PIPORG-L is celebrating one of those "zero" birthdays, its first since the day it went live. At this significant milestone, I'd like to share some reminiscences and offer my own reflections on this technological marvel and my own involvement with it.
Many are surprised to learn that I have not been "here" since Day One, although I learned of the existence of PIPORG-L and became a subscriber not many months later. As fate would have it, an old friend from graduate school, John Seboldt, had returned to Iowa City for a visit, and showed up at my office on the same day I heard about PIPORG-L. The idea was intriguing, although I probably would not have subscribed had John not been there. He has always been interested in technology, and he encouraged me to give it a try. So, with only a little prior experience with e-mail (and no prior knowledge of what a "listserv" was), I dutifully followed the instructions that had been passed along to me, not really knowing what to expect. A few minutes later, with John watching expectantly over my shoulder, I received the familiar auto-acknowledgment of my subscription, and my first list posting arrived shortly thereafter. I was hooked! (So was John he also subscribed as soon as he got home, and remains a subscriber to this day.)
Like many other PIPORG-L "newbies," I was fascinated by this technological wizardry; by the fact that I could converse in almost real-time with organ enthusiasts from around the world-something I had not imagined possible before that moment. Also like many newbies, I jumped in with both feet, contributing my "two cents" on nearly every topic, feeling compelled-OBLIGATED-to respond to almost every posting, staying up late every night to follow interesting threads, or just to see what might next appear in my inbox. My own interests are rather eclectic, so I happily joined in discussions about nearly every sort of organ and organ music, from historical trackers tuned in mean-tone with sub-semitones and short octaves, through the most recent stellar work of Fisk, Brombaugh, Taylor & Boody, Mander, Austin, Wicks, Allen and (insert your favorites here), including everything between and around those historical extremes. (I'll bet you never thought you'd see some of those words together in the same sentence!)
After several months I was beginning to have a better understanding of the medium. I was learning that sleep was sometimes more important than PIPORG-L, and that not everyone was poised at the edge of his or her chair, just waiting for my revelatory responses. Still, the discussion was lively, and I was enjoying myself tremendously-perhaps too much. Imagine my great surprise when a personal message arrived in my inbox from Dave Schutt, the listmeister, the father of PIPORG-L himself! Had I broken some rule, or committed some other transgression? Was I about to be cast out into the wilderness-the world outside of PIPORG-L? As I read Dave's note, I began to wonder if this was a joke, a game, a forgery... Would I be interested in taking over the reins of PIPORG-L, assuming his place as co-owner (with our great benefactor Ben Chi)? My response, after verifying that I had not fallen asleep at the PC again, was something along these lines:
After an assurance that list ownership entailed no monetary outlay, a description of the pleasures and responsibilities of list management, and the explanation that he liked my writing style and eclectic interests, and "had a feeling" I would become a serviceable list administrator, the torch was passed. It has been my very great pleasure to collaborate with Ben in the administration of this wonderful list since that day.
In the intervening years, many changes have taken place, and many subscribers have joined, contributed, left. Somewhere along the line, I saw a need for and started HPSCHD-L, our "sister" list devoted to stringed early keyboard instruments. Ben was again kind enough to provide server space through the generosity of his employers at the University of Albany, and has served that list as co-owner as well. Many will remember our designing of a PIPORG-L logo, and several offerings of official PIPORG-L (and HPSCHD-L) shirts, buttons, and key rings. Several other organ-related lists have splintered off at various times; some of these have flourished while others have languished.
I'd like to reflect briefly on some of my favorite contributors from earlier years. This is not meant to detract from our knowledgeable contributors of today-contributors such as Seb Gluck, Malcolm Wechsler, Steve Roberts, Agnes Armstrong, and others whose posts I seldom fail to read. But there have been some intellectual high points during earlier times-some provided by subscribers who are no longer with us, others by current subscribers who are no longer able or motivated to the extent they were in past years. Here's my short list of favorites, in no particular order, provided with a fervent wish that any or all (who have not gone on to that great organ bench in the sky) might return to grace our virtual pages yet again (yes, this is an invitation!):
I must pay tribute to two great friends and colleagues who are more responsible than anyone else for our reaching this auspicious milestone. David Schutt conceived the idea for PIPORG-L, and his original vision for this list (as an eclectic forum for discussion of all kinds of organs) was a significant factor in its attracting a broad and diverse contributor base, and in its broad appeal and endurance. Dave's quiet demeanor and ever-present smile obscure the fact that he is another "walking encyclopedia"-this time of the theatre organ and its history. We were complete strangers before our lives intersected via PIPORG-L, but Dave has become one of my closest friends in the intervening years. And, were it not for my co-owner and list partner Ben Chi, our technical wizard, PIPORG-L would surely not be what it is today. While we came to PIPORG-L from two different directions/perspectives, our goals, methods, and style of management are remarkably consistent. Ben and I discuss many administrative details "behind the scenes," and I have come to respect his vast knowledge, sound judgment and good sense. We have also become very good friends, and I look forward to many more decades of collaboration.
Others have commented on the multifaceted attributes of PIPORG-L-the level of knowledge and expertise shared daily by our diverse group of subscribers, the sense of collegiality we enjoy (perhaps "family" better describes our close-knit virtual community), the speed with which information can be exchanged over great distances and between hundreds of individuals. Of course, we have witnessed our share of strife, discord, and downright nastiness too: Many organists cling to their own aesthetic preferences with a fierce tenacity, often rejecting other points of view with an almost religious fervor. Elitism and narrow-mindedness are no strangers in the organ world, and PIPORG-L has provided the vehicle for more than a few arguments.
But for the most part, PIPORG-L has proven itself to be a remarkably valuable resource for the organists and organ-lovers of the world. At its best, PIPORG-L has exceeded the wildest early expectations of Dave, Ben, and Yours Truly. It has been and continues to be widely recognized and critically acclaimed as the standard bearer for an entirely new form of intellectual discourse within the world's musical community. You, dear PIPORG-L subscriber, are on the cutting edge of 21st-century technology through your participation in this forum. The future is today, and we are the new pioneers, paving new ways for knowledge to be shared and disseminated.
Happy Birthday, PIPORG-L, and many happy returns!
David C. Kelzenberg
Iowa City, Iowa