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Title: The physical characteristics of mechanical pipe organ actions and how they affect musical performance
Author: Woolley, Alan G.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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Many organists believe that one of the main advantages of mechanical actions, i.e. those in which there is a direct and uninterrupted mechanical link from the key which the player moves to the pallet valve that admits air to the pipes, is that they allow the player to control the pallet and thus influence the initial sound of the pipe. This project looks at how the key and pallet actually move compared with what the player believes is happening. Measurements of the movement of the keys and, where possible, the pallets were made using LED and laser distance sensors, with the organists being asked to play in a variety of styles that they believed resulted in the keys moving at significantly different speeds. Sound recordings were made in order to compare the transients. The results showed that the key movement could be broken down into two distinct parts. The first part is the movement before pluck and thus before the pallet starts opening in which the flexibility of the action was taken up. The relative length of this movement varied very considerably even on short and rigid actions showing elongations when players believed that they were moving the key slowly. The movement after pluck, and thus during which the pallet was opening and admitting air to the pipes, did not vary greatly and in some cases, despite the player very deliberately trying to vary the speed, remained nearly constant. It could be clearly shown that attempts to vary the speed of key movement were, in fact, resulting in distinct rhythmic changes. The conclusion is that although players vary the time of the complete key movement, any difference occurs mostly in the part of the key movement before the pallet starts opening and thus cannot have any influence on the initial transient.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available