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Bonjour, quelqu'un peut-il me donner une explication au double soufflet de cet orgue ?

London, British Library, Add MS 38120, 103r

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Replies to This Discussion

Deux éléments de réponse:

1) Les deux soufflets, utilisés chacun par une main en alternance, permettent d'assurer un souffle sans interruption alors que l'instrument ne possède sans doute pas de réservoir régulateur. (Dans les harmoniums, de même, les deux pédales s'utilisent des deux pieds en alternance).

2) Il faut néanmoins toujours se méfier des images d'orgues portatifs, qui représentent en général des instruments à peu près injouables, parce que trop grands, trop lourds, trop longs, trop larges. Ici par exemple, il faudrait une deuxième personne pour manoeuvrer les soufflets, ce qui rend la «portabilité» quelque peu illusoire...

 Here another example by Stefano da Verona (c 1374-1438). 

Yes, the two bellows would serve to have a constant air supply. It could be in fact a representation of a stylized version of a larger positive organ, although I have seen 'reconstructions' of organetti with two bellows (connected) an it does work (with only one player).

These two bellows mean a significant change of what we are now used to understand as the organetto and its musical capabilities/ limitations: an instrument which, because it does not have a constant air supply, has the need to 'breath' like a wind instrument or the voice; It has dynamic possibilities and fluctuation in pitch through the increase or decrease of pressure in the bellows. With the constant air supply of the two bellows, these characteristics are reduced or annulled.

I believe that Kimberly Marshall (1989), shows some depictions of organetti with two bellows.

I think that the dynamic possibilities would remain even in a two-bellows instrument, as long as there is no regulating chamber and the bellows blow directly into the wind chest. Blowing a constant air supply with two bellows requires a good coordination of the hands, never blowing the two bellows together, but allowing no interruption at the change of bellow. But it must be possible to modulate the pressure.

It would normally also be possible to use only one of the two bellows, as Stefano da Verona's angel above apparently does. But the air supply could then not be continuous.

Can I ask whether you think that the dynamic possibilities could also be used to modulate pitch? I am interested in the possibility that early 15th-century organists used just intonations with occasional modifications that might be achieved by air pressure.

Michael Shields, Galway/Ireland

I have no experience of that, but I very much doubt it. On the one hand, bellows played by hand do not allow a very precise control of the pressure -- enough perhaps to produce some variation in the dynamics, but certainly not the precision needed to achieve just intonation. Besides, even in the early 15th century, organs may have been tuned in some kind of meantone tuning, with the sharps (F#, C#, G# and even D#) almost pure major thirds above the diatonic D, A, E (and B). This tuning has been described among others by Mark Lindley. I could say more about it if needed.

Nicolas

Michael Shields said:

Can I ask whether you think that the dynamic possibilities could also be used to modulate pitch?

Dear Nicolas,

Many thanks for your help, and helpful doubt. I know and admire Mark Lindley's observation of near-pure thirds over D, A, E in a Pythagorean tuning and their use in some music examples. I think he is still talking about a strict Pythagorean tuning (wolf H: F#) with some useable pure thirds in the black notes, but pure untempered fifths (at most, Lindley suggests one should take care that the fifths are not tuned wide). 

I am  interested in just tunings, with pure thirds and fifths on the white notes in the more common keys, over C, D, G or possibly F, and with resulting wolf intervals elsewhere - similar to those found in the two Heilsbronn (so-called Erlangen tunings, Erlangen Universitätsbibliothek MS 554) clavichord tunings with wolf A:E (method 1) or wolf  A:D (method 2).  Players on instruments tuned in these would either have to avoid using the wolf fourths and fifths as consonances, or adjust the pitch in some way, or maybe use the wolf vibrato in the low notes for expressive effect. I would imagine such tunings being used as an occasional alternative to pythagorean tunings.

So my question is really: When a 15th-century portative organ, pre-tuned in a just intonation (eg. with triads CEG, DFA and GHD pure and wolf A:E), is used as a single-melody instrument, can one use varying pressure to adjust the pitch of one or two bad notes when needed? I think this would depend whether the pipes used were constructed to give variations in pitch (not just amplitude).

Maybe there is an article that discusses 15th-century organ pipe scaling/voicing and might help to answer this question? (I am not optimistic: the surviving information may be too ambiguous to interpret.) It would also be useful to know whether there are any textual descriptions or iconograpy of people tuning their portative organs as they did their harp.

 I would be grateful for bibliographical advice, or advice in the form of practical experience of small organs. I know of a number of 16th-century just tunings for organ, and these look like conservative survivals from a period before meantone became widespread.

