AN ORGAN FOR OUR TIME
by Lawrence Phelps
Oklahoma AGO Convention
June 22, 1971
In the consideration of an organ for our time a paradoxical situation confronts us, one which is parallelled in no other instrument, except possibly (and to a much lesser degree) the harpsichord. It is that in order to interpret the demands of the future we must consult the past. Ideally we want our instruments to be able to play all, or at least most, of the music so far written for the organ; and it is logical and inevitable that our knowledge of that music and of the instrument's traditions should dictate our ideas of the shape our new organ will take. It is important that we realize at the outset that the organbuilders job is not to invent a new instrument; we will of course encourage it to evolve, but the basic form must be recognizable as the instrument centuries have called "an organ", and it must have the attributes demanded by the music we are now seeking to play.
You will immediately recognize the nature and magnitude of the task which presents itself. Widely differing schools of composition, in countries far apart and in societies with vastly different cultural aims and needs, were growing at the same time and producing, consequently, organs and music of completely different character. Our job now is somehow to reconcile these varied traditions, bringing them together in such a way as to compromise as little as possible the individuality of each school, while at the same time ensuring that we produce an organ of character and homogeneity - not a hybrid collection of miscellaneous "tone colours".
Our thinking on the constitution of a modern organ has been muddled in the extreme, and too often still lacks specific aim and direction. Our admiration of a particular sound in some old organ or of one particular facet of organbuilding has resulted in the so called eclectic organ. In this country, it took the form of the American Classic Organ. By focusing our intentions on a single aspect of the instrument at a time, such as brightness or certain colour effects, at best we end up with what is actually a collection of unrelated one-manual organs from various periods, masquerading as one multi-divisional instrument. There might be a Silbermann-type Great, a Schnitger Positiv, a Cavaillé-Coll or Willis Swell; and none of these can be use together or in dialogue to produce any known music. This gives us an organ which plays nothing right and which has no character or individuality as a whole and complete instrument. At worst, this approach produces a motley assembly of individual colours without even one complete division, and of course entirely dependent on constant coupling for any ensemble effect.
So it is the generally applicable principles that we must study, not specific details. In order to design an instrument of maximum usefulness and economy of means, then, where do we start?
Well, no one can seriously dispute that the basis of the literature is the German Baroque and pre-Baroque, not only in sheer bulk but also by virtue of its quality. It was in Holland and Northern Germany that the organ began to take significant shape, and it was there that it took its biggest evolutionary steps, producing instruments which are universally recognized as great examples of the organbuilder's art. And of course, the German organ reached its peak at just about the time when the whole school of contrapuntal writing reached its absolute culmination in the work of J. S. Bach. So, the general principles of the organs which inspired this music, and the requirements for faithful performance of this dominant portion of the organ repertoire, emerge as our obvious starting point for designing the modern organ.
What then does this music need? Well, first of all, it needs what is needed by polyphonic music for any medium: a clear, transparent texture, whereby each of the horizontal lines may be heard distinctly, and the singing quality that is essential to sustain the line of this flowing music.
Then, there are requirements that are peculiar to organ music. From the sectional nature of works such as Buxtehude's, especially in the chorale fantasias; and from the works of Bach and Bruhns, for example, we learn that the separate, complete divisions of the organ, each with its own character and special timbre, but rationally and intelligently related one to the other, are essential to the music. The intrinsic form of these compositions was inspired by the basic idea that also shaped the tonal structure of the instruments. This concept of the organ we now call, in retrospect, the Werkprinzip. Its motivating principle was contrast and its fundamental effect was the basing of the chorus of each division within an instrument on a different pitch. This, then, is essential to the music. With imagination, we see how third and fourth contrasting manual divisions might be used to advantage in some of these composers; the sectional nature of the music itself, as well as our knowledge of their instruments, often implies this. But there can be no doubt that the basic instrument of the period was "a pair of organs", that is, a two-manual scheme. We have to be able to play off one division against another, producing contrast, not just of dynamic level but of timbre, and, what is most often forgotten or ignored, contrasts of spacing or position. The move from Great to Positiv, for example, is so much more meaningful when the Positiv is in its traditional position behind the player, giving a greater contrast to the "conversational" type changes of division, as found in works such as the Dorian Prelude.
