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Construction_ Philosophy and Techniques

The study of the aesthetics, cultural context and building techniques is the way to get closer to the nature of the Spanish Baroque organs. Tackling a project from an historicist point of view in the 21st century is a radical decision since in some ways going back to former techniques entails an effort equivalent to the one it was made when they were developed. In any case, we are aware that the techniques alone will not lead us to the genuine spirit of these Castilian instruments, but their knowledge avoids that modern technology, indispensable nowadays, moves us away from that spirit of craftsmanship, unique to the Castilian organ builders from the 18th century.

The case

The architecture and ornamentation of the cases built for this project are a fundamental part of it, and their design, concept and execution adhere completely to the style recreated. The pipes on the facade, the action and the aesthetics of the period that we recreate are some of the defining and essential features of these cases. For the construction of the cases, we use good-quality, dry, solid wood, selecting the more appropriate type of wood for each project. We follow the Baroque patterns when carrying out the ornamentation and composition, and the carvings are handmade.

Carvings

 

Carvings details. Construction process

Regarding polychromy, we recreate the decorations made around the 1750s following the canon of that period, namely polychrome flat surfaces and carvings and cornices backed in gold leaf. The techniques we use are the traditional ones in this field: plaster stucco over wood and tempera of different colors with natural pigments. The carvings and moldings are gilt over a mix of plaster and bole. For the finishing, we use resistant varnish. When there is no polychromy, we build cases made of hardwood, like oak, cedar, etc.

Diferentes acabados | Proyecto Clarín
Different finishes of the organs built for the Clarín Project

The instrument

Simplicity is a characteristic feature of these organs, specially regarding the action, windchests and wind supply. The “machinery” is built according to models of that time and employing the traditional techniques used in Castile that have proven to be the most effective for the last 250 years. The windchest, with sliders as it was common, is made of very dry pine or cedar wood of very high quality; the sliders are made of walnut wood. This detail can be found in the works of the best Castilian workshops from the 18th century.

Arca de viento, correderas y ventanas valvulas
Chromatic arrangement of the notes. Every stop is split.

The grooved blocks are the most complex aspect. They link this sequence of notes with the pattern of the pipes on the facade. We consider this is a key feature in Iberian organs.

Detalles tablones acanalados

The instrument has also a small grooved block for the Violón bass notes, and a raised small windchest for the Corneta. Made of solid, neat and very dry wood, they are grooved on both sides, and all possible friction points are secured with leather. All pieces are wrapped in baldés (tanned sheep leather), traditionally used in Castilian organs.


The key action is always suspended and very simple, which guarantees this soft and delicate touch characteristic of our organs. Usually it has roller board reduction and wooden trackers. The registry action is very straightforward and simple as well. Its design may vary depending on the project, but the basic elements are always made of wrought iron, and the pulls and connecting rods are made of wood. All the elements are made following the model and the traditional techniques. Some of the traditional techniques have not been employed in order to preserve the safety and stability of the action, such as the use of wrought nails for fixing the upper-boards and sliders in the windchest.

Detalle de forjado, mecánica de notas y de registros


We pay special attention to the keyboards as well, both to their look and size and to the technical characteristics in order to provide a precise, smooth and delicate touch as well as the aesthetics they deserve.

Teclado chapado en hueso o en boj
Bone or boxwood veneered keyboard

The pipe work is the aspect in which we try to delve into the most in terms of principles and the process development. We focus on the quality and the measurements of the model we have chosen or those used by the best master organ builders. All of the metal pipe work is built with a tin-lead alloy, achieving good thickness and a solid construction. The principle of “one size” for each group of labial stops is a very common practice in Castilian organs from the 18th century.

Detalle de tubería
Clarín Opus I pipe work details

When we build a replica, all of the original elements of the model are replicated accurately and faithfully. The metal is cast pouring it over cloth; the manual brushing is made in crosswise direction, following the traditional technique.

Casting of the metal sheets, manually forged, and construction of the pipes.

Working on the pipes

Trabajando la tubería

The languids are made of lead.
The reed stops are built using traditional materials and techniques as well.
The shallots have welded lids if they are recreating some Spanish school.


The bellows, usually two or three, have six folds and levers. They are all made in pine or cedar wood and baldés (tanned sheep leather).

Detalle construcción de fuelles de cuña
Wedge bellows construction detail

 


The harmonization and tuning must reflect the effort put into the construction of all the elements of the organ, for they are the ultimate goal of all that work. We try to follow accurately the principles and spirit of the instruments we recreate. We adhere to the main characteristics and details of the original model or the chosen school in each project in order to get the traits of the stops independently and as a whole.  The tuning pitch and wind pressure are determined depending on the project, but they are always low pressures. The temperament used in Castile until well into the 19th century is the classic meantone temperament, although other variations are considered based on the musical interests of the recipient.

 

Diagrama de intervalos, Francisco de Salinas (1577)
Interval diagram, Francisco de Salinas (1577)

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