Michael

Merci pour cette image cher Dominique. Je tente quelques hypothèses:
soit ce n'est pas un portatif mais un positif, soit c'est un positif à double soufflet comme Zwolle en décrit un, sauf que Zwolle place un soufflet sous le clavier, comme sur la statut du Museo del opera del duomo a Firenze, et pas côte à côte.  Dans les deux cas le résultat est d'avoir une pression d'air constante et continue un des deux soufflets étant le soufflet régulateur, c'est à dire la réserve d'air alimentée en permanence par l'autre soufflet. Et oui, cela rappelle aussi le petit harmonium portatif indien. J'ai joué une fois sur ce genre d'organetto. C'était en Suisse il y a 25 ans. Cet organetto avait été construit par Freddy Pöschl dans le Basel Land. Exactement comme celui de cette image, avec 2 soufflets côte à côte derrière les tuyaux. Pratique pour l'air continu comme sur une cornemuse mais pas très interessant au niveau dynamiques évidemment. La particularité de l'organetto de Pöschl était que l'on pouvait aussi jouer  avec un seul soufflet, donc faire des variations de pressions. Very clever! Bon ceci-dit, vu tout l'attirail que se trimbale cette Frau Musica-Sainte-Cécile, je pencherais plutôt pour un condensé de portatif et de positif dans ce cas précis, c'est-à-dire la représentation de 2 instruments en 1. Voilà pour mon interprétation de cette image. Si la question de Dominique était: existe-il historiquement des orgues portatifs à deux soufflets, la réponse est oui. Pour être vraiment serieux sur leur construit et leur fonctionnement il faudrait demander leur avis aux facteurs qui ayant effectué le plus de recherches dans ce domaine et réalisés le plus d'instruments: Van der Putten, Rohlf, Quinaglia, Stahl, Keppler, Blumenröder, Fouss et Gibellini.
Avec mes organettistiques salutations
Christophe Deslignes
Nicolas Meeùs. To say that "bellows played by hand do not allow a very precise control of the pressure" is simply wrong. Organetto players have demonstrate in the last three decades that the portativ organ can be tuned in any kind of system, pythagorian, mean tone, equal etc... It depends very much on what kind of music is played. Landini will be played differently tuned than Machault, Dunstable, Paumann ir "Alle psallute cum luya". That this kind of instrument reacts the most to pressure variations does not mean that it cannot been played in tune in any kind of tuning system. Every organetto player tunes his instrument, before playing, with a constant air pressure. The difference with the positif and big organ is that the player himself "calculates" and creates the constant air pressure. The pressure variations should only be used as an expressif means once the constant pressure has been reached successfully! And then, pitch variation possibilities and thus dynamics on the organetto very much depends on if the player is playing alone or together with other instruments. And there's a big difference if the organetto player plays with a harp player or a fiddle player ir a recirder player. Beleived me, I have experience that very offen. In this field I'm affraid that no theory will help. Experience is needed. I hugh amount of experience!
Yours
Christophe

Dire que : les " images d'orgues portatifs, qui représentent en général des instruments à peu près injouables, parce que trop grands, trop lourds, trop longs, trop larges" est également faux. Je pense que le groupe créé par Wilfried Praet, entièrement dédié aux orgues portatif sur Flickr (et où il y a actuellement plus de 1.000 images en ligne), montre que la plupart des orgues portatifs du XIII, XIV et XVème siècles sont représentés à la bonne taille et en situation de jeu. Il existe effectivement quelques exceptions d'instrument très grand (mais franchement comment faire pour savoir qu'ils sont très lourds rien qu'avec des mages...), mais qui, sur l'immense majorité des instruments de petite taille joués assis ou debout, ne sont pas relevantes. D'autre part, comme Catalina l'a justement fait remarqué, Kimberley Marshall a inclus un nombre très important d'images de portatifs et de positifs dans sa thèse de doctorat, qui vont exactement dans ce sens. Cette thèse étant d'ailleurs fort intéressante en ce qui concerne l'évolution des claviers entre le XIème et le XVème siècle. Hickmann avait déjà dans sa thèse de 1934 un nombre suffisant d'images permettant de se rendre compte que l'organetto est un instrument construit à la mesure de celui ou celle qui le joue. Enfin, la portabilité de l'instrument représenté ici n'est pas du tout remise en cause par le fait qu'il y ait 2 soufflets (Catalina a bien confirmé l'expérience que j'avais faite il y a 25 ans, pas de problème pour actionner 2 soufflets sur un portatif avec une seule et même personne, et de toute façon Zwolle décrit ce genre d'instrument) mais bien par la sangle qui n'est pas du tout placée au bon endroit. D'autres questions?...

