James R. Knight Memorial Organ

IMG_1613 (Custom)

[Jared] wanted to do something monumental to commemorate his late father. His idea was to take this organ console and convert it to a digital beast powered by Hauptwerk software. The project is slated to take 18 to 24 months to complete, at which point he’s going to donate it to his church. You can follow along as he guts it and replaces all the mechanicals with new parts to interface the computer. He also finds that he needs at least 42 individual speaker cabinets to achieve the sound he wants. This thing is massive, we would love to see it in person.

21 thoughts on “James R. Knight Memorial Organ

  1. This is horrible! This is the kind of bullshit that is killing hacking. Would you like to take something and restore to its mechanical former glory, or would you rather put in a god damn computer? I’m surprised it isn’t arduino controlled, steam-punk’d and circuit bent.

  2. Shut up w/ the arduinos already and start your own blog dedicated only to arduinos. seeing as there usually hundreds of keys & pipes attached to those keys, i think that would take an unfeasible number of arduinos to accomplish.

  3. To the guys bitching about it being arduino controlled, Have anyone actually seen the size of a theater pipe organ full installation or church organ for that matter? Do you understand the cost of these things and of maintaining these things?

    My Father restores/maintains pipe organs for a living, Wurlitzer, Compton etc. We are talking around £50k for a decent one, have you got a spare room or 2 to house all the instruments? Those 32ft pipes ain’t small….. Then there’s sourcing the 1930’s parts, bakolite, leather and relays anyone?

    My Father also installs virtual theatre pipe organs, does a lot of work with hauptwerk, either hooked up to original consoles or midi keyboards. All of his customers are heavily ‘into’ pipe organs and making the sound proper (hence the 42 speakers as well as decent soundcards to run it all), sometimes this is the only way to ‘save’ the console for the greater good as these things get neglected due to the high running costs/time to keep them maintained.

    It’s the guys console and his Fathers memory, I say let him do what he likes. There’s very little actual hardware in the console itself, a few hundred relays for the keys,tab stops etc. and a electric/mechanical box which does all the signal routing and stores presets in ‘memory’, not far off what an ‘arduino’ can do, well, apart from be reliable like an arduino …..

    It’s a mammoth task that he’s taken on and having worked on compton and wurlizter organs myself, I’d be more than happy to gut the innards of the console at least and drag it screaming and kicking into the reliable 21st century.

  4. this is a nice work, indeed, but deleting a working mechanic organ to make a newer electric one is a bit heretic. Especially to use a synthaetic pseudo emulator, as best it can be, purists will always have a pronunced taste for real organs : we are analogic before all. But maybe somes are more anal logic.

    This is a pretty work, but building a replica would have been less destructive, more respectuous, and by the way, a good occasion to learn real woodworks too. In understand the gain is in the computer side flexibily of the build, and the infinite possibilities offered. But as i can read, the organ software is Win / Mac platform dedicated only. Huhuhuhu… It seems this man will have to put a computer screen too, and a mouse, or will he even interface all of this with adequate hardware too ? Freesoftware would have been a plus…

    Goodluck man ! i will follow this adventure, very curious to know what will happend in the next episod !

  5. That’s a by far better use for a salvaged console with no pipes than chipping it for particle-board would have been… sort of project I’d love to have the space to tackle. :-)

    Something it’s easy for all us hacking types to forget is that there’s a magic ingredient that goes into some projects… when it’s a labour of love, that love will shine from the finished project… even more so if it’s donated to a church because the building becomes an act of worship too… I don’t ‘do’ church myself, but it’s a major part of the lives of the folk who do and I’m not going to diss anybody for making that choice.

    My only regret is I’m on the wrong side of the Atlantic to get to play the result… I’m not going to get into the pipes vs samples argument, I’ve heard some of the very best of both and there’s plenty of awesomeness to go around. :-)

  6. Hauptwerk is mac/win at the moment but it will work under wine on linux (according to Dad), a screen is only needed for initial setup of samples, soundcard and midi routing etc. so the user only has to turn it on, wait for everything to fire up (like on the real thing) and then start playing.

  7. I applaud this person’s project. A great deal of thought, effort, money, and personal investment is going into this, and I respect that. If nothing else, one should be impressed by the sheer magnitude of it, and that a single person would be tenacious enough to drive it to conclusion. And his motive?… To donate it! Again, well done, sir.

  8. While it is true that pipe organs are not everyone’s cup of tea, in their heyday, they were appreciated by most people. It is also true that for cream of the crop design engineers and programmers, pipe organ design is not where the money is.

    But what if you were a cream-of-the-crop phd in EE, extremely knowledgeable in computer design and chip design, and an uber-programmer to boot? You could do ANYTHING yourself and you could call it all your own. Ordinary people can’t and don’t do this kind of design project. There isn’t a sound set big enough for it yet, for crying out loud! And if your father was James R. Knight and here to see it, he would be encouraging you the whole time because he would know this project showcases many of the engineering talents the good LORD gave you and he would think it is just awesome!

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