From a study of some typical specifications of organs by master builders of the period, we learn the nature of the stops required, and their use in the music of their time. We are also aided in our study by specific indications of registration given by the composers themselves, although these are admittedly rare in the polyphonic literature. We learn also that the disposition of the stops was as important as their sound or scaling or any other consideration, and indeed, it is their physical position in the instrument that determines matters such as scaling. For example, the first trumpet in a German organ was always on the Great, and therefore it had a presence and a proportion that a trumpet placed elsewhere cannot possibly achieve. Its blending characteristics in the ensemble were also unique to its position. A trumpet scaled and voiced to stand elsewhere, no matter how skillfully, will not do.
We find that the Great principal chorus, with a corresponding registration in the Pedal but there including also a light reed, was the "pleno" - and some of Bach's fugues are actually marked "pro organo pleno". Therefore, to play them as intended, we need this chorus and the contrasting but complementary smaller "pleno" of the Positiv, and the kind of balance produced by this tradition of placement and scaling.
I have spoken only of the principal chorus, but the idea of contrast was carried on through all the families of stops, and the contrast between the reeds of the different divisions was especially well established, either by timbre or by pitch. A second manual trumpet at 8' pitch was rare, and occurred only in large organs. Of primary importance was the contrasting of the trumpet of the Great (a tapered stop) with the Krummhorn of the Positiv (a cylindrical stop). The Vox humana was a favorite but always came after the trumpet and Krummhorn. Stops of the Regal and Schalmei or Oboe type were not really typical in two-manual schemes. While mutation ranks of quint pitch were rather frequent, the independent tierce did not exist in North Germany during the Baroque period. The tierce, when it occurred, was in a compound stop such as the Sesquialtera, the Terzian or the Terzzimbel. The Sesquialteras were of principal scale, that is to say they were narrow in tone and had a singing character.
Meanwhile, what was happening in France? Well, the French organ was taking an entirely different course and its music was therefore of quite another character. The French Classical repertoire forms the next largest and most important body of music for our consideration, so let us look carefully at its nature and requirements. The essential difference is the emphasis in France upon colour. The decoration of plainsong themes, given out on the strong, penetrating reeds typical in French organs, may be said to have begun this tradition, and the music of France, both sacred and secular, has followed this trend right to the present day, when we can still hear this emphasis, sometimes using bizarre coloration effects, in the music of Messiaen, for example. Polyphony had not so great a part in forming the musical traditions in France, at least so far as the organ was concerned, so although a kind of Werkprinzip was followed and completely developed principal choruses were an essential part of the French organ, the mixtures were lower in pitch and scaled wider, so their effect was one of fullness and power. Thus, the effect of the mixtures in the French Plein Jeu is rather different from the transparent shimmering texture of the mixtures in the German organo pleno.
The stereotype for the French organ, for a period of about 200 years, took shape early in the 17th century, and from that time onward, it contained a profusion of wide-scaled mutations, which were used in various "jeux de combinaisons". We know a great deal about the nature of these "jeux" from the copious writings of many French composers and organ experts including Mersenne, Couperin and Dom Bédos. Scores of suites were written exploiting these traditional timbres and relying completely on them for their effectiveness: the interest lay not in complex lines of counterpoint, as in the German literature, but in expressive "mood music", wedded to, and entirely dependent on, particular sounds. Every division had its cornet, and the Grand Orgue sometimes two - a Grand Cornet of limited compass mounted above the main wind-chest, plus the separate mutations which can be used together to provide another cornet effect of full compass. Whereas in Germany we can find well developed Pedal organs fully capable of complementing the Great division as early as the middle of the 16th century, in France, the Pedal division as such was very late in arriving, and for years it typically consisted of a single 8' flute (usually open) or an 8' reed only rarely both; and as late as 1690, the four-manual, 37-stop organ in St-Gervais, an instrument I consider an ideal model, had only three stops in the Pedal - 8' flute, 4' flute and 8' trompette. However, even more than in Germany, the distribution of stops among the manuals followed a strict pattern, and the music reflected this. If we are to play this literature with any meaning at all, these traditions must still be our guide as to the composition and distribution of stops on today's organs, and they must be accorded an importance equal to the traditions of the German Werkprinzip.
