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Including a catalogue of Bach’s organ music, a stone organ, a MIDI pedalboard and more
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This catalogue of the organ music of J S Bach has been compiled from a number of sources, especially The Organ Music of J S Bach by Peter Williams (Cambridge University Press, 1980).
Any corrections, additional information, etc, would be gratefully received.
This small organ made entirely of marble was built by Ivan Larrea in chateau de Chantilly, France for Rafael García, Los Angeles, California in 2001.
The organ comprises a single 49-note manual and a single 4ft rank of stopped pipes. It is built entirely of marble from the Novelda region, except for the pull-down wires, guides and loops, pallet springs, some internal steel reinforcement, the leather sealing on the pallets and pipe stoppers and the electric blower. It weighs 250 kg. Total construction time was one year.
The organ was presented to the public at a concert on March 24, 2001, in the Prado Museum, Madrid.
Ivan Larrea is a graduate in gemology and has served apprecticeships with two of Spain’s leading organ builders. Given this background, the idea of building an organ out of stone seemed only logical to him. He points out that, unlike conventional materials used in organs, such as wood and metal, stone is impervious to the effects of humidity and is far less affected by changes in temperature. It also lasts for much longer than either wood or metal.
The pipes Ivan makes from stone are built in exactly the same way as wooden organ pipes: they are rectangular and follow exactly the same constructional principles as pipes made of wood.
Scaling and voicing considerations are also equal, with the exception that Ivan’s stone pipes give a cleaner sound. Contrary to expectations, a stone pipe is not particularly heavy: granite, for example, has about the same density as aluminium.
Stone pipe making involves procedures and equipment very similar to those used for wood pipes, except that saws are diamond-tipped and that, instead of using a chisel or router to cut out the upper lip, Ivan uses grinding wheels coated with diamond dust (and made by himself).
Having conceived the idea of building an organ from stone, Ivan decided to prove the principle by building a small, 10-note medieval-style positive organ. This positive also served as a demonstration model while Ivan was attempting to interest possible sponsors of a full-size stone organ. The positive is made from a variety of stones and even includes a tiny marquetry picture of itself above the keyboard. Apart from the pallet springs and the bellows hinges, it is built entirely of stone.
After spending several years attempting to find a sponsor for his stone organ, Ivan finally struck gold (well, marble) with the Association of Marble Producers in the town of Novelda in the south-eastern Spanish provice of Alicante. The Novelda region is a major source of marble and marble is Novelda’s main industry. The Association agreed to finance the building of a full-size organ made almost entirely of local marble.
The site chosen for the organ is a small chapel, built after the style of Gaudì on a hillside overlooking Novelda. Ivan designed an organ styled to match the interior of the chapel. The central part of the existing choir loft will have to be demolished to make way for the organ but Ivan plans to retain the loft on each side to allow access to the console and to allow the public to watch the action moving as the organ is played.
The specification naturally shows a strong Iberian influence. Not content with just building an organ of stone, however, Ivan designed a mechanical action that allows all the stops to be used simultaneously from either manual and the pedals, giving the appearance of an organ with 33 stops when in fact it has only 11.
The stoplist of the organ is:
Manual I, II & Pedal
Flauta de Chiminea 4
Nasardo Docena 2 2/3
Nasardo Quincena 2
Diecinovena 1 1/3
Nasardo Diecisetena 1 3/5
Manual: C-f3, 54 notes
Pedal: C-f1, 30 notes
Total pipes: 704
Total ranks: 13
Ivan reached an agreement with the Association under which the Association would finance the project, including the provision of marble, and provide Ivan with a suitable workshop and living space.
A scale model of the proposed marble organ for Novelda. The console (complete with music on the rack) is between the inner pair of large green pipes.
By mid-1995, work was under way, with Ivan and several assistants busy in the impressive workshop that Ivan had installed in an abandoned spa centre outside Novelda. Most of the machinery in the workshop was installed and modified by Ivan to provide the necessary precision.
However, by mid-1996, problems arose within the Association when some members began to disagree with the way the project was being financed, with the result that financing suddenly dried up. This left Ivan in the awkward position of having to abandon the work and lay off his assistants. At that point, several major structural part of the organ (some weighing over 7 tons each) plus over 500 pipes, had been completed.
While Ivan busied himself with other projects in order to make a living, he certainly had not abandoned the idea of a stone organ. Discussions continued with the Association and with various local government bodies, but the project remained in a state of suspension until, by accident, Ivan met Rafael García, a native of Novelda who now runs a successful business in Los Angeles, importing stone from Spain. Rafael was taken with the idea of a stone organ and immediately commissioned one from Ivan. The rest, as they say, is history: the world’s first stone organ - albeit rather less ambitious than the original project - was built and is now in California.
One frequently-asked question on PIPORG-L (the Internet mailing list for pipe organ matters) is how to build a MIDI-based pedalboard, or how to equip an existing pedalboard with MIDI. Usually, the purpose is to provide a pedalboard that can be used with one or more electronic keyboards for home or practice use.
