The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air (called wind) through the organ pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass. Most organs have multiple ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch, and volume that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops.
A pipe organ has one or more keyboards (called manuals) played by the hands, and a pedalboard played by the feet; each keyboard has its own group of stops. The keyboard(s), pedalboard, and stops are housed in the organ's console. The organ's continuous supply of wind allows it to sustain notes for as long as the corresponding keys are pressed, unlike the piano and harpsichord whose sound begins to dissipate immediately after a key is depressed. The smallest portable pipe organs may have only one or two dozen pipes and one manual; the largest may have over 33,000 pipes and seven manuals. A list of some of the most notable and largest pipe organs in the world can be viewed at List of pipe organs. A list consisting the ranking of the largest organs in the world - based on the criterion constructed by Michał Szostak, i.e. 'the number of ranks and additional equipment managed from a single console - can be found in 'The Organ' and in 'The Vox Humana'.
Eight-foot pitch is a term common to the organ and the harpsichord. An organ pipe, or a harpsichord string, designated as eight-foot pitch is sounded at standard, ordinary pitch. For example, the A above middle C in eight-foot pitch would be sounded at 440 Hz. (or at some similar value, depending on how concert pitch was set at the time and place the organ or harpsichord was made).
Eight-foot pitch may be contrasted with four-foot pitch (one octave above the standard), two-foot pitch (two octaves above the standard), and sixteen foot pitch (one octave below the standard). The origin of all these terms is based on the fact that, all else being equal, a pipe or string that is half the length of another will vibrate at a pitch one octave higher. The length "eight feet" is based on the length of an organ pipe sounding the pitch two octaves below middle C.
The organ in Roskilde Cathedral, Copenhagen is an elaborate baroque instrument first built in 1554 by the Dutch organ builder Herman Raphaelis; the façade of the Rückpositiv and the parapet of the gallery stem from this instrument. A thorough rebuild was completed in 1654 which included the installation of the present main façade. The organ was rebuilt to this specification by Marcusson & Son in 1990.
Did you know...
- ... that the recently restored organ of St Botolph's Aldgate has been described as the oldest church organ in the United Kingdom. Although there are older pipes and cases, this is the oldest collection of pipes in their original positions on their original wind chests.
- ...that the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ was the second-largest pipe organ in the United States when it was built in 1911, and that it is one of only two "municipal organs" remaining in the U.S. today?
Notable pipe organs
Virgil Keel Fox (May 3, 1912 – October 25, 1980) was a renowned organist, known especially for his flamboyant "Heavy Organ" concerts of the music of Bach. These events appealed to audiences in the 1970s who were more familiar with rock 'n' roll music, and were staged complete with light shows. His style, particularly his taste for fast tempos and flashy registrations, was often criticized for his unconventional interpretations of classical organ music. But on the album "Heavy Organ", in the introduction to the familiar Toccata and Fugue in D minor attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, Fox summed up his approach to Bach and to music in general:
- "There is current in our land (and several European countries) at this moment a kind of nitpicking worship of historic impotence. They say that Bach must not be interpreted and that he must have no emotion...Pure unadulterated rot!...He has all of this amazing spirit and imagine that you could put all the music on one side of the agenda with his great interpretation and great feeling and put the greatest man of all right up on top of a dusty shelf underneath some glass case in a museum and say that he must not be interpreted!
Pipe organ news
- Oh! there is an organ playing in the street - a waltz too! I must leave off to listen. (Lord Byron)
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