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Content archived on 2024-05-29

A challenge for materials science: bringing true baroque and medieval sound back to life in historic and new pipe organs

Final Report Summary - TRUESOUND (A Challenge for Materials Science: Bringing True Baroque and Medieval Sound Back to Life in Historic and New Pipe Organs)

True Baroque organ music can come back to life in the 21st century by developing copper (Cu)-based alloys and implementing them in organ pipes. By providing the technology to rebuild and create instruments with tailored sound qualities, Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) organ builders in Europe will be increasing competitive in the world market for new instruments and uniquely qualified to secure contracts for the restoration of the 10 000 historically valuable organs within Europe. Achieving true Baroque sound requires overcoming significant materials science challenges. An organ contains flue and reed pipes constructed of lead-tin alloys. There are no moving parts within a flue pipe. Reed pipes contain an additional vibrating part, the copper-alloy tongue that crucially influences its sound. Historically accurate lead-tin alloys characterised and reproduced by a previous Swedish project beautifully recreate the historic flue pipe sound. The reed pipes, however, are still acoustically inaccurate, since only conventional Cu-alloys were available to replace damaged reed pipe tongues. This project aims to completely reproduce the beautiful warmth and blazing fanfare of Baroque and Medieval music by developing reed pipe tongues with appropriate acoustic properties. Historic pipe organs have regional sound qualities since they were constructed from locally available materials, however local restoration efforts would be redundant and expensive. This project was effectively and efficiently carried out with SME organ builders from across Europe in conjunction with top quality research institutions, as the required technology development is far beyond of the SMEs capabilities.

The final project deliverables include:
(a) identifying historically accurate alloy compositions;
(b) developing the processes necessary to reproduce historically accurate material properties;
(c) manufacturing tongues as replacement parts for historic reed pipes and as new reed pipe components with historic sound.

The objective of this project was to uniquely qualify European SME organ builders to restore historic pipe organs and build new ones with true Baroque sound. For the first time, historically accurate Cu-based alloys for reed pipe tongues were developed by a transnational research team and implemented by SME organ builders from five European countries. The knowledge of these alloys is a key competence for their successful competition on the world market.

Two novel prototype alloys (with and without lead) have been produced in the project. They have been tested by organ builders participating in the consortium. In order to get the possibility of an independent assessment of the pipe sound, a special software has been developed. This software enables one to digitise the spectrum of sound, particularly that of organ pipes, and to compare the spectra of various sounds. Special procedure and equipment for sound acquisition have been developed as well. First recordings of the sound of reed pipes with old tongues and with newly developed alloys have been performed together with a first sound evaluation with the aid of this software.