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date: 03 December 2020

Organ (Fr. orgue, orgues; Dutch, Ger. Orgel; It., Sp. organo; Dan. Orglet; from Gk. organon via Lat. organum)locked

  • Barbara Owen,
  • Peter Williams
  •  and Stephen Bicknell

Extract

(Fr. orgue, orgues; Dutch, Ger. Orgel; It., Sp. organo; Dan. Orglet; from Gk. organon via Lat. organum)

A wind instrument consisting of one or more scale-like rows of individual pipes of graded size which are made to sound by air under pressure directed from a wind-raising device and admitted to the pipes by means of valves operated from a keyboard. Although this definition could include such instruments as the Regals, Portative, Positive and Claviorgan, this article is concerned with the larger organ proper.

The organ is, together with the clock, the most complex of all mechanical instruments developed before the Industrial Revolution. Among musical instruments its history is the most involved and wide-ranging, and its extant repertory the oldest and largest (see Keyboard music; see also Continuo). Despite its essentially indirect and therefore relatively inflexible production of sound, no other instrument has inspired such avowed respect as the organ, ‘that great triumph of human skill … the most perfect musical instrument’ (Grove1), ‘in my eyes and ears … the king of instruments’ (Mozart, letter to his father, 17–...

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