Huge Organ Has Six Thousand Throats (Apr, 1924)

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Huge Organ Has Six Thousand Throats

Thirty Thousand Miles of Wire Form Nerves of Instrument for Which Fifteen Electric Motors Supply Power AS you listen to the majestic tones of a great pipe organ mere mechanical things seem far away, but behind that proscenium arch is an electrical and pneumatic system of intriguing complexity.

More than 30,000 miles of wire form the nerves which control the 6,000 throats of one of the largest organs in America which has just been completed at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

What looks like one organ, however, is really seven—the great, the choir, the solo, the pedal, the swell, the echo, and the floating string units—which, played as one, produce every tone possible to a symphony orchestra, except those of the percussion instruments, such as the drums.

Back of the stage is the successor of the small boy who used to pump the church organ—a huge turbine, driven by a thirty-horsepower electric motor, blowing air into the seven wind chests which supply each organ. But even this is not large enough and a ten-horsepower auxiliary motor and turbine automatically start to operate at peak loads. Air-lock doors, something like those used in tunnel – construction work, permit a workman to enter the chambers without altering the air pressure. Thus the valve mechanism can be adjusted or repaired while a concert is in progress.

Electromagnets, controlled from the keyboard by the organist, move the thin strips of wood which operate the valves regulating the flow of air into the pipes which are made of silver, tin, zinc and lead.

Some pipes are doubled over.. Others are turned in loops and circles like a cornet horn. Some taper; others have bell mouths. Many are stopped to produce a slightly softer tone. A few have a “beard” hanging over their mouths which slightly alters the tone.

Seven brick boxes with electrically operated steel shutters, enable the organist to control the volume of sound from a faint whisper to a crashing roar.

Fifteen electric motors furnish the power to operate the various units of the organ.

4 comments
  1. Rick Auricchio says: January 16, 20114:46 pm

    Thirty thousand miles of wire for 6000 pipes? That’s five miles each. Somehow I think 3000 miles would be more like it, and even that’s over 15 million feet of wire.

    Unless perhaps the keyboard is in Bangladesh…

  2. Toronto says: January 16, 20116:39 pm

    Rick: or there are a LOT of relays and solenoids with very fine wire coils.

  3. Kosher Ham says: January 16, 20117:22 pm

    Not only would the key action be electro-pneumatic, but also the stop action is also electro-pneumatic. Lots of wiring!

    In the old days, everything was mechanical action; still very complex, but still not as complex as a modern microprocessor with several million switches.

  4. GaryM says: January 18, 201110:46 am

    I haven’t heard an organ yet that can imitate the instruments of a symphony orchestra.

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