Nicolas Meeùs said:

Deux éléments de réponse:

1) Les deux soufflets, utilisés chacun par une main en alternance, permettent d'assurer un souffle sans interruption alors que l'instrument ne possède sans doute pas de réservoir régulateur. (Dans les harmoniums, de même, les deux pédales s'utilisent des deux pieds en alternance).

2) Il faut néanmoins toujours se méfier des images d'orgues portatifs, qui représentent en général des instruments à peu près injouables, parce que trop grands, trop lourds, trop longs, trop larges. Ici par exemple, il faudrait une deuxième personne pour manoeuvrer les soufflets, ce qui rend la «portabilité» quelque peu illusoire...

To say that "bellows played by hand do not allow a very precise control of the pressure" is simply wrong. Organetto players have demonstrate in the last three decades that the portativ organ can be tuned in any kind of system, pythagorian, mean tone, equal etc... It depends very much on what kind of music is played. Landini will be played differently tuned than Machault, Dunstable, Paumann ir "Alle psallute cum luya". That this kind of instrument reacts the most to pressure variations does not mean that it cannot been played in tune in any kind of tuning system. Every organetto player tunes his instrument, before playing, with a constant air pressure. The difference with the positif and big organ is that the player himself "calculates" and creates the constant air pressure. The pressure variations should only be used as an expressif means once the constant pressure has been reached successfully! And then, pitch variation possibilities and thus dynamics on the organetto very much depends on if the player is playing alone or together with other instruments. And there's a big difference if the organetto player plays with a harp player or a fiddle player ir a recirder player. Beleived me, I have experience that very offen. In this field I'm affraid that no theory will help. Experience is needed. I hugh amount of experience!
Yours
Christophe

Nicolas Meeùs said:

I have no experience of that, but I very much doubt it. On the one hand, bellows played by hand do not allow a very precise control of the pressure -- enough perhaps to produce some variation in the dynamics, but certainly not the precision needed to achieve just intonation. Besides, even in the early 15th century, organs may have been tuned in some kind of meantone tuning, with the sharps (F#, C#, G# and even D#) almost pure major thirds above the diatonic D, A, E (and B). This tuning has been described among others by Mark Lindley. I could say more about it if needed.

Nicolas

Michael Shields said:

Can I ask whether you think that the dynamic possibilities could also be used to modulate pitch?

It is one thing to tune an instrument in, say, Pythagorean tuning, meantone temperament, or just intonation, and quite another to pass from one of these systems to another merely by varying the wind pressure. I don't mean that the instrument cannot play "in tune", merely that I doubt that variations in wind pressure could finalize the tuning.

Neither meantone nor just intonation are documented before the end of the 15th century -- with Ramos de Pareja's description of pure thirds (1482) being an important step in this evolution. Before that, almost pure thirds were tuned by enharmony, as Pythagorean diminished fourths (say, D-Gb for D-F#). This tuning was first described in the 13th century by Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Urmawī, in an attempt to emulate the quarter tones of Arabic music; the small intervals obtained, however, where commas, not quarter tones. In Western music, it was described among others by Arnaut de Zwolle, who mentioned one such tuning by a certain Baudecetus, who I think may have been Baudenet of Reims, late 14th century.

Mark Lindley discussed the possible adjustments of this tuning to suit the needs of particular pieces of music, but there is no evidence that the instruments were retuned from piece to piece.

I have little doubt that Pythagorean intonation was not used as constantly as the theorical sources seem to indicate. Yet, there is no medieval evidence of this, about which one could only speculate.

Dear Nicolas,

Thanks for this also, I must look at Ṣafī al-Dīn al-Urmawī. I regard the slightly earlier Heilsbronn/Erlangen clavichord tunings (Erlangen UB 554, mid 15th-century) as evidence of just intonations, but I admit they are preceded in the MS by a pythagorean tuning for organ.  I did not mean that one could switch in mid-play from (eg,) Pythagorean to just tuning and back, but that one might (for example) have a number of small organs tuned according to different tunings, Or one might quickly adjust a tuning by moving the wolf, etc.

I do not know whether modern organetto reconstructions really use exactly the same tuning methods as in the 15th century- reshaping or cutting the pipe-end? and I still have not found a medieval description or picture of somebody tuning an organ. That seems not to  be part of the iconographic tradition (and it's not easy to depict). I'd be very grateful if anybody knows of one.

Michael

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