Pipe organs: The most complex machines before the Industrial Revolution


There are currently two large research projects centered on new and refurbished pipe organs taking place at the University of Houston: one, an entirely new pipe organ to be installed in the Schissler Lobby of the Moores Opera House, and the rebuilding of the 1965 Reuter pipe organ housed in the University Chapel of A. D. Bruce Religion Center. The complex mechanics of a pipe organ, the challenge of enhancing architectural spaces, and the appropriate implementation of unique tonal schemes into a singular instrument will be crucial to finalize these instruments. With origins beginning in ancient Greece, the pipe organ has evolved over the centuries to utilize modern technological advancements. However, the core principle of windblown pipes sitting atop a pressurized box of air has remained from the beginning. Before and after the industrial revolution, pipe organs have represented a unique collaboration between artisans to produce complex musical machines consisting of metal and wooden pipes, intricate winding and key action systems, and opulent cases to house these systems. Situating the current UH organ projects within this history, this lecture explores the many options and the decision-making process for both.



pipe organ, Moores opera house, University of Houston