The Evolution of the Pipe Organ: Background information when reading The Great Passion

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The Great Passion

by James Runcie

The Great Passion by James Runcie X
The Great Passion by James Runcie
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2022, 272 pages

    Feb 2023, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

The Evolution of the Pipe Organ

This article relates to The Great Passion

Large pipe organThe protagonist of James Runcie's novel, The Great Passion, is an organist and organ builder. The pipe organ has been referred to as the "king of musical instruments" due to its size, complexity and power. Though its structure is similar to that of a piano, it has not one keyboard but as many as seven, plus a pedalboard played with the feet, and sometimes hundreds of "stops" on the console that are manually pulled opened or pushed closed during a piece to add musical effects (e.g., producing a buzzy tone or one that sounds like a bell). A single organ can be comprised of thousands of pipes, and the organ has the largest and oldest repertoire of any instrument in Western music.

It's believed that the earliest iteration of the organ was created by Ctesibius of Alexandria, a Greek engineer, around 200 BCE. Surprisingly, it was designed as a demonstration of hydraulics and wasn't intended to be a musical instrument at all. He inverted a bowl-shaped chamber in a tank of water, trapping ...

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