Colorful Sounds on a Monochrome Instrument
The organ which I play on a regular basis has a limited supply of “Color” stops for use in solo melodies. Can you perhaps suggest any remedy?
Dear Mono Chrome,
Other than enlarging or completely replacing your current instrument, fortunately there are some available methods to simulate the color or traditional solo ranks in the organ. Here are several frequently used techniques:
Orchestral Oboe – Combine a string (i.e. salicional) 8’ and mutation (nasard) 2-2/3’
Orchestral Clarinet – Combine bourdon 8’ and mutation (nasard) 2-2/3’
Vox Humana – Combine string celeste 8’, nasard 2-2/3’, tierce 1-3/5’ and tremolo, perhaps omitting either the nasard or the tierce
Harmonic Flute – Combine flutes and bourdons 8’ on all manuals
French Horn – Compare all bourdons and flutes in the middle register to find one which might most closely approximate a French horn.
On each of these combinations, play with articulations resembling those of the actual orchestral instruments: try to simulate the tonguing of an oboist or clarinetist, the sparkling articulation of the flutist, or the tonguing of the French horn. It is also helpful when playing on trumpet ranks to employ articulation resembling tonguing of an actual trumpeter. When using a combination of principal ranks, one might emulate the warm legato sound of orchestral strings.
Employing strong creative imagination and varied touch, we can produce organ sonority to resemble a vast array of orchestral sounds. Robert Glascow frequently suggested that we organists should always imagine that we are playing a wide variety of other instruments, thereby bringing greater variety and musicality to organ performance.
In a half-serious manner, the organbuilder Franklin Mitchell occasionally proposed installation of blank stopknobs (without names) on consoles, thereby requiring players to register by listening carefully to the sounds rather than by merely reading names on the knobs. Realizing that eyesight can often interfere with one’s ability to listen deeply, I suggest that you try sometime to close your eyes and register a composition according to the sounds you hear. You might be surprised with the result!