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MMD > Archives > June 2003 > 2003.06.25 > 11Prev  Next

Adding MIDI Control To an Existing Instrument
By Tony Decap

I'm glad that so many people are thinking about the advantage of adding
a MIDI system to their mechanical musical instruments.  It really makes
sense if you think about it.

As said before, I personally give priority to music over mechanics.
But why would we not settle for both?  A MIDI system, if well designed,
can be added and removed at will, so there will be no decrease of the
instruments value whatsoever.

We, working for people who have to work almost daily with mechanical
music instruments for their living, have known for years that a
mechanical music instrument also has to be practical.  If a customer
has hundreds of people dancing to the music of his music machine on
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and regularly during the week, he has
no time to keep an eye on the mechanics and intervene every time the
mechanics go wrong.

I would like to share two examples of our experience.

1. About eight or nine years ago we got a call from Papa Joe's, a pub
in Cologne, Germany, that displays a selection of old mechanical music
instruments.  One instrument was a cylinder-played 52-key Gebr. Bruder
barrel organ.  This machine played not at all well, and showed problems
every time it was played.  It was a constant headache for the owner.

Nobody could see the mechanics inside the organ, so removing the drum
would mean no loss in visual value.  We removed all original parts not
needed and stored them a custom-built case for safekeeping.  Then we
installed our MIDI system.

After the conversion, the instrument played as never before.  It then
became clear how well the pipes are voiced and how fantastic is the
balance between the different pipe ranks.  'Thumbs up' for Gebr. Bruder!
Since the MIDI conversion we haven't received one call about the organ.

2. Five years ago we delivered a newly built 121-key organ to a dance
palace.  (If you would want to know more about a Belgian dance palace,
visit ).

The owner, Mr. Gust Klessens, worked his whole life in that trade (he
inherited the dance palace business from his father).  When he was 72,
after leaving his business to his sons, he decided to build a new
palace to replace his favourite palace that burned down.  He worked
about seven years on this amazing dance temple.

He also wanted a new 121-key dance organ.  This type of organ provided
music in those dance tents for many years.  He had the choice to have
a keyframe for book music built in his organ, but Gust (now in his
eighties) was no ordinary man.  He went for a computer with our software.
So (and this is five years ago) he installed four TV screens in his
palace connected to the PC, and put the remote control in his pocket.

Now every weekend the place is packed, and while he is talking to all
the people or dancing the night away, upon the request of the man
standing next to him he pulls the remote control out of his pocket and
selects one of the 1000 songs stored in the PC.  He looks at one of
the four TV screens to confirm his selection.

If he chooses a song containing lyrics, the lyrics are shown on the TV
screens in karaoke style, and the whole place is singing along.  If no
lyrics are in the song, the TV screens can show pictures of the time
when the organ and palace were built, or the TV shows an animation of
some ranks of pipes playing, etc.

Gust's comment: "Anybody who thinks that I'm going to spend the last
of my years _behind_ the organ playing books, while the action is in
front of the organ, is gravely mistaken".  He is a real character!

We hope that more people loosen up a little.  Change does not always
have to be for the worse.

Tony Decap
Herentals, Belgium

(Message sent Wed 25 Jun 2003, 13:39:14 GMT, from time zone GMT+0200.)

Key Words in Subject:  Adding, an, Control, Existing, Instrument, MIDI

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