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MMD > Archives > November 2001 > 2001.11.03 > 01Prev  Next

Johnson Style 163 Band Organ in Salem, Oregon
By Matthew Caulfield

Glenn Morris writes about the beautiful appearance but disappointing
loudness of the new Salem band organ.

I have heard a recording of the Johnson 163, and aside from the
"churchy" sound, my main complaint would be about a feature that
the company sees as a virtue: the 16-foot ultra-low bass pipes.
The Wurlitzer 165 is already a rather deep-sounding band organ, when
compared to a brilliant Ruth or even a smaller Wurlitzer.  I believe
it is a mistake to go even deeper when designing an organ to play the
165 scale.

As for the loudness of the organ, it may not have been acoustically
sized for the Salem building.  That is not the first time such a thing
has happened.  Then too, there is the audience factor.  People who are
used to listening to canned music may not be prepared for the band
organ sound.  One constantly hears that the young kids hired to run a
merry-go-round do not like the organ because it doesn't play rap music
and because it is "too loud, man!"

Glenn writes of the Salem organ's "highly polished trumpets," so
I take them to be brass ones.  Brass pipes look nice, but they tend
to be squawky, especially if not in tune, and not so mellow as reed
trumpets with wooden resonators.

Before I invested in a Plexiglas or other kind of screening to mute
the organ, I'd see what an acoustical engineer might suggest to dampen
the volume.  Perhaps a screen is the way to go, but other measures
such as sound-absorbing wall treatment behind and at the sides of the
organ may help.  As for the Plexiglas, I'd want to be sure that it
didn't add to the "bassy" character of the organ by screening out the
high frequencies and transmitting the already-too-low low frequencies.
I suppose Salem has pulled whatever draw stops there are to shut off
some ranks.  But it seems a shame to pay for pipework, then have to
disable it.

After a $70,000 investment, someone should be willing to spend a few
hundred more to get good answers to the question of how to make the
organ usable at Salem.

Matthew Caulfield

(Message sent Sat 3 Nov 2001, 16:55:24 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  163, Band, Johnson, Oregon, Organ, Salem, Style

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