Reconstruction of historical alloys for pipe organs brings true baroque music back to life
Journal article, 2007
The pipe organ is the king of musical instruments. No other instrument can compare with the pipe organ in power, timbre, dynamic range, tonal complexity, and sheer majesty of sound. The art of organ building reached its peak in the Baroque Age (similar to 1600-1750); with the industrial revolution in the 19th century, organ building shifted from a traditional artisans' work to factory production, changing the aesthetic concept and design of the organ so that the profound knowledge of the organ masters passed down over generations was lost. This knowledge is being recreated via close collaborations between research scientists, musicians, and organ builders throughout Europe. Dozens of metallic samples taken from 17th- to 19th-century organ pipes have been investigated to determine their composition, microstructure, properties, and manufacturing processes using sophisticated methods of materials science. Based upon these data, technologies for casting, forming, hammering, rolling, filing, and annealing selected lead-tin pipe alloys and brass components for reed pipes have been reinvented and customized to reproduce those from characteristic time periods and specific European regions. The new materials recreated in this way are currently being processed and used by organ builders for the restoration of period organs and the manufacture of new organs with true Baroque sound.