Rehoming the Rodgers

Unfortunately, I had to come to terms with the fact that, every time I want to write music, I’m at the piano. And while I’m prepared to consider sharing my brain with something other than a piano, it shouldn’t require more money than I care to part with and, as Cameron Carpenter says, a debate-ridden crew of experts to schlep it around.

A very large playground

Happy in a new home

I didn’t have the time to do justice to the Rodgers, so it’s been rehomed at this nice place where I fervently hope that some fascinated kid pushes down a few keys and feels the same sudden jolt to the insides that I got when I first set eyes on a piano and realized what possibilities lay in it.

I won’t lie, though — part of my discomfort with it was the knowledge that I had a beast in my apartment that, although it fit fine, was still well in excess of 600lbs and had caused two experienced piano movers to quail in fear and almost herniate themselves getting it in. (One of them dubbed it the “hardest move I’ve ever done.”) I’m the sort of person who prefers an unencumbered life, to put it bluntly, and the thing made me feel claustrophobic. I detest owning enormous objects, and the largest and heaviest single home item I own currently is my couch.

I owned a dining room table once. It was awful.

I’ve spent the last few weeks agonizing over how the hell I was going to get it out of my life; the sort of people who can play a Rodgers 820 Alexandria are generally the sort of people who are currently drooling over VPOs and are not interested in a late 70s/early 80s electronic organ that weighs over a quarter ton. And it was too large for your typical municipal “bulky item” pickup service by far. (Not only that, but I disliked the idea of chucking something that still worked in the dump.)

That service did however put me in touch with the folks mentioned above, who have installed the thing in their shop where it is currently beguiling people, making them very happy by its presence and me very happy by its absence.

No more behemoths in my space. I’m the kind of person who imagines retiring to one of these things with a welcome mat in front of the door and shotgun propped up behind it.

If I can’t lift it, I don’t want it.

BTW, this isn’t an April Fool’s post. I feel like a dick for having “jilted” one of the noblest devices on Earth: a musical instrument. It’s really gone.

Organists are musical mechas.

Does anyone other than me think that it makes some strange form of sense to consider organists as mechas?

They are. Seriously.

And it’s interesting to note that organists tend to be sort of over-the-top or at least very outsized personalities, and that mecha pilots in science-fiction literature tend to be the same, sometimes to the point of being a little nuts.

I just think it’s an illuminating point of comparison.


Sort of bummed — I found what looked like a neat hour-long documentary on pipe organs on YouTube, and pretty much the whole beginning was a mechanical overview of the things. They’re neat and pretty and interesting as machines but … honestly, I don’t care. What about the music?

I should watch the whole thing before I toss it in the trash, but I don’t really want to risk wasting an entire hour on something that will probably not be to my taste.

I should probably just go watch one of Cameron Carpenter’s bitchfests again.

Breaking in organ shoes

You know, I wonder whether organists don’t “break in” their shoes, like dancers do. Ballet dancers will buy a brand, spanking new pair of toe shoes and then proceed to beat the living bejeezus out of them until they are suited for actual use. I wonder if organists don’t do the same. It might make it easier to feel the pedals through the suede soles of the things.

Organ annoyances

Okay. I tend to ignore the parts of my body that are not my brain, hands, or mouth. I love languages, I love thinking, and I love making stuff. The rest of me I regard as necessary peripheral crap to cart the brain, hands, and mouth around, and keep them going. Organs don’t work so well that way — you need a broader awareness of your physical self to play this thing. Either I will settle out as one of many amateur organists who aren’t very good, or my awareness of my physical self will gradually expand.

I can see why Cameron Carpenter states that dancers make good organists and why he chugs down a gallon of whole milk a day to keep from becoming underweight. Playing just these simple little pedal studies (I’m talking simple here) reminded me of the very few times in my life when I’ve been on the back of a horse and had to use muscles that I didn’t realize I had. I can easily see why a good organist at that level would need 5k Calories a day to keep from going gaunt.

I’m also becoming irritated at the placement of the Great and Swell stops. I like using my right hand on the Great and my left on the Swell, and if this were a touch-screen VPO, I could probably reverse the stop banks and get this. Instead, I’m stuck adjusting to yet one more device built the total opposite of the way I want it built. Yes yes yes, it’s a right-handed world. No kidding. After 46 years, it’s beginning to grate.

Fun with pedal etudes

They’re getting better. At first, timing was an issue since I just wasn’t used to using those muscles in a timed sense at all, so I was all over the map. It’s gotten way better.

The shoes are interesting — I don’t walk in them at all, and I haven’t put weight on them, either. I get onto the bench, pull them on, and then remove them before getting up. They’re very narrow, but about normal for my typical shoes. I just have to get used to how they feel, and how to distinguish the normal feel of the side of the shoe on the side of my foot versus the feel of touching a pedal on the side, which indicates that I’m about to press two pedals at once.

Still poking at Keating’s “Lost,” on it, too. 🙂 Fun device. I can see why people like VPOs, though. The organ was sort of the world’s first live mixing board. Adding looping capability to that would be completely insane and in the best possible way. 🙂

Pedal etudes and scales

I need to either cut the binding off of that Gleason book or else get a good spiral-bound book of pedal etudes. My organ shoes came in the mail (very retro-butch since I didn’t want the ones that looked like Mary Janes), and I ran into a difficulty when I went to play some of the pedal studies in Gleason and Gleason.

The book weighs enough that putting it on the music desk on the Rodgers makes the desk tilt forward and (nearly) dump the book into my lap. It’s also book-bound, so it won’t lie flat.

So I probably need to get it cut and the chapters separately bound to cut down on weight, or just find a good pedal technique study book that’s lighter and spiral-bound so I can figure out how to do scales and things the approved way.

ETA: On the other hand/foot, I did buy Joyce Jones’ “King of Instruments” … which I promptly stashed in the bench and forgot I had … Think I’ll whip it out a bit tonight and see what I can get done.

Got the second method book

Gleason & Gleason — just arrived. It’s an old hardback, which I love — 8th edition. Unfortunately, it’s not an old library book; I love it when I buy old hardbacks that are old library books. Don’t know why, but there’s something about opening it, seeing a stamp, and finding that old paper envelope glued into the back cover, sometimes with a stamped card tucked in it. I remember those paper cards from when I was a kid getting books from our super-tiny local library, and I think I’m nostalgic.

Looking forward to poring through it.

Working out finger sustains

Yeah, this is going to be over half of the technical challenges to the organ is working out the fingerings. No more going on cruise control like I do at the piano.

Now, this is probably a combination of things — I have been playing a piano for A While Now, so I am probably just doing a lot of things naturally that a beginner would have to think about. And there is also the nature of the organ itself that will always make fingerings more precise and worked-out.

But it’s interesting.

And I still need to get shoes.