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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Getting Winded”

April 2, 2010


Dear Michael,

Some organs over in Europe, for example, the one in this video here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiOc5RZ_av, sound as if they aren’t getting enough wind into some pipes, particularly in the case of the stops that the organist is using here in the manuals. At some points, I can hear a sound as if they’re not quite getting enough air into their pipes to get a steady pitch. Do organs over in Europe use slightly different levels of air pressure compared to the organs over here? Just thought this to be interesting, and I’ve noticed this about some European organs, particularly older ones and thought I’d ask about it, as I was curious.

Dan

 

Dan,

I’m listening. In the beginning, he plays on a rich flute registration, with tremulant (again after the variation with the reed stop), which shakes the tone.
Later, with fuller registrations and coupled manuals, the bellows do shake in response to the demands placed upon them by the attach of the chords. This is one of the characteristics of that sort of instrument, part of the character. In the 19th century and later, with increase wind-pressures, builders worked to create wind supplies that were totally impervious to demand (rock-solid-stable), and though this had its advantages, it took some of the ‘life’ out of the breath of the instrument.
Several builders today are designing instruments in the old way, with ‘responsive’ wind supplies. They have their place and, properly used, can be very ‘musical’. It really depends on how one listens and what one thinks one wants.
Does that answer your question?

jmb

 

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