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Topic: circus/carnival organ?

  1. #1

    circus/carnival organ?


    Would any of you kids know what the name of that organesque instrument typically found in carnival or circus music? The only reference I can find is a \"puff organ\", but is there any other term given to it? And what exactly is it?

    Anyone know of a library that would contain such a specific sound?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

    Re: circus/carnival organ?

    There are two types of organ to be found in circus/carnival/fairground environments.

    The first is the \"Calliope\" otherwise known as the steam organ. The construction is similar to a conventional pipe organ with the exception that since steam is used as the \"air\" the mechanism is made out of metal. Due to the high pressure of steam, the sound is very loud since it is in essence, a rank of steam train whistles. Due to the pressures used, the scale of the pipes is very large and thus a fairly pure ear splitting sine wave tone is produced since the large scaling precludes the development of upper harmonics - similar to the Tibia of the Cinema/Theatre organ. The steam creates a fairly chiffy attack (hence the \"puff\" description I would imagine).

    The second type is the traditional fairground organ which is almost identical in construction to the church organ with the exception of the player mechanism which allows the instrument to be played by card or paper rolls. There are no keyboards and in general no complete ranks except for the melody register which usually has up to two octaves of chromatic pipework. The bass may have only 5 or six pipes in total - just enough to provide a simple I-IV-V bass. Sizes range from a couple of octaves of flute pipes right up to gargantuan instruments of many tonal ranks together with percussion; tuned and otherwise.
    the most famous makers were Marenghi and Gavioli although Wurlitzer also produced some.

    Tonally, the sound is very different to either the Calliope or to conventional church/cinema instruments. Once again high pressure plays it\'s part so that enough volume can be heard over the mechanical noise of the various rides and carousels but the construction of the pipes differs considerably in many cases.

    There is always a flute rank open or closed of conventional construction and form, usually a piccolo rank of really strange construction, wooden string ranks often with detuned celestes and \"frein harmoniques\" or beards to encourage a sharp edgy tone. Reeds include trumpets and trombones with flared resonators in brass and occasionally a clarinet. There is also the Baryton or Vox Humana to be found in the largest instruments.

    I don\'t know of anyone who has actually created a sample set of any of these instruments and it\'s one of the projects that I have in mind. As regards the calliope, I don\'t think that there are any examples outside of the USA and even then they must be pretty rare.

    Hope this helps in giving you some ideas for creating the sound artificially in the absence of the real things as yet.

  3. #3

    Re: circus/carnival organ?

    Further research into this matter brings to light that the Calliope was a distinctly American invention.

    Only 120 were ever made and something like only 20 survive of which 4 are situated on Mississippi paddle steamers.

    Preperation for a performance take s considerable time since steam has to be raised before playing can ensue.

    Thus the possibilities of sampling one would seem to be difficult to achieve.....

  4. #4

    Re: circus/carnival organ?

    Thanks so much for your input! :-)

    I came across this interesting page during my research:


    I\'d love to see one of those in action. :-)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: circus/carnival organ?

    Originally posted by EviLjuaN:
    Thanks so much for your input! :-)

    I came across this interesting page during my research:


    I\'d love to see one of those in action. :-)
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Interesting you should mention it. Small world. Those machines now live in Eureaka Springs, Arkansas...I have seen them, and even heard a few. The guy who purchased them bought the entire Disney collection, which is even more extensive than the collection on that website.

    They are very cool. The first GigaStudios, haha.

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