The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air (called wind) through 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 20,000 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.
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
(December 10, 1822 – November 8, 1890)—a composer
and music teacher of Belgian
origin who lived in France
—was one of the great figures in classical music in the second half of the 19th century.
In 1858, he became organist at the recently-consecrated basilica of Sainte Clotilde. His first set of organ compositions, however, was not published until 1868, when he was 46 years old, though it contains one of his finest organ pieces, the Grande Pièce Symphonique. From 1872 to his death he was Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire where his pupils included Vincent d'Indy, Ernest Chausson, Louis Vierne, and Henri Duparc. As an organist he was particularly noted for his skill in improvisation, and it is on the basis of only twelve major organ works that Franck is by many considered the greatest organ composer after J.S. Bach. His works were some of the finest organ pieces to come from France in over a century, and laid the groundwork for the French symphonic organ style. The 25-minute "Grande Pièce Symphonique" paved the way for the organ symphonies of Widor, Louis Vierne, and Marcel Dupré.
Pipe organ news
- Oh! there is an organ playing in the street - a waltz too! I must leave off to listen. (Lord Byron)
Related portals and WikiProjects