker would allow expanding the organ - not possible with the Schantz. I am working toward acquiring two ranks that I want, but it will be tight and there really is no more space. A tracker would have a smaller footprint.

    Get the tracker so you can play Bach!

    If I had a tracker I still wouldn't like Bach and would rarely play his works. If I went to the expense of a new instrument, I would go French rather than German.

    Interestingly, the most reliable instrument I have encountered was an old Austin. It came on and played every Sunday for over 50 years until the church went out of existence. In its lifetime, it was never down and out of service.

    So what? That proves nothing - except the perdurant ubiquity of bad faith and objective ill will masquerading as authoritative oracles.


    And the preferences of those anointed organists who masquerade as authoritative oracles we should all follow, are the curse of the organ world. Every building is different, church resources are different, and congregational tastes and styles of music are different. There is no organ manufacturer or type of instrument suited to all places, nor should there be. Haven't we all seen and heard organs that were held to be "ideal" by the local "organistas," which were a terrible fit for the building and sounded awful?

  • It should be possible to take the plans and 3D print this.

    Tracker Organ
  • Well, sure, noel, but then you wouldn't be playing as Bach did.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • That's right, he and his kids would go out into the woods and cut down trees themselves to build authentic organs by hand, using their bare hands, no iron or metal knives and saws - instead they'd get rocks and chip away at them and use them for the woodworking. Everybody knows that.
  • Seriously, there is really something about playing music of the 1700's on organs that came down from that time in the exact church where the composer was organist. It's an invaluable valuable experience, if there is such a thing.

    And playing that music on American organs from the 1930's to 50's is almost always difficult and lackluster.

    It's like playing classical guitar music on a heavy metal guitar. You can do it but what a waste of time and talent.
  • Noel is spot on again!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    It's no secret that styles of music were meant to be played on instruments of their time. There was no way a composer could know how organs would evolve 300 years later. But, hearing 19th century music played on an 18th century organ is equally wretched. Some organists get that in one direction but do not understand the other.
  • Is this discussion about something? (i.e. is someone trying to argue for or against something particular)? I can't figure out.

    I play on a bad tracker right now (mushy, imprecise, prone to problems). This doesn't change the fact that the many good trackers I've played are fantastic, and far better than the best electric or pneumatic-assist organs I've played. Yes, it does make a difference to the music.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    I suspect it makes far more of a difference to you than the people hearing you. I have come to the conclusion that I could lean on the keyboard some mornings and many might not notice. Musicians are like the plumbing fixtures. The people notice most when we are not there.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,761
    Bach plays well on all period instruments. Not true with other composers out of their realm.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Bach sounds wretched on an old Kilgen, at least one here. But I should say he sounds even worse than usual on the Kilgen. It was built as an 8' organ - yes, another form of craziness in the organ world that prevailed at one time.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,761
    If I could, I would prove that even an old Kilgen can rise to the occasion. But you would have to invite me out. ;) Bach's music was composed in such a way that tonal sonorities aren't critical to performance. His works can be played on any instruments... take Die kunst der Fuge for instance. It sounds great with a brass quartet or a harpsichord... just the nature of excellent counterpoint. And unless your Kilgen sounds worse than the Allen I have here, I would wager it will sound wonderful.

    But you and I are constantly at odds with each other over Bach and I don't think your mind will ever be changed with respect to the composer we discuss, despite what kind of organ is employed... so C'est la vie.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Oh, he was a master of counterpoint. I just find his music dry and mechanical to hear.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,761
    wow. THE master, IMHO.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,761
    how about couperin?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Like Couperin. I tend to like the more lyrical pieces by Bach, I just don't like fugues all that much - and the German fugues are too long. They don't fit well in my mass playing, but I did a Marchand fugue a week ago and it was the perfect length. Recently, I have been playing some Charles Piroye and Michel Corrette pieces. Very nice!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,761
    enjoy this one.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Thanks, I had not heard this one before.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 948
    The thing about trackers are they have to be maintained well. The trackers swell and or shrink, and the action can become poor. Then people say that trackers are hard to play, when in reality, the action has not been attended to. Electric actions do not need this kind of attention.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 948
    There is a certain organ in a certain Texas city by a certain organbuilder at a certain convent, where the organ case is a foot behind the organ bench. To compound this deafening concept, the mixture ranks are right in front.
    I truly believe that this organ builder hated organists.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    There is a famous maker (German) organ in my town with a horrid mixture right in your face. I never use it when I play that organ. Another by a noted Canadian builder is even worse. You do wonder if the people who designed them ever had to play them.
  • MarkS
    Posts: 203
    But in any case, isn't the challenge to produce the sound that will sound best in the church (nave, room, acoustical space, etc...), not what necessarily sounds pleasant at the console? The organ I play currently is voiced beautifully for the room (and I believe this is the goal of the majority of our pipe organ builders) and it sounds better the farther up the nave one stands —i. e. the farther from the console one can be (organ and choir in a typical 'West loft" configuration). This is pretty much a permanent condition for organists.
    I'm scheduled to play the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony with a local youth orchestra this spring on the big Skinner at Woolsey Hall in New Haven, and while it's a pneumatic action, and the console is quite a distance from the pipes (but in a sort of 'pit' directly behind where the conductor would stand on stage, and it takes quite a bit of neck craning to follow what;s going on up there!), I can tell you from experience that the organist at the console does not have a good idea of how the organ sounds out in the room—which is really all that matters.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,974
    Every place is different and builders sometimes have to place instruments in less than ideal arrangements. Putting ranks directly in the organist's face seems like something they could control - that is, if the builders even thought of it. I have played EP instruments with consoles too close to the pipes and it isn't an improvement over trackers with the same issue, although I think the EP manufacturer could have a bit more control on this. Maybe, maybe not. Again, every place is different.

    Wish I could hear the Saint-Saens, but I'm too far away.
    Thanked by 1MarkS