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World’s first transformable historic organ can span centuries

Date:
September 11, 2012
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Cornell University's new baroque organ has become the world's first organ with multiple historic wind systems. The $2 million organ is the culmination of more than seven years of research, and more than two years of work by 21st-century craftsmen, who used authentic 17th- and early 18th-century methods to build the instrument.

Playing the Cornell University baroque organ.
Credit: Image courtesy of Cornell University

Cornell University's new baroque organ has become the world's first organ with multiple historic wind systems, using a technique organ designer Munetaka Yokota perfected on a research instrument at the GΦTEBORG Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

With simple manual adjustments, organists can now authentically recreate the wind systems of 17th to 19th century organs from north and central Germany on Cornell's single instrument.

Project lead and Cornell professor of music Annette Richardson explains that "the first thing Bach tested when called upon to inspect a new organ was the wind system -- what he called 'the lungs' of the instrument. The wind is the basis of any organ's sound, and to appreciate music like Bach's 'Well-Tempered Clavier' as it was intended, you need to hear it played on the kind of organ for which it was written."

Cornell's new organ is intended to reintroduce modern audiences to this authentic, historic sound, which was gradually lost over the centuries as equal temperament in keyboard intervals and highly stable wind systems became the norm.

"Historic wind systems are a relatively unknown field," says Yokota. "Most people who build baroque-style organs use modern-style wind systems. But without the fluctuations in sound caused by pressure oscillations, such stable systems miss the expressiveness old organs give to music written for them by composers like Bach or Beethoven."

The ingenious new system includes six new valves and eighty new feet of conductors, and has attracted world-wide attention from both organists and researchers. An international group of scientists gathered at Cornell last spring to share data on the organ's key action characteristics and wind behavior.

Cornell's $2 million organ is the culmination of more than seven years of research and collaboration by GOArt and Cornell's Department of Music, and more than two years of work by 21st-century craftsmen, who used authentic 17th- and early 18th-century methods to build the instrument.

Yokota designed Cornell's baroque organ to re-create the tonal design of the celebrated 1706 Arp Schnitger organ at Charlottenburg in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bombers during WWII. The case is based on a Schnitger organ at Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany.

The original wind system on Cornell's baroque organ, including the four bellows (each weighing more than 400 pounds) was built by Parsons Pipe Organ Builders in Canandaigua, N.Y. The 1,827 pipes were handcrafted in Sweden by Yokota, using re-discovered historic techniques.

The modifications to the wind system were made by Christopher Lowe, the local cabinetmaker who hand-built the organ's massive, intricately designed wooden case. Hand-forged nails, wooden pegs, and dovetail and mortise and tenon joints hold the case together; each wooden surface was planed by hand by Lowe.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "World’s first transformable historic organ can span centuries." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120911132652.htm>.
Cornell University. (2012, September 11). World’s first transformable historic organ can span centuries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120911132652.htm
Cornell University. "World’s first transformable historic organ can span centuries." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120911132652.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

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