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Cornell Baroque Organ

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Burning the rack to seal pipe from moisture

The True Value of Noise

Throughout history, organ builders have striven for a steadier sound and to silence the noise of the key action. Modern organs have achieved this goal—to a fault, according to designer Munetaka Yokota. "Modern organs are easy to play and consistent," he says. "No matter what you do it sounds good. But they're missing the expressiveness old organs have."

Music written for old instruments assumes a greater level of control over the soundA page of Johann Sebastian Bach's music than modern organs provide, as well as certain limitations modern instruments don't have. "Because modern organists don't have these limitations and experiences, they can't reflect how the music was written to be performed," says Yokota. "The sound and action and how old instruments play all goes together."

It's virtually impossible to teach old techniques of playing on a modern organ since they don't respond the same way. That's why Cornell's baroque organ has such important pedagogical value. "You must have the organ giving feedback," says Yokota. "The organ itself is the best teacher."