Pipe Organs For Beginners
Know your enemy. Well, the organ isn't actually my enemy, but understanding the mechanics behind the instrument will be vital in translating the organ part of Automaton to the live setting.
Despite pipe organs having to be tailored specially to their respective homes, there is good deal of commonality in how they work. In searching for more information on pipe organ operation I came across Wikipedia's article on the organ console (the main controller section, basically), which is a great primer.
There I learned about divisions, the names of the manuals (Great, Swell and Choir for three manual consoles) and the special functions of enclosures, pedals and couplers. With the tech specs in hand I know what features Union Chapel's organ has and how its pipes are divided across the manuals. And fortunately for me the swell manual has its own expression pedal, allowing for continuous volume adjustments (within a certain dynamic range).
Part of today's research was focussed on the conventions for writing certain organ performance techniques into scores. While I didn't get around to notation of stop changes, fellow CreativePacter and organ player Lauren Redhead confirmed that crescendos and decrescendos using the expression pedal are handled as they would be for any other instrument, with the additional point that denoting the correct manual is always helpful. She also highlighted that the expression pedal on its own cannot silence the organ – for that the stops need to be closed.
I'm in the process of organising (!) a session to experiment with the organ sometime soon, to confirm that Union Chapel's swell manual will allow the tonality I want. In the meantime, in order to approximate, I ended up at the following Youtube video, in which Dr. Jan Kraybill runs through the sonic capabilities of the Casavant Temple organ. Enjoy!