Playing the changes: rediscovering the lexicon of electronic organ performance practice from 1943 to 2015

Stanbury, Christopher (2017) Playing the changes: rediscovering the lexicon of electronic organ performance practice from 1943 to 2015. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the historical development of the electronic organ via the survey, analysis and comparison of stylistic practices heard in historic recordings.

This project establishes that the instrument went through several significant stages of development since its introduction in 1935, which have hitherto been undocumented in scholarly work. As this thesis will show, the changing design of the instrument can be aligned with an evident expansion in the stylistic lexicon of musical arrangement and performance. This aural-based micro-genre of electronic music is rediscovered via a multi-faceted survey model that triangulates the results of transcribed recordings, reconstructive performance on period instruments and practitioner survey. This addresses the typical challenge of historical instrument study: that of defining the degree to which technology shapes musical performance.

Chapter One places the instrument within a cultural context via a review of literature. The reason for the instrument’s lack of appeal to musicologists is explained as the result of an image problem: the instrument is often regarded as a dated appliance of home entertainment and exists within a method of practice which aligns more closely to that of jazz than Western art music. By removing stereotypes and establishing the displaced cultural values that the instrument embodies, it is possible to see the true value of the research process.

Chapter Two begins to present the findings of the survey by examining some of the earliest recordings made on the Hammond organ. The chapter illustrates how certain design flaws in an instrument that was originally
Christopher Stanbury Introduction 6 intended as a low-cost replacement for a pipe organ led to an entirely different trajectory than the inventor’s initial ecclesiastical application.

Chapter Three details further updates to the original Hammond design whilst correcting and expanding upon previous definitions of features that are defined in literature. The Lowrey organ is also introduced, along with an illustration of why the unique features and tonal qualities of the instrument resulted in a different approach to musical arrangement and performance.

Chapter Four documents the introduction of emulative voicing, whereby instruments of the nineteen seventies and early eighties were designed to imitate the sound of other acoustic instruments. The resultant change in arrangement and performance style is illustrated and compared to the results of previous chapters.

Chapter Five details instruments made by the Yamaha Corporation that feature digital synthesis technologies. The vast distance between these instruments and previous models, both in terms of technological profile and resultant performance practice, is illustrated and discussed.

Chapter Six provides a summary of the survey findings and reexamines the evident changes in the instrument and performance practice. The nature of the relationship between organist and instrument is discussed, along with a return to some of the literature reviewed in Chapter One. Discrepancies between the conclusions of some authors and those of this thesis are outlined and discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Music > Music/audio technology
Music > Music performance
Depositing User: Kevin Sanders
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2018 08:46
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2018 08:46
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/4753

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