The Romantic era brought a new kind of music altogether, and as the orchestra increased in size to cope with the requirements of this new music as created by such composers as Berlioz, Beethoven, Mahler, etc., so did the organ increase. This phenomenon is a rather mysterious one considering the lack of interest in the organ among the leading composers of the past century, but, nevertheless, we will find that the most essential change in the nature of the organ caused by the spirit of Romanticism and its music lay mainly in the realm of pure size. The importance of the orchestralism of these instruments has been generally over-emphasized. Their monumental dynamism is by far their most important feature and its exploitation has produced whatever can be considered worth-while in that portion of the literature they have inspired.
So, having outlined the characteristics of each school, let us stick to the basic two-manual scheme for the moment, and look for the similarities in the French and German traditions, which will provide us with a starting point. First of all, we find that there is a kind of Werkprinzip in the French organ; the principal of the Grand Orgue is usually an 8' and the Positif, a 4' in the French organ, as it is in the German organ. Also, when the Grand Orgue was at 16', the Positif was at 8', just as in Germany. The French principal chorus - the Plein Jeu - bears more than a surface resemblance to the German organo pleno, the chief point of difference lying in the basic pitches of the French Fourniture and the German Mixtur, and in the way the ranks repeat. A parallel relationship existed between the typical German Scharf and the French Cymbale. However, we find that, both in France and in Germany, the Great principal chorus typically consisted of the principals 8', 4' and 2', with the low and high mixtures; the smaller, Positif plenum, comprised 8' stopped flute, with principals at 4' and 2', topped by one or two suitable mixtures. Also, always in France and very often in Germany, the basic reed of the Great was a tapered 8' trumpet, and in the Positif, a cylindrical stop of the Krummhorn family. Furthermore, in the German Baroque organ, the solo use of a compound stop containing a tierce, such as a Sesquialtera or Terzian was typical; France's counterpart to this was of course the five-rank Cornet. We see, too, the similarity in the placement of the Positif division with respect to the Great.
It is in the points of contrast between the two schools that we gain the most information as to how to reconcile our instrument to the performance of both types of music with the least compromise.
For example, let us consider the mutations. In the German organs, the only non-unison mutation available is at quint pitch, generally at 2 2/3' or 1 1/3', and occasionally at 5 1/3' on the manuals. It occurs frequently as a flute, but also quite often as a principal-toned rank, especially at 2 2/3'. In the French Classical organ, the various quint ranks are always flutes and are always present, on both Great and Positif, as independent ranks. In order to offset to some extent in the performance of French music the higher pitch of the mixtures necessary for polyphonic textures, the introduction of a 2 2/3' quint rank of principal tone in the Great is a useful tradition; this rank is also part of the German tradition.
The independent tierce, as I have said, was not found in North German Baroque instruments, but was always present in both the Great and the Positif of the French Classical organs. It is not possible to do justice to the French Classical literature without a complete complement of mutations in both the Great and the Positif, and the inclusion of these ranks in both divisions is essential for this music not only for such traditional combinations as the Tierce en taille and the Duos de tierces, but in the so characteristic and all-important Grands Jeux.
And now a word about the reeds. On the French Classical organ, the second reed on the Great was always a 4' Clairon, and a so-called chorus reed at 16' pitch was virtually unknown until after the middle of the 18th century. In German practice, however, the Great second reed was almost always at 16' pitch. Therefore, when we have reeds at both 16' and 4' pitch on the Great as well as the 8', we are providing for both schools, without compromise.
