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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Don’t Forget The Room”

August 12, 2008

Dear Michael,

In the July 21 show you had a couple of pieces from the Spreckels pavilion. The sound was distinctly different from those of more typical organ recordings. Key was the total lack of reverberation or “room” sound - obviously, it’s outside and probably had to be recorded with microphones very close to the instrument to avoid too much of other noises. Really brings to light how much of an instrument’s sound comes from the room it’s in and how well they’re matched, not just the pipes.




Yes, there will be minimal reverberation for an organ installed ‘out of doors’, as at the Spreckels Pavilion. Some recordings of the instrument placed microphones in the stairwells of the pavilion, where a bit of ‘echo’ it generated. In real life, the moisture of the evening sky sometimes creates a bit of an acoustic cushion, too, and when you are sitting in the audience there’s a bit of rebound from the bluff several hundred yards behind the pavilion seating area. And, yes, one records close-up to minimize extraneous noises (of which there are many...including low-flying planes).
They do say that the most important organ ‘stop’ is the room! Many modest instruments are able to sound above-average because of the good rooms in which they play; many superb instruments are hobbled by the bad acoustics of their venues.





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