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MMD > Archives > December 1998 > 1998.12.12 > 08Prev  Next


Craig Brougher's Ding-A-Ling Orchestrion
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  I know I said I would write while I was in Missouri to report
on the progress of 'The Ding-A-Ling'.

Okay, so I lied.  But I was having such a great time with Craig
Brougher (and his wife, Ellen-very nice woman!), George Bogatko and
Andy Taylor (and family; Chris and 'Benny') that I simply didn't have
enough time to write.  I did try -- I got about halfway through one
posting, but it was after midnight, and 6:30 AM comes quickly!

Now that I'm back home and have caught up on a weeks worth of emails
(190), phone messages (it filled up), I'm ready to tell you about
'Ding'.  Forgive me?!

Where to begin?  'Ding' is huge!  10' X 8' X 7'.  The facade has
three basic sections with a hand-painted stained glass mural (about a
foot to a foot-and-a-half tall) that runs the full length of the front.
It's a scene of a carousal and the surrounding area/w lots of people.
Very life-like.  Well lit!

The process for creating the stained glass/painting was explained to me
but frankly, it was over my head.  The artist, Brian Lewis (originally
from New York, now living in Missouri), his wife and a close friend,
were on hand to hear the First 'Private Showing'.  The look on his
friend's face was unforgettable.  He had no conception of what Ding was
or could do.  A look that can only be described as 'looking like a
little boy' -- fascinated!  (Okay, I admit I felt -- and probably
looked -- like that when I heard Ding for the first time.)

The entire system is configured to operate from of two independent
'O' roll frames that automatically shift back and forth between songs.
It is also configured to be operated from specially formatted MIDI
files -- that's where the magic begins!  Every instrument can be
turned on or off at any time, giving the MIDI arranger absolute
control.

There are 6 basic expression levels, but since the entire front of
'Ding' has 6-position louvers (and all from the "O" roll format), the
true number of levels is practically limitless.  The piano also has a
two-position hammer rail and a mandolin attachment, further adding to
'Ding's' expressive capabilities.

The point is, 'Ding' can play quiet as a mouse or as loud as an
orchestra.  Notice I didn't say 'brass band'.  That's one of the things
that's truly remarkable about 'Ding'.  It's not a blaring instrument
that chases you out of the room or makes you want to plug your ears.

The tuning and balance, tonal character and expression levels range
from sublime to massively powerful without sounding harsh or overly
loud.  The quality of music is better than the finest German orches-
trions I've ever heard.  And the responsiveness is fast-as-lightning.
Every instrument blends with every other instrument in a collage of
musical color that excites the soul and stimulates the mind.  A visual
and musical masterpiece.

I'll go way out on a limb and say that one day 'Ding' will be recog-
nized as the ultimate in orchestrions.  It is impeccably engineered and
built, it's easy to tune and service (I can't say that about very many
nickelodeons or orchestrions) and it even has LED's (light emitting
diodes) that monitor the various vacuum levels, operating states and
'active' instruments.

Watching 'Ding' work/play is a marvel all by itself.  So many innova-
tive devices (each created to perform a special function and yet
physically basic in overall design and construction) are contained
within 'Ding' that it looks extremely complicated.  Nothing could be
further from the truth.  Taken separately, each device is almost
self-explanatory, ingenious; yes, complex; no.  From the view point
of this technician, I found Ding was thoughtfully designed to be easy
to maintain.

To the technicians in the group, the schematics Craig has created
are more complete than ANY I've ever seen for ANY instrument.  You
can actually sense what the machine can do simply by 'reading' the
diagrams.  Here again, ingenious; yes, complex; no.  For those up
on 'MIDI-or-roll' operation (how many machines can do that?), the
interface is flawless in design -- ingenious (tripped my trigger,
bigtime!).

Since the MIDI format (master.ins) had to be created first (major kudos
to George Bogatko), we got to listen to a few (ha!) 'O' roll tunes
before the first MIDI file played.  'Ding' played all the 'O' tunes
perfectly!  But 'Ding's' true nature was yet to be experienced.

After diagnostic testing, instrument testing and one final tuning
(with help from Charles Wilson, the pipe tuner), 'Ding' 'sang' Andy
Taylor's, 'The Ding-A-Ling March' (arranged for 'Ding' by George
Bogatko), the first tune specifically created for The Ding-A-Ling.
It rang out in a 'magical fashion' that I can only explain as the
best 'Disney' you ever heard.

Little did I realize then that 'Ding' had so much more to give.  After
George finished re-arranging his masterful version of 'Jingle Bells'*,
and it began to play, I caught myself moving around like a little kid.
Although some may 'boo-hoo' me, 'Ding' cannot only play George's MIDI
file, 'Ding' adds multiple dimensions that have never been heard before
by any living human being (save those who have experienced the awe and
majesty of this magnificent instrument).

Here's the kicker: 'Ding's' capabilities have only been taxed to about
one-half of 'his/her' potential.  It will be some time before anyone
creates files that push 'Ding' to it's limits.  It has 8 Presets and
only 3 have been used so far.  I have visions of this instrument
bridging the gap between young people and (what many of us feel is)
good music.  'Ding' is capable of playing Bach and the Beatles.
(I want to hear Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band!!!).

Below is the list of instruments and effects.

Left chest:  bird whistle, train whistle, fire gong, horses' hoofs,
crash cymbal, Chinese cymbal, snare tap and snare roll, wood block,
triangle, castanets.

Pipes: wooden open flutes, celestia.

Center chest:  pipes: 2' reed sax, 2' flute sax, 2' diapasons,
1' diapasons, 1' flute sax.

Wooden bar xylophone and orchestra bells.

Right chest: viols, bass drum, tympani (left and right), nest of bells,
tambourine, temple block, cowbell, ride cymbal

Accompaniment chest (30 notes):  8 ft. diapasons, 8 ft. gedeckts,
separately available.

Full-size upright piano with mandolin attachment.

* 'Jingle Bells', arranged (heck, rewritten) by George Bogatko.

Visit:  http://www.player-care.com/midi/jingpno.mid   or my stereo
version:  http://www.player-care.com/midi/george/jingpno1.mid.

Submitted by:

John A. Tuttle (john@player-care.com)
Website: www.player-care.com

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Key Words in Subject:  Brougher's, Craig, Ding-A-Ling, Orchestrion

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