The Anywhere Organ

I’m developing an enormous interactive musical sculpture called the Anywhere Organ. It uses organ pipes, salvaged from discarded church organs. With a combination of some electronics and CAD I’ve designed a system that can easily be expanded to more voices and pipes as I gather more pipes and add to the instrument.

This sculpture is about replicating all the most incredible aspects of pipe organs: the way they fill a space with sound, how the instrument and the building that houses it are all part of the same sonic system playing each other, how beautiful the pipes are when seen rank upon rank together, how they can mix different voices and instruments together to create complex other-worldly sounds. The crucial difference between your ordinary run-of-the-mill organ and the Anywhere Organ is that the Anywhere Organ can be brought anywhere, turning any space into a cathedral of sound.

Painting organ bits late at night.

Since church organs are fading out, steadily being replaced by digital music systems, it’s become easy to find salvaged organ parts. I’ve created a design that can easily be scaled to fit any collection of pipes from any organ. That means I can integrate pipes from hundreds of different derelict organs into one complete instrument.

Dynamically generated CAD through SolidWorks.

I’d like to make the Anywhere Organ as large, beautiful, and easy to play as possible. I’d like to create elaborate installations that make music in response to people dancing. I’d like to hybrid with musicians to make Bach concertos in abandoned buildings.

I’ve been building and refining designs for nearly two years, trying to produce a bulletproof installation that can survive the slings and arrows of ad hoc public installations. One of the major advantages of doing my prototyping through laser cutting is that different iterations are quick to produce and aren’t hampered by imperfections in execution. What you draw is what you get when it comes to laser cutting.

Me holding up the “Editor’s Choice” award at World Maker Faire 2011.

The organ has played at World Maker Faire 2011 (where it won an “Editor’s Choice” award), the Lost Circus, Figment NYC, and the Amanda Palmer Kickstarter Countdown (where it was played by the Grand Theft Orchestra and Amanda Palmer herself). It has been featured on the Dark Roasted BlendKickstarterCoilhouse, and MakeZINEFEAST and The Awesome Foundation have been absolutely instrumental in the process of bringing this idea to fruition. I also had a massive surge of help from Kickstarter, recently, funding the Anywhere Organ to the tune of $3001!

For a running record of my progress you should take a look at The source for the Anywhere Organ has also been released on Thingiverse.