Artis Wodehouse's chance spotting and subsequent restoration of a little four-octave Mason & Hamlin foot pump organ opened the door to her awareness of the reed organ. What she learned has lead her to the conviction that the reed organ should be brought back to a living presence because of its rich tonal beauty. A reed organ has a hauntingly beautiful sound like no other. Equally desirable is the intimate rapport a performer can establish with it. Unlike the pipe organ that mechanically provides a steady stream of air to the pipes via an electric blower, the reed organist by foot pumping provides the starting energy for the air sounding the reeds. When sensitive foot pumping is combined with fine finger control and careful manipulation of the reed organ's knee swell pedal, a performance can be molded and sculpted in a subtle and idiosyncratic manner.
Click on to see and read about Artis Wodehouse's instruments:
- Trayser Harmonium - grandest, with 2 manuals ... MORE
- Estey Artist Model Z - for refined artists ... MORE
- Mason & Hamlin Style 86K - unique capabilities ... MORE
- Mason & Hamlin Liszt Organ - top of the line model ... MORE
- Portable Mason & Hamlin -instrument carried west in covered wagons ... MORE
How a reed organ works
By foot pumping the bellows, the foot pump reed organist supplies a steady flow of air to the instrument that can be made to vibrate the reeds by depressing the keys. The reeds are made of brass and clamped at one end, like a cantilever bar. They are free reeds, coupled directly with the air. Reed organs are called suction instruments, because the air is sucked into the instrument in order to initiate the reed vibration. Other types of reed organs - particularly European models - instead blow air outward (pressure) through the reeds. These are referred to as harmoniums. Generally speaking, the harmonium has a more focused, brilliant sound, and the reed organ a sweeter and more mellow one.
Reed organ manufacturers developed reeds that sound with a wonderful array of tone colors. This was accomplished by careful selection of the composition of the metal, the size and placement of the brass reeds.
In contrast to a piano, whose notes die away after the string is struck, the pump organ is a self-sustaining oscillator. What this means is that the notes are initiated and maintained like any reed instrument (oboe, clarinet, etc.) as long as air is supplied and allowed to flow through the reed.
Restoration and Maintenance
All of Artis Wodehouse's instruments have required painstaking restoration and maintenance. Randolph Herr, a long-time collaborator with Wodehouse (he provided the expertise needed to restore and maintain the Pianola push-up she used for her Gershwin piano roll project) is responsible for overseeing the work being done on her reed organs and harmonium.