Frequently Asked Questions|
- What is your latest project?
- Stop by stop demonstration of brand new
- Do you have an official biography?
It ain't Wikipedia, but how's
this? Please ignore all the ads. I captured my first organ recital on the Baldwin electric organ at Hawthorne First United Methodist
Church by patching into the speaker output wires. Nicki's husband, Mitch, said "Couldn't it use a little reverberation?"
- What goes on in your recording studio?
Lots of stuff that can't be heard on the recording, because it's captured directly to disk. This is still true, even in
bed with a mini-laptop sitting on my chest.
- How did you create the MIDI Files for
your Virtual Performances?
- These files were input from a regular computer
keyboard using software called Noteworthy Composer,
but it was used as a virtual organ, not as the music
publishing program it was designed to be. I worked in
tracks, up to 6 per manual, so the scores look like
orchestral scores. The articulation native to NWC was
fairly primitive, but there are three levels of
staccato which I supplemented with rests. I created a
basic algorithm on a separate track which I call
usually 2 or 3 measures based on agogics,
then adjust according to structure—slowing for
fugue or chorale entrances, lower notes that take time to speak,
the quicker note in a dotted pair, triplets, and then adjust for the actual sound I hear. I
usually play the NWC file back on my organ computer
and record directly, but sometimes I have set too
quick or slow a tempo and must export the NWC file to MIDI,
since I have so much work invested in creating the actual metric track
that I prefer not to redo it. The metric track has grown
more refined over the years.
- Why use a notation program to make MP3 files?
If you were talking about Finale, I would agree with you. I entered keystrokes for two hymnals in Finale, and never
figured out from their 600 page manual how to make them look right on the page—the person I was working for
had to do the finishing touches. Sometimes in Noteworthy Composer, you'll run into a combination of notes don't
look quite right, but if you're using it essentially as a MIDI track sequencer, it's pretty easy to get around,
you can manipulate dynamics, tempo and futz with articulation using familiar notation symbols (for the curious,
the last 3 tracks here show the results of my manipulation). I capture my NoteworthyComposer files directly from Hauptwerk or other sample playing software, sometimes add reverberation using n-Track Studio and SIR, then trim/convert to MP3 with GoldWave v. 5.67. It also works great with a MIDI pipe organ. Since Sibelius is now out of the picture people are now looking at Cubase to create an entirely new music publishing software. Perhaps it will tackle turning printed music into machine readable format perhaps by that time HD-MIDI.
- What inspires you musically?
Often it's Performance Today. Also
Soul Music on Sunday mornings and From the Top on Sunday evenings.
- Why do you have so many versions of the same track?
To show the versatility of the music, the organs, and my MIDI files. The comparisons aren't necessarily apples to apples,
since speeds change, my techniques have evolved over the years and so have the samples. I use the resources
available and sometimes ad lib a pedal note or two, or even compensate for a missing pedal note.
Dynamics can be added or ignored, temperaments explored, mechanical noises suppressed or added. Harpsichords
present totally different workarounds, usually involving a second virtual player.
- What did you learn from your very brief linking to Facebook and Twitter?
I found both of them too diffuse, distracting and time-consuming with no real reward.
- How do you choose temperaments?
When available I use the original temperament of the sampled instrument. If the last chord sounds too peculiar, or
the piece is totally chromatic or in an unusual key or the leading tone is embarrassingly flat I will play around
with the well-tempered solutions. If the sampleset is originally in equal temperament I tend to explore more options.
It's really quite subjective.
- Can others make CDs from your MIDI or MP3 files?
This is now eminently doable, but only with permission from me and the samplers. I have created some
CDs of concerts, using
- What software do you use in working with your MIDI or MP3 files?
- When I decided to start
giving away and then selling MIDI files I discovered
a batch utility that made this easier for me, called
of course NWC2MIDI.exe. Of great use are also MF2T.exe
which allows me to conduct search and replace
operations on the MIDI code itself and reassemble it
with T2MF.exe. Another free utility is MIDICSV.exe/CSVMIDI.exe but it uses
a different syntax. I also have experimented with MIDIMAP.exe (a precursor and subset of
Some may want to remap using MIDI-OX. Audio files are trimmed with Audacity v. 2.0.2.
- Will the new search algorithm ("Hummingbird") affect your position on the first page?
- Searching for "james pressler" usually lists Virtually Baroque in spot number 2 on Google's first page, at least when I am doing the searching. Others may experience different results.
- Does your handle jocr have anything to do with the Batman character?
- No, it was a play on the abbreviation for Optical Character Recognition (James's OCR).
Since I was a touch typist able to sustain 110 wpm accurately for long periods of time, the loss of functionality in my right
hand was a real loss of income. I had experience of an industrial OCR shop which used IBM Selectrics with OCRA
type balls to input copy to be scanned into a typesetting system, and I naively thought I could use off-the-shelf
software to scan words and/or music to continue my career. Obviously it didn't work out, so I invented my own system.
- Are you ready for Hauptwerk v. 4.01?
