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The Organ as Memory Bank

GOArt is proud to announce that we have been awarded a major grant from the Swedish Research Council: The Organ as Memory Bank. This four-year research project will begin in 2010. All musical instruments are products of their culture, of a specific time and place. But the organ combines many of these cultural streams. From painting techniques and styles, to musical theory and practice, local architecture, metallurgy, design, engineering, materials and local handcraft techniques, a specific organ literally functions as a memory bank of the particular culture that built it. The ways that we have developed to document these instruments will be critically assessed and more widely disseminated.
We will also have the opportunity to go further in developing documentation methods for aspects of organbuilding that are less well understood. Several of these aspects could be important for increasing our understanding of the artistic integrity of these instruments. One could call these areas artistically relevant aspects of the organ. For instance, the sound concept of the organ is related directly to very subtle work in manipulating the mouth area of the pipes. Small changes to the pipe mouths can produce widely different sounding landscapes. This process of voicing or intonation is an important part of the aesthetic integrity of the sounding instrument. Voicing helps to define the color pallet of the organ’s sound in the same way that a painting from a particular time and place also has a distinctive color pallet. Voicing and intonation methods and techniques, and new ways of tracing layers of change in the voicing of historical instruments need to be further studied and documented. New ways of capturing and reproducing the sounding results need to also be developed and critically assessed.
The wind system behavior of historical instruments is another dynamic and crucial factor that will be looked at very carefully. The behavior of a wind system allows the organist to be in dialog with the instrument and is dependent on a large number of factors. If any aspect of the instrument has been changed, like the windtrunks, or the bellows, or even the way the bellows are filled, the entire original sound concept of the instrument may also have changed. We need to develop new ways to understand and explore this dynamic ephemeral aspect of organ design and organ culture.
Another major area of inquiry that affects both the sound of the instruments and the music made on them involves the dynamic characteristics of the key action. This new field of haptic response is making it possible to understand the design of keyboard actions as a link in the artistic chain leading from performer to sound resource in new and challenging ways. Regular reports on the progress of this project will be shared in conferences like the Göteborg International Organ Academy and in publications and on this website.

Page Manager: Erik Bernskiöld|Last update: 12/21/2009
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