As to the Pedal: We have seen that the typical French Pedal of the 17th century would have probably only two stops: 8' flute and 8' trumpet. Sometimes a 4' flute was included; very rarely, towards the end of the 17th century, a 16' flute. It was not till the 18th century that 16', 8' and 4' reeds occurred together in the Pedal and that 16', 8' and 4' flutes became common practice. However, complete Pedal organs were available in North German instruments by the end of the 16th century. We find that a complete Pedal organ in the German sense not only serves the German literature, but at the same time furnishes the essentials for the French Classical repertoire. In larger instruments, even the open 8' flute can be accommodated.
Of course, we must remember that in all that I have been talking about today, we have been considering a very complete organ. It is, naturally, perfectly possible, and under certain circumstances desirable, that smaller instruments be built entirely in the North German - the more basic - style. It is only when the instrument grows beyond two manuals that we are called on to choose which school will dominate its ultimate character.
We can develop in the direction of a German Brustwerk; a solo division such as the French Classical Récit or Echo; or we may at this point work out an expressive division to function in the manner of the French Romantic Récit or English Swell. The question is largely one of size: the first two alternatives dictate a fairly strictly circumscribed composition which needs little comment. A large organ, in a suitably large building, gives rise however to the possibility of an expanded third manual.
If we study carefully the requirements of a typical Swell in the French and English sense, we note that this is in fact a duplicate Great organ, but under expression and with strings and Oboe added. First, let us agree that when we in America talk about the Romantic literature, we mean essentially the French Romantic literature, the works of Liszt and Reger being virtually the only exceptions. And the French Romantic organ evolved more directly than is generally observed from that of the French Classical period. In the Classical period, the Plein Jeu, consisting of the principal chorus of the Great and Positif was without exception used independently of the stops making up the Grands Jeux which consisted of the reeds of the Great and Positif together with the Cornet and the Nasards and Tierces of both manuals. In Classical practice, we know of no exception to the separate use of these two combinations. However, if we take the trouble to construct an instrument with both of these ensembles reasonably complete, we find to our surprise that if, contrary to Classical usage, we do draw them both at once, we have the ideal ensemble for French Romantic use, including all the drama and power one could possibly want. If we study carefully the manner in which the French Romantic organ evolved at the hands of Cavaillé-Coll, and the registrational practices of the composers who exploited the resources of his instruments, we find that, in fact, this is exactly how the concept of the French Romantic ensemble developed and was used. Thus, we might say that the French Romantic organ, at least in its more significant aspects, is the result, as a kind of bonus, of doing everything right in the development of an uncompromised French Classical scheme. And if we are honest in looking into the matter more closely, we find that it is not really possible to develop a useful, in fact, the ideal, Romantic organ any other way, hundreds of attempts to the contrary notwithstanding. For in no other way is the characteristic fire, brilliance and powerful richness attainable. The only other feature of the Romantic organ that it is necessary to add is the Swell box effect, and, as mentioned before, such stops as the Oboe (not, as a matter of fact exclusive to the Romantic era), a pair of strings, and one or two harmonic flutes, which although normally regarded as Romantic accessories were actually well developed in the Renaissance organ.
Well, all that sounds - I hope - perfectly logical and easy. It is logical, but it certainly is not easy, because an exact copy of a French 4' Clairon certainly will not sound right paired with an exact copy of a 16' German Dulzian, nor will a Scharf live happily with an absolutely typical Montre. Scaling the stops so that they blend perfectly and functionally is the heart of the matter and it is at this point that the subtleties have to be extremely carefully thought out. Here the organbuilder must make his decisions about the precise timbre and nature of each rank in his creation of a new, functional instrument, one that is neither eclectic nor ersatz, neither restrictively antiquarian nor haphazardly futuristic, but a true organ for our time. In seeking the realization of this ideal, it becomes clear that some aspects of both schools suffer less than others, when slightly altered so as to combine usefully. And, within certain limits, some adjustments can be made to fit a stop for its new double role without ruining it for its traditional one.
