The Science of the Organ

A picture of a Hydraulis, the first known version of the organ

The organ has been played over centuries for its enchanting melodies and unique tone. The first organ can be dated all the way back to the 3rd century B.C. in Greece. Originally called the Hydraulis, it was made with many pipes positioned above a compartment of air. Water pressure would then force air through the pipes, creating its unique sound. Since its creation, the organ has evolved to include many different types such as the theater organ, reed organ and electronic organs. But how does this classical instrument work in the first place?

Simply explained, the pipe organ is like a big box of whistles. Underneath each pipe sits a hollow wind chest filled with compressed air, which is provided by an air blower. There are multiple “stops” at the organ console that represent a set of pipes and there is a different pipe for every note on the keyboard. When the player pulls the stop, a slider under a specific set of pipes is activated, which allows a sound to be created when a key on the keyboard is pushed. Not only is this amazing instrument intricate in the way its played, but no two organs are alike. Each organ is unique to where it is located and what the buyer wants, which can make every experience new and different.

William J. Gillespie Concert Organ, built specifically for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

The pipe organ is one of the most unique and eclectic instruments in the world with its vast history and wide variety.  It can be experienced live in our organ series, including a performance by organ superstar David Higgs. On March 1st, he will be showcasing the beauty and power of the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ with the music of Duprè, Liszt, Duruflè and more. Check out our website here for tickets and details!

The Science of the Organ

Leave a Reply