Gary Blaise Early Keyboard Instruments
Home About GB Early Keyboards Special Projects Price List Articles
  To see the thing operating with it's hand-raised wind makes it completely clear that organ making is as much about the management of wind as it is about the manipulation of sound. The overall effect is very beautiful to me and greatly heightens one's appreciation of the simple physical events at hand; being in the presence of the most elemental features of our physical world. When exhibited in the organs with which most of us are familiar, these features are nearly impossible for all but the well-oriented to appreciate because they are obscured by a number of sophisticated modern materials, hardware, electrical components, and completely shrouded by cabinetry and decoration. On the other hand, the basic ideas at work in the organ are so cool, why would anyone want to hide or obscure them? It is amazing, for example, to think that inconceivably tiny air molecules can first be detained, as it were, in a bellows through the cleaver arrangement of seemingly impossible materials, wood and leather. 'Detained' air can then put under pressure, brought to a higher state of order, by means of a rock interacting with earth's gravity. The pressurized air can then selectively be allowed to escape by means of a keyboard. As the pressurized air escapes back into lower-ordered, low pressure environment of the room, it performs a little work upon the bodies of air residing within the walls of the pipes thereby causing the air to vibrate just as when you blow across the top of a bottle. The tonal characteristics of the vibrating air, a function of its shape as defined by the walls of the pipes, causes the air in the room to vibrate similarly such that we can hear it. Here's where it gets interesting. These simple, meaningless compounds, wood and air, are assembled in a meaningless way to produce meaningless physical events, frequencies, upon our eardrums and from thence to our brains where we allow these meaningless frequencies to evoke a precise emotional response, whatever that means. Strange, how such simple things can affect us like that.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this project is the extent to which a single medium, wood, can be manipulated towards the most incredibly expressive ends. It is further interesting to note that the wood of the organ was literally synthesized from the air in its earlier form as a tree and continues to interact with the air in its current reiteration as an organ. I am paradoxically reminded by the gentle breathing action of the bellows and the sounding of the pipes that this tree which I have 're-arranged' was once alive in the woods, but mute, and now that it is dead, it sings sweetly3.


3. The motto,'I was alive in the woods but mute. Now that I am dead, I sing sweetly' can be found as riddles in Aenigmatographia, 1599, p171; in Gnomologia by Nicolaus Reusner, 1602, p357; on a 1657 virginal by Paul Steinicht (Boalch #1); on a 1757 virginal by 'N.V.S.A.' (Berlin #326); and on a 1650 viola da gamba by Kaspar Tiefenbrucker, Gemeentemuseum, Hague

previous page | next page