First of all, there is no point in quibbling about what is required for the polyphony of what is called (though not always correctly) the North German type: clear, well balanced, well integrated, well contrasted double plenos are the obvious first essential as we have said before. So, our mixtures must be of this quality. As we have noted, the French Classical school produced little polyphony and was almost entirely a colour-conscious phenomenon. Where mixture choruses are called for in the French music, the discrepancy in the pitches of the mixtures can be minimized by the omission in performance of the higher mixture and the utilisation of the Twelfth to supply the lower rank and grave character.
A French fugue played on the Plein Jeu sounds lifeless and uneasy. It assumes quite another character when translated to the reeds. It is no surprise therefore to find that the specific directions of the composers of this period indicate this registration for their fugues; always the lively, fiery reeds. To play such a fugue on a trumpet enclosed in a swell box is a singularly unhappy experience. Thus not only for the big Grand Jeu Dialogues, but also for the many "Fugues sur la Trompette", the Great trumpet is essential. But it is not necessary that this trumpet be of the obliterative type often associated with French reed voicing. Special reeds have been developed which are extremely effective for this purpose - fast speaking and colourful, while at the same time capable of blending well into the ensemble in a manner not unlike the selfless trumpets characteristic of the German Baroque.
Next, the mutations. We find that any of the bold French combinations which use the Nasard and/or Tierce (such as the Récit de Tierce en Taille, the Récit de Nasard, the Duo de Tierces, Récit de Cornet, etc.) sound impossibly dull and lifeless when attempted with the narrow-scaled German Sesquialtera. The music demands the rich, full-throated cello-like qualities of broad-scaled flute mutations. However, especially by using the 4' principal in preference to the 4' flute, the wider-scaled Nasard and Tierce can stand in for the typical German sound of 8', 4' and Sesquialtera with perfect authority; the solo line of a choral prelude will not suffer at all through the use of these warmer mutations. Also, in an organ where size is necessarily limited, the extra versatility of the separate Nasard and Tierce is obvious. So, where the stoplist is limited, I make this adjustment by having the mutations lean more towards the French sound. In a larger organ, a rather more narrow-scaled Sesquialtera can be included in addition, of course.
Inevitably there comes the time for decision-making on issues where no adjustment is possible. In the organ, certain principles are of the essence, whatever music it is to play, whatever tradition it seeks to encompass. There are good and obvious reasons for adhering to these principles, and there were bad and devious reasons for their temporary abandonment during the organ's period of decadence. These inviolable principles concern action, voicing and encasement.
The discussion concerning tracker action versus electrically-controlled action in America is more than half as old as I am, and it was settled for me nearly twenty years ago. It is incredible to me that after all this time there are segments of the organ world in which this is still a burning issue, especially when one considers the recent remarkable developments and advances in this field. Although I am quite willing to answer any specific questions posed to me on the subject, I have written so much about it that I shall not argue for it here, but will simply say that in any situation where musical considerations are of primary importance, mechanical key action must be taken as an accomplished fact. As long as there are still those who think otherwise, I think the survival of the organ in this century is in serious jeopardy. However, I would like to remind us all that there is nothing magic about a wooden rod. Tracker action is not automatically good or useful - it must be extremely well made and well regulated, and possess certain characteristics not universally understood. I am sure that some of you have had the experience of trying a tracker organ and wondering what all the fuss was about. Perhaps it was spongy in feel, due to too much lost motion. Perhaps there was no clear-cut pluck at the top of the key, or maybe holding the keys quickly produced fatigue due to too strong springs. Perhaps the pluck was so strong that even after hours of practice a useful control of the attack was not possible. Or perhaps the effective weight of touch was much too much for the amount of work to be done. Unfortunately, very few organists yet know how fine a tracker action can be, or indeed what constitutes a good, responsive action. But many, lacking opportunities for comparison accept the most flagrant defects as virtues and are putting up with very inferior mechanisms in all innocence. All of the points I have just outlined are defects and should not be tolerated, for they are not necessary in a modern organ. Of course, the weight of touch at the top of the key must be, indeed should be, proportional to the job to be done. The touch for a full-scale Great organ of a dozen or so stops will certainly be heavier than that for a small Brustwerk of five or six stops. But the holding force - that is, the weight of the action at the bottom of the key - can be so slight that the player experiences less fatigue in playing for a given period of time than with the very best electric keyboards, and much less than in playing a concert grand piano. Of course, the keys must return a precisely as they go down if ornaments and rapid passages are to be clearly performed. Excess spring tension is the poor man's substitute for proper control of the inertia of the system through careful design and choice of materials. Crispness and lightness, too, are not alone enough; with practice we must be able to exploit to the full all the opportunities for subtle phrasing and articulation any sensitive key-board instrument should supply, and we should demand that the action be capable of this.
