The Anywhere Organ

I designed and built a giant mobile pipe organ out of salvaged church organ pipes.

This sculpture grew out of a series of conversations I had with professional organists Paul Bergin and Shay Veloso. They informed me that churches are regularly scrapping pipe organs to avoid the maintenance costs and dwindling experts who know how to tune, repair, and play them.

The upside is that you can find tons of vintage organ pipes for the cost of renting a truck to pick them up. I put together a proposal to turn these unwanted pipes into a huge, mobile sculpture that could turn any space into its own sonic cathedral, and The Awesome Foundation and Feast Brooklyn awarded me a pair of grants to make it a reality.

I built the Anywhere Organ over the course of a few months, first experimenting with air power systems and arrangements for pipes. Once I had a good baseline understanding of the constraints on the system, I built a parametric system for generating groups of organ pipes in airtight flat-pack containers and had the design laser cut out of 3/4″ plywood. The instrument is powered by a MIDI interface, allowing it to connect to keyboards for live performances and a computer for automated ones. It uses a relay breakout to drive the host of magnehelic valves that control air flow through the individual pipes.

After some assembly, The Anywhere Organ was ready to take on the road. The sculpture showed at Maker Faire (where it took home an Editor’s Choice blue ribbon), Figment NYC, and The Irondale Center. I also was thrilled to show the sculpture off at the Theater Is Evil kickoff party, even getting to play a song with Amanda Plamer during the event.

The sculpture grew even more through a successful kickstarter campaign. I built, promoted, and managed the campaign in addition to designing and shipping all of the backer rewards.

The sculpture is open source, and you can download the CAD files yourself on Thingiverse. You can learn more about its history and showings here.