I built myself a 27-note flat parallel pedalboard with a MIDI interface to use with my Yamaha Clavinova. The pedalboard is almost BDO standard, the difference being that the keys are 100 mm shorter than standard for space reasons. This makes playing slightly more difficult but not impossibly so - skilled organists (a category that does not include me) have had no difficulty playing it.
I built the pedalboard from maple, which the village carpenter procured and cut roughly to size. As a constructional project, it proved quite easy to build, requiring only moderate wood-working skills. I was unable to find proper springs to fit at the heel end of the pedals and initially had to use coil springs under the pedal toes. These were not very satisfactory since they tended to creak slightly and were too strong. I later found that proper flat springs are available from Organ Supply Industries in the USA and Laukhuff in Germany (addresses below) and fitted these in place of the coil springs, with much improved results.
This drawing shows how the pedals are sprung at the heel end. The plate spring is screwed to the underside of the pedal and rests on a steel rod running across the width of the heel block. When the adjusting screw is tightened, it tenses the spring, holding the toe of the pedal up against the toe board buffer. The weight of the touch can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the adjusting screw.
For the MIDI interface, I used a small keyboard scanning module available from Maplin in the UK. This unit is no longer available but I have found a supplier of a much more versatile unit, Sound Research in California. Unlike the Maplin unit, this is assembled (but you still need to provide a box and power supply for it). The unit can be programmed easily to output on any MIDI channel and several other configuration options are available too. I found it worked perfectly and added versatility to my system.
The MIDI encoder requires that each key be fitted with a ramponneau. I first fitted my pedalboard with micro-switches, but these proved too noisy and difficult to adjust. I then changed these for reed switches, operated by tiny magnets on the pedal toes. Both switches and magnets are mounted vertically such that the magnet causes the switch to operate just before the pedal reaches the end of its travel.
This drawing shows the pedal in its ‘up’ (released) position. When the pedal is depressed, a magnet glued vertically to the toe end of the pedal is brought alongside the reed switch, fixed vertically to a wooden block, causing it to close. The reed switch is held to the block by its contact wires. The block is mounted on a metal bracket and can be moved closer to or away from the pedal to adjust the moment at which the reed switch closes (see the photos below).
The system now works perfectly, apart from one occasion when a magnet came unglued and stuck to the reed switch, holding the switch on and causing a MIDI cipher!
I originally used the pedalboard and the Clavinova together with a Roland MT-32 sound box. With the Clavinova set to transmit on MIDI channel 1 and the pedalboard transmitting on channel 2, this gave one voice for the manual and a different one for the pedal. I now use a piece of software called Hauptwerk, which contains digitized samples of each pipe in a real pipe organ and is infinitely better than the Roland sound box. It does require a fast computer with plenty of memory and, obviously, a MIDI interface. A wide variety of USB/MIDI interfaces are available - I use the M-Audio USB Midisport 4x4, which provides 4 MIDI in and 4 MIDI out connections.
Hauptwerk is shareware - you can download it and try it for free before purchasing it (at a very reasonable price) and several organs are available both from the author of Hauptwerk and from other sources.
So, with my MIDI keyboard and pedalboard, USB/MIDI interface, extra memory for the computer (1.5 Gbytes is recommended to get the best out of Hauptwerk but my machine can only take 1 Gbyte, which is satisfactory but not ideal), plus some decent speakers, I have a reasonable, low-cost (well, cheaper than a real pipe organ) practice system. The limitation now is the single manual - Sound Research sells a two-manual MIDI set…
The Hauptwerk software is available at:
The MIDI scanner module is available from:
Sound Research 177 Old Oak Road Newcastle CA 95658 USA Phone: (+1) 916 663 9432 E-mail: SoundResearch@Sound-Research.net WWW: http://www.sound-research.net
The module reference is: PED MUX 25/32. See the Sound Research Web page for full technical details and latest prices.
Flat pedal springs are available from:
Organ Supply Industries Inc PO Box 8325 Erie, PA 16505-0325 USA Phone: 814 835 2244 Fax: 814 838 0349
Size (length x width x thickness)
4 x 7/8 x 1/8
Minimum quantity: 100
Aug. Laukhuff Orgelteile Postfach 1133 D 97984 Weikersheim Germany Phone: (+49) 79 34 611 Fax: (+49) 79 34 616 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Size (length x width x thickness)
1 845 00
1 845 01
1 845 02
90 x 22 x 1.75
105 x 22 x 1.75 (the ones I used)
120 x 22 x 1.75
Minimum quantity: 100
Since prices change, you should contact the vendors directly for current prices before you order.
This close-up shows a rear view of the wooden blocks supporting the reed switches. The magnets mounted vertically on the pedal toes can be seen behind the blocks.
These 25-pin computer connectors link the pedalboard to the control box containing the MIDI scanning module.