Rotational Asymmetries



This piece involves the first use of my recently acquired vintage model 31H Leslie speaker. I played my Hammond M3 through it and recorded various elements that were used in the construction of the finished piece using my fragment-based compositional process. I also generated some repeating and evolving short patterns using a Dot Com Q960 sequencer driving my Moog Model 12 modular synthesizer.

Rotational Asymmetries is included on my "Breathing Voltages" CD. 

So, here's the story on this speaker. Back in the late '70s, I had a Hammond BC with 31H Leslie. It came out of the basement of Saint Paul Bible College and had some significant water damage. I had it restored and had a two-speed motor upgrade done on the Leslie, as the 31H originally only spun at one speed, (fast). I loved it, but in an act of youthful impatience, I sold it so that I could buy a synthesizer, (which I might add, was much easier to move). It didn't take long before I regretted having sold the organ, and I particularly missed the Leslie.

The years rolled by. The decades rolled by. Then last year I came across a Hammond M3 organ being given was for free on Craig's List. I decided to snatch it up. The M3 has an internal speaker and was not designed to work with a Leslie, but I knew there were modification kits available that when installed did make it possible for the organ to work with a Leslie. 

Then began my hunt. The most standard vintage Leslie model that everyone wants is the 122, but I wanted to reacquire the 31H of my youth. (A sentimental choice.) The 31H is older, bigger, heavier, more rare and (thankfully) less expensive. They also sound great and seeing as I had no intentions of moving it, the size and weight didn't really matter to me. I searched online for months. I'd see one pop up in Southern California or Eastern Europe, and it would be sold immediately. Then I had the very good fortune to find one locally. I had started calling around to local organ technicians, and came across Bill Brown. He had TWO of them and was willing to sell one to me. It was in exquisite condition and had already had the 2-speed motor modification done to it.

All that were missing were the defusers on the ends of the horns. These horn rotors were made of bakelite and are prone to breakage. There is a company that makes replacements, but they don't fit on the 31H. I then found another local organ tech, Scott Franklin, who happened to have THREE old 31H horn rotors in his shop. Only one was in perfect condition, and he sold it to me for a reasonable price. Here's a picture of the two horn rotors: the old one without defusers and the replacement one with. 


The final step was to get the Leslie to work with the M3. Leslie speakers were designed to work with organs and cannot work completely independently. They need some kind of preamp, which typically comes from the organ. The preamp in my M3 was not designed to work with a Leslie, but there is a standard modification to accomplish this. In my case, this involved working with yet another local organ tech: Rich Waryan. He started by giving the M3 a once-over and replacing some of it's tubes. He then went on to instal a Leslie 6122 kit in the M3, (with some assistance from Bill Brown) and that did the trick.

Now at last, my decidedly nostalgic mission has been accomplished. I once again have the Leslie speaker of my youth, and I also have a much deeper appreciate for it. I plan to run all sorts of audio signals through this wonderful old piece of technology and record the results in stereo.

One more bit of nostalgia can be seen in the image below that shows a vintage half-moon Leslie switch installed on the M3. This is the actual switch that was removed from my Hammond organ back in the '70s when I had the two speed modification done on the 31H. This original switch was removed and replaced with a 3-position switch back then. I can't believe I still have it. All those moves I made over the decades and somehow this thing never got thrown out. I still had it in a box of old odds and ends down in the basement. Special thanks to Bill Brown for wiring it up to the 6122 kit in the M3, and to Rich Waryan for replacing the little plastic knob on the tip of the switch that had been lost somewhere over the years. 

Also in these pics, check out the little dolly I made for the Leslie to sit on. The Leslie weighs a ton and I have no intention of ever taking out of the building, but having it on this dolly makes it easy to move around.