Our Tonal Philosophy

In an attempt to respond to modern clients, we are repeatedly asked to provide an “American Classic” instrument.  Some language is generally used to describe this sound, in fact, our own description of organs from 2006 publication can be read as follows:

 

“…an instrument whose tone is warm and full, yet clear, having multiple principal choruses and colorful variety in the areas of flutes, strings, and reeds.  The organ has the ability to move from tone that is very soft and subtle, through a thunderous crescendo that surrounds and leads a full congregation…”

 

While this language may be reassuring to prospective clients, it can be said of a variety of organ building schools. It provides a safe view of our organs, however it does not give the informed person a specific insight into stylistic elements of our modern instruments.

The basic tenet of the American Classic movement is that through the selection of the best elements from a variety of periods of organ building and incorporating them into a single instrument, it is possible to build an instrument that is proficient in the playing of music from all periods and from all schools.  This eclectic approach is successful only to those who have a deep understanding of registration and tonal styles, both historic and current. 

 

As such, it is important to note that we do not attempt to present an “all things to all people” philosophy of organ building. While we have built a few, and are happy to build, organs that specifically reflect a certain stylistic model or period, such as French Classical, Romantic, North German etc., most instruments represent our developed, and continually refined, in-house style. It should also be said that we do not typically attempt to re-incarnate entire instruments of the past or the work of any one particular builder. Rather, we incorporate underlying principles that are revealed through analysis of master organ builders and their work.

 

To those individuals who want to learn more bluntly where we draw our influences from, it would be advisable to first gain a clear understanding of organ builders of the past and then to visit our instruments in person. After all, sound cannot truly be expressed in words, but must be experienced. We would be happy to further clarify how our philosophies apply to each instrument we build.

No matter the idiom, we hold ourselves to the following criteria when creating an instrument:

 

1. It must be designed foremost to excel in its primary and specific tasks – which is most often the accompanying of sacred hymns and liturgy.

2. It must be so planned, scaled, voiced, and finished as to emphasize the acoustical strengths of a room, or to minimize the weaknesses as they apply or affect the sound of the organ. Overall, a full and warm "hug" of sound should be apparent.

3. It must make possible authentic and satisfactory performances of organ literature from all periods, countries, schools, and styles.  It must also inspire improvisation and the creation of new music.

4. It must be flexible enough in its colors and console appointments to take on the artistic approach of any person who plays it.  In other words, we do not want to dictate or restrict, by design or sound, any performers personal abilities or background. This is realized by adhering to console layout standards set forth by the American Guild of Organists.

5. The stops of the organ must achieve perfect blend.  Blend, as defined in organ sound, is the illusion of a complex sound texture being produced by a single source. Blend, in terms of an artist’s colors, is achieved when two different pigments are sufficiently mixed so that the eye can no longer recognize them separately but sees only the new composite color.   This permits the greatest amount of beauty and flexibility in our instruments.