An Old Model for a New Organ

Building Cornell’s baroque organ has been a huge international project, made possible by email, scanners, cell phones and fax machines. Yet at the same time the project has followed a 17th-century organizational style.organ assembly

Organ building in Germany originated in the guild system, according to Anette Schwartz, chair of German Studies. Master builders such as Arp Schnitger, designer of the organs on which Cornell’s was based, would travel to the construction site and supervise a large team of local carpenters and pipe makers. In just the same way has the Japanese Munetaka Yokota, designer of Cornell’s organ, moved his entire family from Sweden to Ithaca for the year it is taking to assemble and voice the organ.

Like a guild’s master builder, Yokota supervised local craftsmen such as Christopher Lowe, builder of the case, and Parsons Pipe Organs, creators of the wind system and key action. “This is a brilliant coming together,” says Schwartz.