So, do look for these things and demand the best, or else you are simply not getting the supreme musical advantages only a good mechanical action can provide, add your efforts made in seeking out a tracker organ are totally wasted.
It is easy to end all discussion about voicing by simply saying that this, perhaps above all aspects of the organ, is just a matter of taste. But to do so is to say that on this issue, as on so many others, romance conquers all; for this point of view is certainly a romantic one. One of the most meaningful principles we have learned from the work of the old masters is that voicing is not so much a matter of taste as a matter of design. The organ is a device for the communication of musical ideas, and nowhere in its construction must its raison d'être be more clearly before us than in the development of the sound it will produce.
We must understand that the sound of the organ is functional - it is not simply an end in itself. In general, this is no better understood by those who play organs than by many who build them, but until it is well comprehended by all concerned, the value of the instrument in our society remains in doubt. I am astonished to find how very few people there are who know HOW TO LISTEN to an organ - exactly what to listen for - after so many years of revived interest in the organ as a musical instrument. I am also astonished when I travel around listening, to find how few instruments really communicate very much except vague or pompous impressions of grandeur - a grandeur which on first hearing conveys a superficial thrill, but which lets down the player very badly when he begins to search out the specific combinations and qualities he needs for his performance. Voicing by design can afford a clear transparent texture, with a lustrous singing treble and perfectly balanced voice-leading for all the parts in polyphony, so that what the composer actually wrote can be discerned, rather than the outpouring of unfocused sound one so often hears. Here, the specific needs and beauties of the music must be our paramount concern, and the achievement of these aims ill be our goal in today organs, even if their success was not always a feature of the instruments of the past. The much desired "beautiful sound" will follow almost automatically, as the crowning glory of a perfectly designed and completely purposeful organ.
However the attainment of these characteristics is possible only when the voicing and scaling has been carried out in a consistent manner throughout the instrument. The voicer's job is to find the place where each pipe speaks naturally, according to its design and the prevailing conditions, to do more is to introduce a falseness into the process that will not pass undetected and that inevitably compromises the instrument to some degree. True low pressure voicing not only produces a texture of unsurpassed clarity and sweetness; it is also more efficient, and thus results in much lighter and more responsive key action. To approach the voicing of an organ on the basis that some stops should chiff and some should not, for example, is to introduce issues which are not really valid for the organ, for it is an instrument with pipes and ideally its sounds must be sounds which pipes yield naturally - as I have just said. Its true literature is that music which comes to life when portrayed with these natural sounds. Here is where taste becomes important - in appraising just how well the sounds function in some of the music on the fringes of the accepted literature. If we are convinced that the music does not fare well on an organ which in all other respects seems worthy, we must have the clearsightedness to say that this music is not appropriate to the organ, and retire it to the archives, even if it was written only yesterday. Those of us who love the organ and desire that it should flourish, must protect it and see to it that it is heard always to its best advantage. This cannot be done with music that is not "of the organ".
