There is no question that Disney/Pixar featured films and shorts are some of the most widely viewed entertainment for both children and adults.  The dynamic character and personality of talking cars, rats, and a princess who magically builds ice castles are memorable.  While these are beloved characters, most would agree that these characters are not real, but are computer animations.  The same distinction can be made relating to physical modeling for sound generation.

Physical modeling is a representation or a computer-generated “image” of a real-life object.  Instead of sampling an Aeolian-Skinner pipe and capturing all the nuance and characteristic of the pipe, physical modeling simply attempts to build a computer-generated representation of real pipes.  Like the talking car, this is merely a facsimile of the real thing.

The supplier of organs that use physical modeling actually supports this argument in a rebuttal to an article on the church-organs.com blog, “Tech Talk: Digital Sampling versus Physical Modeling,” showing a simple child’s drawing representing sampling, and a computer-generated image representing modeling.  While Viscount is incorrect regarding their comparison of sampling to a child’s drawing, they are correct when comparing Physical Modeling to a computer-generated image.  This example on Viscount North America’s website: https://www.viscount-organs.com/technology/physis-basics/, shows that, while this is a nice computer-generated image of a structure, there is no doubt that it is computer generated and no one would mistake this image as real-life or a photograph.  Physical Modeling of an Aeolian-Skinner pipe is similar to a computer-generated image, while a sampled Aeolian-Skinner pipe is similar to a high-resolution digital photograph.

When comparing sound technologies, the gold-standard is to compare the digital and pipe sounds in a pipe-combination installation.  When listening to an Allen pipe combination installation utilizing sampling technology, it is impossible to distinguish the pipes from the digital voices.  Allen’s sampling technology takes actual snapshots of the pipes and when placed next to the real thing, are indistinguishable.  Here is proof of this claim:

To compare, here is an example of a Viscount Pipe-Combination installation:

Andromeda – Dr. Carol Williams – Viscount Hybrid Pipe Organ

We believe that technology should not hold you back from creating your own sound. With Physis® Technology, the organist is in complete control of creating the perfect musical experience for the listener. Today, we introduce an original composition by Dr. Carol Williams, Andromeda. Dr. Williams is performing on a Viscount Hybrid Pipe Organ with Physis® Technology. We encourage you to spend your time creating, not copying. With Physis®, it is possible to create Your Organ. Your Sound.™

Posted by Viscount Organs US on Sunday, May 3, 2020

Listen to the characteristic of the digital strings, specifically the celeste, which is in contrast to the commentary telling the viewer what they should hear.  In addition, the technological explanation is geared to the tinkerer, explaining that this organ can “sound like you want it to,” and voiced, basically void of any school of organ building or general accepted norm.  What organ committee even has such technical expertise?  These tasks should be left to the trained professional.  That is a crucial part of what organ customers purchase.  Imagine buying a car and being told that you, the customer, is responsible for the engine’s timing and fuel mixture!

Physical Modeling was first used on the musical instrument field in the late 1980s.  Many companies experimented with the technology, but abandoned it due to its limitations and lack of ability to create life-like sounds.  The argument is clear: would you rather play an instrument with actual samples from an Aeolian-Skinner, or an instrument with a computer-generated replication of the pipe organ?

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