- I've evaluated the new embedded MIDI playback feature and expanded registration system and submitted requests
to make my and other MIDI files more playable. One minor update was made, incorporating my feedback. My first
"true" HW4 collection is now available by pushing the MIDI Files 4' drawknob at the left.
- Why do you use another server for most of your MP3 files?
- I measured the speed in Firefox: Zion (1.4mB/sec)
vs. PowWeb 300-320 kB/sec = Zion was c. 3 times faster. Thanks to Bob Collins for donating it.
- It was really a very bad surprise to hear about your stroke. I do hope you are recovering and getting better day by day!
- I am online in a very limited way. All the equipment is in storage, and I'm making do with a minilaptop. In fact this
last episode was not a second stroke—just a "complication of diabetes" and my favorite diagnosis, "failure to thrive."
NoteworthyComposer 2.5.5 is now running on the msi U160 computer,
now with 2GB memory. I'm doing a little consulting for Frog Music, have
posted a few tracks on ContreBombarde Concert Hall
and handed off Daily and Weekly Tracks to Thomas Gentry. Since breaking my hip, I've been
- How are organ works produced on files from specific churches?
I am enjoying listening to organs all over the world playing music of the masters. I am confused as to how the organ works can be produced on files from specific churches. How for example can a performance on the Mehmel organ in Germany be captured on a file by a sampler such as Prof Helmut Maier. Does he actually play and record the work? Are microphones used to record the work? I would appreciate your response to help educate me. God bless you and the work that you do for the enjoyment of organ music lovers.
- Thanks for asking. Prof. Maier records every pipe and creates the elaborate interface for a program called Hauptwerk. He then ships that "Organ Sampleset" on a DVD to his customers, or trades them to me for work I perform on the organ: in the case of the Mehmel, I prepared all
my Reger for Prof. Maier and my money went for the scores. I can hear the music every step of the way and make adjustments in my MIDI files according to what I hear. The audio is are captured directly in the
Hauptwerk interface. I can also reuse the MIDI files with other instruments, making lots of adjustments, adding dynamics, adjusting for missing notes, slowing up, redoing trills and articulation and rubato, according to my experience as an organist and techniques that have evolved over the years.
- Why are your MIDI files so many different prices?
- I had many rationales, but because I'm losing money each month I decided to make them more consistently
$.50 apiece. There are still a few bargains, but you'll have to find them.
- How do you select music for concerts?
- I work with several elements: length (they should be about an
hour long), opening and closing pieces (not just flashy and long, many criteria can be involved—including surprises),
key (third related, dominant, subdominant), variety of organ in the 9 major concerts, variety of composer if the concert
itself is not all one composer, and mood. The biggest problem is too many in the key of G. The old idea of
a chronological arrangement is one I no longer use, but is certainly valid.
- How do you finance Virtually Baroque?
- Until the financial meltdown in 2008 I was able to fund it from my own discretionary income. Thereafter I started writing blurbs on each track encouraging people to donate (some repeat their donations, for which I am grateful). When that wasn't enough I started selling MIDI files, but since MIDI usually needs fine tuning, sales have been pretty much limited to other MIDI hobbyists. Other thoughts I've had and rejected: Coffee Mugs and Printed Clothing Items (most of the money goes to the fulfillment services), *Premium Subscriptions, *Releasing Source Files, *Corporate Underwriting, *Adopt-A-Track (fans of a piece can sponsor it, which may or may
not include a link), Accepting Jiggly Advertising (not only annoys but drives away listeners),
*Selling Out To The Highest Bidder (so far that is $1600).
* I may reconsider these.
- You claim to be in your twelfth year as Virtually Baroque. How do you count that?
- I count the first archived appearance, December 4, 2000, as being within the first year. Check it out on the
Way Back Machine.
- Is your website really ecofriendly?
PowWeb has qualified for that sticker with the green leaf, and all of my html files reside there. For a while
I used only CFL bulbs, the new convalescent
home has multiple fluorescent lamps.
- Are you trying to put working organists out of a job?
No, I'm trying to supplement their options (preludes while warming up the choir in another room, for instance). The piano
player who was drafted when the organist took a better-paying job could use devices like Bass Coupler and Solo Coupler
when playing hymns, and a few of my less extravagant voluntaries to supplement their repertoire. I once
received a thank you for my "Quiet
Bach" series from an organist who had broken a finger. In my live-playing days I was occasionally called
in to render complex accompaniments like "Laud to the Nativity" by Respighi and sometimes used players more
adept than myself when conducting bigger pieces. Our fee was always $100, no matter how much work was required. The month
of August was quite active for me even when I didn't have a church job. I think that MIDIs, captured or my
prepared ones, could be useful in these situations, and as study tools. Note that a MIDI device in the hands of
a skilled liturgist has a much better chance of not being embarrassing in public worship, but we're all
dependent on computers not hanging up and power not going out. That's why they invented pianos, reed organs, virginals
and harpsichords, used in the days before electricity (the entire baroque period).