This week on Lunch with the Composers we will be listening to an instrument that often has a bad reputation in classical music – the pipe organ. Is this what you think of when you think of pipe organ? Well, put your Transylvanian thoughts aside, because this week we are going to give the pipe organ a chance!
First, a little information on the pipe organ. Modern organs have an electric blower that generate air for the pipes. Each organ has several stops (sets of pipes). A performer chooses which stops to use for a particular piece. In this week’s video, you can see a series of knobs on the side of the organ. Those knobs control the stops. The principal stops are the typical organ sound. The flues are stops that work by air blowing over the top of the pipe just like a person blowing across the top of a soda bottle. The reeds have a sound like a clarinet – each reed pipe has a metal tongue inside that vibrates as air travels through.
Organists read three lines of music – two lines for the right and left hands and a third line for the pedals! Listen as the main melody in this fugue is played by the right hand, then the left, and then the pedals. It’s pretty amazing to watch. You may also notice in this video that some of the keys are going up and down even though the organist is not playing them. My brother is an organist, so I called him and asked him what that was. He said that the keyboards can be connected or the pedals can be connected to the keyboards in order to play more stops at one time (since one only has so many fingers!).
Last week, we listened to some piano music by J.S. Bach. Like the piano pieces, this fugue is also an example of counterpoint. To review, counterpoint is a style of classical music in which each hand is playing a different (but harmonious) melody.
Enjoy the music!