The true organ case has arrived in America very late. As early as the Gothic period, the organ had complete cases well designed to project, enhance and focus the sound; and in Europe this tradition continued until the organ's period of decline. It was revived after World War II and is now a distinctive feature of the work of all the significant organbuilders on the Continent. Although there is some evidence that a few Colonial instruments had cases that might have been fairly effective, far more typically the organ case in America was never much more than a wooden frame with facade pipes that usually did more to hinder the sound than to enhance it. Such a case is of no practical use: a functional case - one which possesses the positive beneficial properties mentioned - is closed-in completely at the back, sides and top.
I consider the proper design and construction of an appropriate case to be vitally important to the success of an instrument. The case provides amplification and resonance for the sound of the pipes in something like the way a piano soundboard enhances the strings; or maybe we could compare it with the effect of the body of an oboe with respect to the sound of the double reed of its mouth-piece. Neither of these is a really good example, because an organ case is not so sharply resonant as the body of an oboe, nor is its amplifying effect as great as that of a soundboard, but the effect is one of both added resonance and amplification when it is excited by the sound of the pipes it contains. This resonance adds a distinctive character to the pipe sound, and this provides an additional quality that distinguishes the sound of one division from the other, quite independently of the sound of the pipes. A proper case is very much a part of the voice of an organ, and indeed plays as large a part in the final result as the voicing of the pipes.
The subject is complex, and it is not possible to explain in a few words all the principles involved. I refer any of you who are interested in delving more deeply into this to my lecture on organ acoustics delivered last year in Glencoe and published in last October's Diapason.
We have discussed several aspects of the design of an organ. Perfection in any one of these items alone cannot make the difference between success and failure in an instrument. The modern organ is a total concept, in which all of the fine points we have mentioned are essential. There is no short-cut. A compromise here, as in any phase of artistic endeavour, can only have the effect of turning a first-class situation into a second-class one.
We have spoken much about the organ of tradition in developing an organ for our time, But what then should we do specifically for the music of today and tomorrow?
In all fields of musical composition today, the emphasis is on exploration of sound combinations for their own sake - the more bizarre, the better. An organ designed along the lines I have outlined will already contain within it a great many possibilities for experimentation with sound. Using the most traditional of timbres, Messiaen has shown us many new combinations of sounds; others are finding even more way-out ways of treating the traditional organ. There is little need to design specifically for the composers and improvisors of today. There is really just one way in which we may supply additional material, and that is to make more use of dissonant harmonic ranks - something I first experimented with in 1950 in Boston. In recent years, these have gained in popularity, especially in Europe. Who knows what use will be made of these by the many composers who are being so much attracted to the new organ? I hope great and exciting new things will develop, but these added sounds must always be considered as extras, to be included only after the organ is well provided with the essentials. And they must always be of the organ - that is, they must be a natural development in the evolution of the instrument as we define it today. Whatever we may do to increase the scope of our instruments we must not compromise its ability to respond to the demands of the music which is exclusively its own.
And now perhaps before closing I should say a few words about placement and acoustics. Usually, I say a great deal on these subjects - today I will be very brief.
Very often these days it happens that we are working on a project for a new church with an architect who rejects most of our proposals with a statement something like, "Young man, I have built 67 churches all over America and I have never had a single complaint about the way I have handled the organ installation or the acoustics" - while, at the same time, but of course unbeknown to the architect, we are working on one or two projects in older churches by the same architect in which the acoustical plaster is being scraped off the ceiling, the carpets are being replaced with flagstone, the old organ chambers are being bricked up and the new organ is being planned as a freestanding encased instrument in the middle of the revised chancel or rear gallery. All these will have been the recommendations we have just proposed without success for his new building. It is incredible that still today, after years of discussion and numerous excellent examples to serve as guides, and in view of our increased awareness of social responsibilities, this waste still continues. Today, the facts are so well known that no architect or church group need be guilty of burying an organ in some remote recess useful for nothing else; or of "treating" the surfaces of any listening area in which music is to be made with any sort of acoustically absorbent material including carpet. The days of discussion are over; what we need now is action.
Organists of the world, unite! You've got nothing to lose but your carpet.