Roll up, roll up... A couple of years ago Sonokinetic released Carousel, a rather splendid Kontakt–hosted fairground organ. (The Carnival is programmed for Kontakt 4.2.4 and above, and is not compatible with the free Kontakt player.) The Carnival is very much a ‘sister’ instrument to Carousel; whereas Carousel is the larger, more bombastic type of organ, The Carnival presents two smaller-scale barrel organs, simply named Big and Small, each accessible from the one–page GUI. The Big is an electrically driven instrument, whilst the Small is a hand-operated type. Selecting either organ is simply a matter of clicking on the words ‘Big’ or ‘Small’ on the interface. The Small organ features single ranks of pipes, offering four registrations, each with its own key range; Bas runs from Bb0 to A2, Bourdon and Viool occupy Bb2 to A4, Piccolo goes from Bb4 to G6. A ‘Double’ button adds a lower octave to the Bourdon, Viool and Piccolo.
The Big organ has a fuller, more demonstrative tone, utilising at least two ranks of pipes (the documentation doesn’t elaborate on this). It also has four registrations, plus percussion. Although three of the registrations are named similarly to the Small organ, these occupy different key ranges. The Bas ranks are tuned in octaves, running from C1 to C#2. Extending from D2 to F#3 is the Accomp, similar in tone to the Bas but slightly brighter, also tuned to octaves. G3 to F5 is occupied by both the Bourdon and Viool. Being the melody section, these are considerably brighter and louder than the lower registrations, with the ranks tuned in unison. As on the Small organ, the Bourdon and Viool can be doubled — in this case it’s an octave above, not below. The Tremolo button also applies to the Bourdon and Viool, triggering a ‘repeated note’ effect for that extra touch of period authenticity — far easier than repeat–playing notes by hand at a consistent rate! The Percussion registration offers four rather strange, lo–fi sounds from G#0 to A0; these could be described as triangle, bass drum, cymbal and snare, but they’re open to interpretation! All registrations of both organs can be activated/deactivated either by clicking on the GUI or via keyswitches.
Both organs offer control over bellows noise and reverb amount; they also share clever scripting features intended to make the creation of authentic performances easier. Those characterful runs often heard in fairground music can be triggered automatically using the pitch wheel. Five types of run are provided: pentatonic major, pentatonic minor, straight major and minor, and the classic ‘Mr Kite’ chromatic run. Playing a note and moving the wheel upward triggers an upward run; moving the wheel downwards — you guessed it — triggers a downward run. Automated major or minor trills can also be invoked by moving the mod wheel. Trills and runs are both tempo–sync’ed. The Carnival does tend to get a bit confused when attempting to execute runs and trills whilst playing an entire performance in one instance, so the best workaround is to program each registration’s parts in separate instances on different MIDI channels. This approach also makes adjusting the registrations’ relative volume levels easy. If you’re looking for a way to score those Victorian freak-show scenes, The Carnival is your personal organ grinder. The monkey costs extra. Nick Magnus