Magazine article The American Organist

APOBA: Unsettled

Magazine article The American Organist

APOBA: Unsettled

Article excerpt

MOST OF THE musical instruments that we recognize have a shape and sound that have remained mostly unchanged for years, even decades and centuries. A 17th-century violin looks and sounds much like violins made today. The piano exists in a few limited variations, but all are recognizable in form and sound. Brass instruments, woodwinds, percussion - all are currently being made with only very limited refinements from historic models. Most orchestral instruments have settled into a shape and tonal character that is predictable and expected; not so the pipe organ.

There are a few historic periods when the pipe organ remained static, or within strictly limited guidelines. The French Classic period did have variations, but the "rules" for organ use somewhat dictated its repeatability. This would not last, and the organ soon broke away from the constraints and ventured back into its normal mode of unpredictability.

No other musical instrument has ranged as widely as the pipe organ. From one manual to seven, one rank to more than 400, a few pounds to many tons, a few octaves to many, hand-pumped by one person on up to hundreds of horsepower, and in size from a few cubic feet up to thousands. Is there any normal set of specifications? I think not, and it will continue to be an instrument of complete unpredictability. Indeed, I hope that it never settles down into an expected size and tone. Its value is that it has no fixed center, no historic agenda, no set of blueprints or specifications. …

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