Critical and Historical Essays: Lectures Delivered at Columbia University

By Edward MacDowell; W. J. Baltzell | Go to book overview

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MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS -- THEIR HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT

IN church music, the organ is perhaps the first instrument to be considered. In 951, Elfeg, the Bishop of Winchester had built in his cathedral a great organ which had four hundred pipes and twenty-six pairs of bellows, to manage which seventy strong men were necessary. Wolstan, in his life of St. Swithin, the Benedictine monk, gives an account of the exhausting work required to keep the bellows in action.

Two performers were necessary to play this organ, just as nowadays we play four-hand music on the piano. The keys went down with such difficulty that the players had to use their elbows or fists on each key; therefore it is easy to see that, at the most, only four keys could be pressed down at the same time. On the other hand, each key when pressed down or pushed back (for in the early organs the keyboard was perpendicular) gave the wind from the bellows access to ten pipes each, which were probably tuned in octaves or, possibly, according to the organum of Hucbald, in fifths or fourths. This particular organ had two sets of keys (called manuals), one for each player; there were twenty keys to each manual, and every key caused ten pipes to sound. The compass of this organ was restricted to ten notes, repeated

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