Sinden.org

Christmas, 2008/9

14.5.07
crack - Messiah organist on

We've all heard it, the audio file dubbed "Messiah Organist on Crack", but unless you're an organist, you might have wondered how this could have happened.

I would postulate that the famous excerpt is a result of inadvertent transposer use.

Unless I miss my guess, the organist in question is performing on some incarnation of a pipeless (digital) organ. (If those really are pipes, they sound pretty nasty.) Many pipeless organs, like synthesizers, are equiped with transposers -- for you see, not being concerned with what pipes can play what notes, they can freely move the playable range of the instrument up and down willy-nilly.

There are two distinct designs for organ transposers. The most common is an inauspicious knob off to the side of the console that turns to the right to transpose up and to the left to transpose down -- usually about six in each direction (this just about covers all the keys). The other design, which is much less common, employs the transposer as a series of separate buttons underneath one of the keyboards.

A majority of all organ consoles, however, are equiped with buttons that look just like these: pistons. Each piston stores a specific, settable combination of stops. When the piston is pressed, those stops are drawn as if by magic!

So, the problem in this system of transposer buttons is that they can easily be confused with piston buttons. I believe that's what's happening here. Toward the end of the piece, the organist would want to add more sound; he would do this by selecting a piston.

Here's a possible rundown on the scenario:

The performance ends up sounding a little strange, but I would be lying if I said it couldn't have happened to me.

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