Bending Baroque: Organs as Artistic, Musical, and Sonic Technologies
The Orgelpark, Amsterdam, June 4-6 2015
Amongst musical instruments, the pipe organ has the longest history of innovation. Since the ancient Greeks the design and function of the pipe organ has routinely changed, leading many to examine how these instruments both influence and are influenced by changing musical cultures. Added to this, organs are also technical artifacts and contain within them centuries of building practices and the tacit knowledge of organ builders. As such, organs can be interpreted as aesthetic and technological mirrors of their time.
The aim of this symposium is to situate organs as objects that are simultaneously musical and technical, producing music/sound as well as knowledge. As such, they combine artistic and epistemic practices in relation to performance, listening, and design. To better explore these topics, we invite contributions that draw upon Science & Technology Studies (including the Philosophy and History of Science), Sound Studies, and Artistic Research.
The context of this symposium is the building of a ‘New Baroque Organ’ at the Orgelpark, a privately funded concert venue in Amsterdam that aims to integrate the organ into contemporary musical cultures by presenting it in new ways. The New Baroque Organ will combine 18th and 21st century technologies. Its purpose is to facilitate historically informed performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s organ music and to make the sound resources needed for that accessible in innovative ways that can inspire new music. As such, the New Baroque Organ represents a next step in the development of radically innovative organs that the American organist and organ scholar Randall Harlow has called ‘hyper organs’.
The process of designing this organ has opened up a number of questions that we wish to explore during this symposium, including:
- How can insights and themes from studies of technological innovation be applied to the construction of the New Baroque Organ?
- What connections are there between musical instruments and the creation of new knowledge about these instruments and musical culture? Can we consider musical instruments as we do scientific instruments that produce particular epistemic practices.
- How are, and how can, historically informed practices of performance, composition, and listening taken into account in the design of the organ?
- How can we think of the organ as an artistic technology?
We invite papers and art works that examine these questions and others like them.