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The Bruckner Organ, 18th century; in the church of the Abbey of Sankt Florian, Austria—Toni Schneiders
Keyboard instrument in which pressurized air produces notes by means of a series of tuned pipes. The simplest organs consist of a single rank of pipes, each corresponding to a single key. They are arranged over a wind chest connected to the keys by a set of valves and fed with a supply of air by electrically or mechanically activated bellows. By pulling out knobs, called stops, the player engages new ranks of pipes. Two distinct types of pipes are used: flue pipes (both open and stopped) produce sound by directing air against the edge of an opening in the pipe, whereas reed pipes sound by means of a thin metal tongue inside the pipe that vibrates against a fixed projection next to it. A large organ may have five or more banked keyboards, or manuals, each of which controls a distinctive group of pipes. Most organs also have pedalboards played with the feet. A large organ's pipes may vary in length from about 1 in. to 32 ft (2.5 cm to 10 m), resulting in a huge nine-octave range. The earliest organ (c. 250 BC) was the Greek hydraulis, in which the wind was regulated by water pressure. The bellows-fed organ appeared about the 7th century AD. The organ became firmly associated with the church by the 10th century. As organs became widespread, different regions pursued different modes of construction and sought different tonal ideals. The Baroque German organ is ideally suited to polyphony, while the French taste for variety of timbres eventuated in Aristide Cavaillé-Coll's vast orchestral organs. See alsoharmonium.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on organ, visit Britannica.com.