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MMD > Archives > November 1998 > 1998.11.18 > 08Prev  Next


The Giant Ding-A-Ling Orchestrion
By Craig Brougher

Bill Masterman was asking about the "Giant Ding-A-Ling."  I haven't
forgotten everyone about keeping you posted on the big Orchestrion.
I'm just busy fussing over a lot of little details.  But it's pretty
sweet-sounding already.  (I like it!)

The pipe balance and tonal range turned out great.  It's hard to keep
from grinning when it plays.  There is just nothing like live music,
is there?  The effect it has on the whole body cannot be adequately
described. (It does something to your stomach -- like, makes you hungry
for more and more of the same.)

For all of its size, it is not "Loud."  (My mother likes it.  That's
how I know).  It has all the expression of a great instrument, and 6-
position swell shutters that really change the balance and add a lot
more expression.  They are 3/8" thick polycarbonate all the way across
the front of the case (so the instruments and lighting effects can be
seen), and the orchestra bells below those shutters are behind its own
set of walnut shutters, which turn on, open automatically and light up.

It plays "O" rolls, and literally transforms them!  I was impressed
(even surprised).  But by the end of this month George Bogatko and
John Tuttle plan to visit us and, for one thing, we will be recording
the Ding for its first public exposure.  More than that, we will be
planning the MIDI programs that will really put this instrument through
its paces.  I keep telling people, "You just haven't heard anything,
yet."  For all their music and fun, an orchestrion roll cannot produce
all this instrument is capable of.

So these two duplexed "O" roll spool frames won't be the only thing
it can play.  Thanks to Laurent Coray and the Octet Corporation
(a wonderfully engineered little box), I intend to have the genius of
George Bogatko and Stephen Goodman (and possibly others) playing live
through its 10 ranks and 16 percussions soon.  It also has the
necessary piano (a good, live one), xylophone and orchestra bells.

It will also be able to record "O" rolls into MIDI very easily, for
reformatting to play all the multiplexes (8 of them for now).

A lot of my work has been to bring schematics up to date, write
the instruction manual, and then start getting pictures.  It is in
a relatively small room in which getting a full frontal shot is going
to be difficult.  It is 10 feet long, 8 feet high, 7 feet deep (from
the back wall).

It has some art glass that I am particularly fond of.  A fine glass
artist right here in Independence designed and built this 1890's park
scene of people listening to a band concert.  It is "true" art glass,
having faces, details, even shadows and creases in clothing precisely
painted and shadowed in the glass, which is then fired.

The facade is solid Missouri walnut.  The design is (more or less)
Federal -- definitely American in its conception and overall decor.
Heavy, but not ostentatious.  I wanted something that was easy to live
with and look at every day and never get tired of.  I tried to do that
with a pleasing overall silhouette line and balance.

One of the nifty gadgets I have ready to install is a mirror ball on
an extendible arm 16 feet long.  When it fully extends, it will start
rotating and pick up lights from micro-spots around the room, throwing
reflected spots all over the room.  This, as well as other things,
like sound effects and special lighting presets, can be controlled by
an "interactive remote" box.  And while it plays, you can add your own
sound effects or percussive effects as well by momentary switches.
Flip the box over, and it has all the switches for tuning all the
pipes.  So the box is both for the coffee table and the maintenance of
the instrument.

There is still one "stop" I haven't gotten built, yet.  It is a
Vibra-Chord.  Do you remember the tune, "Girl from Ipanema?"  That
tune had a Vibra-Chord in it.  Well, I have a Vibra-Chord keyboard that
I want to install, but no amplifier.  So what I am thinking to do is to
buy a guitar amp with wave shaping and drive it with the Vibra-Chord.
I think it should sound about the same, given the right amp.  This will
be the only "electronic" thing in the entire machine.  Everything else
is simple pneumatic or electric.  Also, it is highly expandable.

The important thing about the Ding-A-Ling to me was ease of maintenance
and tuning, with the reliability of a shovel.  So, to the degree it was
possible, I feel that this was accomplished.  There is no solid-state
anywhere except in the MIDI.  There is a relay for every note, so that
no heavy loads are placed on the music sources like the interface stack
or the MIDI controller.  Each relay has a red, green, or yellow LED to
indicate its state.  Everything is checkable from two or three differ-
ent places, in two or three different ways, and it comes with its own
special cables for ease of testing.

The piano is mounted on tracks, controlled by linear actuators which
move it back and forth.  This way I was able to keep its keys intact
for easy tuning.

For anybody familiar with tuning and maintaining a large European
orchestrion, the Ding is better than "A Snap."  It's a pleasure.  It
is also completely pre-fabricated and can be set up elsewhere in 
probably about a week or less with two people.

Craig Brougher


(Message sent Wed 18 Nov 1998, 13:55:49 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ding-A-Ling, Giant, Orchestrion

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