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MMD > Archives > February 2004 > 2004.02.23 > 03Prev  Next

MIDI Control of Band Organs
By Matthew Caulfield

Before speaking to Phil Slusser's question about MIDI as a band organ
option, I would comment on two other points in his message.  Marianne
(not Marianna) Stevens is one of three authors of "Painted Ponies,"
the first-named one being William ("Bill") Manns, the second being
Peggy Shank.  Marianne is to the American Carousel Society what Fred
Fried was to the National Carousel Association -- a driving force and
fount of knowledge.

Concerning the plans to install a ring machine -- which is a wonderful
idea to me (though probably not to the ride's insurer) -- I'm wondering
where you can buy the required steel rings today?  Campbell Chain
Company, York, Pa., used to be the big supplier of merry-go-round
rings, but they stopped making them a couple of years ago and sold the
machinery for forming rings to Terry Furlong, the head electrician of
Seabreeze Park.  Are there other suppliers?  Or will the ride use
plastic rings or no rings at all except the single brass ring?

MIDI.  Since the band organ Phil's group is envisioning will be used
in a commercial setting, MIDI control has a lot to recommend it.  Roll
operation requires more know-how and attention to detail on the part
of staff than it is usually possible to get in most parks.  The main
drawback to MIDI control is the aesthetic/historical one: you can't
watch the roll passing over the tracker bar, and MIDI is a 21st century
intrusion on a 19th century system.  But neither of these two
considerations should weigh heavily here.  The important thing is to
have a real band organ that sounds good.

Phil doesn't say whether the band organ being envisioned is an existing
one made in the last century or whether they will have a new one built
to order.  If the former, the organ will doubtless come with a good,
rugged roll frame.  I would recommend keeping the roll frame and
installing a non-intrusive MIDI system such as that made by the Stinson
Band Organ Company.  Then the organ can be played either by roll or by

If the organ is to be a new, built-to-order organ, I would go with only
the MIDI control system, because most roll frames built today present
too many problems to bother with, for the cost they add.

On the other hand, old-time authenticity may be a big factor in the
carousel operation being planned; the inclusion of a ring machine
suggests that might be the case.  Then MIDI would be an anomaly.

There are many more arguments to be made in the MIDI/roll debate, but
to properly present them and to lead Phil's group to a decision they
won't regret mightily over the next few years would require dialog with
the group.  Too many ride operations have band organs they can't or won't
play because they didn't know what they were doing from the start.

There are important decisions facing Phil's group, and they should be
talking to as many people as possible who are heavily involved in
day-to-day ride operation and who know the realities of the work,
rather than the dream-world picture one gets from the media.

Matthew Caulfield (Irondequoit, N.Y.)

(Message sent Mon 23 Feb 2004, 15:57:16 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Band, Control, MIDI, Organs

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