Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gerald’s thrift store find

The perfect instrument for a music-loving geek

For quite a while now, we’ve been buying most of our clothes at thrift shops, and Pat also tends to buy things like books. The prices are great, and Gerald especially has found some spectacular bargains.

This past weekend, he was shopping at the huge thrift shop near where we live, and he wandered through the furniture section, where there was an organ. This was not the simple chord organ that Pat and I were both familiar with from our childhoods, with a blower that sends air through plastic sound pipes (sort of like an oversized harmonica) when a key is pressed – this was a 1970s era electronic organ, suitable, even, for a small church, with several selectable voices, two keyboards, or three, if you count the bass pedals down below.

Since Gerald’s now 18, Pat and I are giving him more control of his educational funds, and music is one thing we have been encouraging, so he decided to buy the organ; it was about the price of two college admissions applications. The folks running the thrift store were glad to see it go – they were getting tired of all the customers playing around on it and making noise.

Part of Gerald’s justification for buying the organ is that having something with a diatonic keyboard allows more work with music theory, but this organ is also allowing him to study electronics as well. The organ is analog; the heart of the beast is a set of 12 oscillators, circuits with capacitors and resistors balanced to produce sound at a certain frequency, each matching one note of the diatonic scale. Additional circuits attached to those oscillators determine what octave (or octaves) the note will be in, and add secondary oscillations to produce sounds that, at least supposedly, imitate musical instruments such as cellos and flutes. Actually, they are more closely an imitation of a pipe organ imitating cellos and flutes.

The organ also has output jacks, and last night, he had it wired into his stereo (he’s taken that apart and added enhancements to it), along with his iPod, and he was working on ad-lib accompaniments to Aerosmith tunes.

He has made a couple of visits to New Mexico Tech, and he has expressed admiration for the electronics setups he has seen in some of the dorm rooms – gaming systems constructed of several game playing devices and computers all wired together for power and speed. If he goes to Tech, I suspect he’s going to add the organ to the mix. Tech is well known as a place where things get blown up, but I wonder whether the powers that be will appreciate it if he starts playing Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” and blows the roof off of the building.

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Anonymous Mom said...

There's an organ in our storage shed. I doubt that it has output jacks, but it may have been used in a church.

Thu Jan 17, 02:26:00 PM MST  

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