Saturday, October 13, 2012

hurdy gurdy postcard from Germany • Lira Organizzata

a friend who was traveling sent this from Germany awhile back

2609. Orgelleier von César Pons
Grenoble, Ende 18. Jh.

"Gurdy organ" by César Pons
Grenoble, late 18th Century

i am still trying to figure out what the layers under the keys are all about. - looks like maybe sound resonators (?)

Neil Brook: "The instrument in your link is a " Vielle Organisée " which has an air pump operated by the crank to power a pipe organ linked to the keys. They never caught on !!"
^ Neil: thanks! - i wondered why it is so deep!
Neil Brook: "There is a lot going on inside. The bellows are a clever three chamber design to give a constant airflow when the crank turns. It's the same principle as cuckoo clocks use only more powerful."
thanks Neil! sounds like quite a contraption!

Staatliches Institut für Musikforshung, Berlin
thanks Dean!

update -
more info received from Robert Mandel - a whole article on this instrument!

The Lira Organizzata, by Robert Mandel
(From the Book by Robert Mandel: Classical and Romantic Instrument Marvels, Kossuth Publishing, 2008

Known in the French-speaking world as the vielle à roue, the hurdy-gurdy found itself once again in vogue in the eighteenth century. The viellistes of the Parisian streets and the vaudeville theaters were so popular that even wealthy aristocrats were known to take hurdy-gurdy lessons from some of the more capable musicians. During the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV, two hurdy-gurdy virtuosi, Janot and La Roze, even held positions in the orchestra of the popular composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.

The most famous of the aristocratic viellists were Marie Leszczynska, who only played for the enjoyment of it, and Madame Adelaïde, the third daughter of Louis XV, who played the vielle à roue masterfully.

The most renowned maker was Pierre Louvet, but Charles Baton was also of note. In 1757 Baton published “Mémoires sur la vielle” in the newspaper Mercure de France. In it he provided not only the secrets of making the instruments but also introduced his readers to some of the arcana of playing it. The unexpected popularity of the vielle elevated it to the level of a true status symbol to the extent that makers could scarcely keep up with the orders.

During the golden age of the hurdy-gurdy, Esprit Philippe Chedeville, Michel Corrette, Philibert Delavigne, Joseph Bodin de Boismormortier, Jacques-Christophe Naudot,  Jean and Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, and both Leopold and later Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed pieces for it. This golden age ended in 1789 with the French Revolution and the instrument, most beloved in the courts of Versailles, was even banished from Paris for a time. Beyond the borders of France in Naples, the lira organizzata, a version of the hurdy-gurdyfitted with organ pipes, survived the revolution that had devastated the instrument’s homeland.

Ferdinand IV (who later ruled over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies that unified Sicily and Naples as Ferdinand I) was a compulsive collector of musical oddities. At the recommendation of the Viennese Norbert Hadrava, the Austrian ambassador to his court who also served as his private secretary, he ordered two of these organ-vielle combinations. Again following the ambassador’s advice, he commissioned Joseph Haydn to compose simple yet moving duet performance pieces for them.

In 1786, Joseph Haydn wrote five concertos (Lirenkonzerte), and in 1790, eight nocturnes for the instrument, with which he was probably scarcely familiar. In these works the two lire organizzate were played along with two horns, two violins, two violas, a cello, and occasionally a string bass. It is likely that the king played one of the two liras while Hadrava played the second. They commissioned similar works from other well-known composers, and as a result Adalbert Gyrowetz, Ignaz Joseph Pleyel, and Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel all wrote works to be played on King Ferdinand’s vielles.

Robert Mandel
The lira organizzata was used for probably the last time 1810 in La famille savoyarde, a pastoral musical play by Henry Darondeau. Generally known to the French as the vielle organisée, the instrument adds a built-in row of organ pipes to a Baroque guitar-bodied vielle. The characteristic S-curved crank turned not only the rosined wheel that rubbed the instrument’s six strings, but also a hinged transmission that drove a bellows apparatus built into its interior. In order to keep the air pressure and quantity even, the assemble used a multi-chambered bellows that pumped the air to the row of pipes via a vertical airway carved into the instrument’s back, while a check valve kept the air from flowing backwards. This incredibly complex instrument had a very beautiful sound, as modern examples made based on currently non-functional examples preserved in museums bear witness. The most demanding task in playing it would have been getting the two melody strings into tune with each other and precisely adjusting the tangents. These flag-shaped pieces of wood could be turned in holes drilled into the stems of the keys so that they touched the strings in precisely the right place. When a key was pressed in, its end simultaneously opened a valve so that when the tangents reached the strings the organ pipes would sound in unison with them. In order to keep the sound even, the vielle was cranked evenly instead of in the rhythmic manner characteristic of the hurdy-gurdy. This complex instrument never did achieve great success. Instrument collections in Berlin, London, Paris, and Brussels have preserved original examples.

Kossuth Publishers Inc.
- special thanks to Robert Mandel for providing this!

see also
whats more: Hurdy Gurdy - what next blog | video playlist | newspaper
whats more: tag: hurdy gurdy

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Coast Redwod - amazing photo | bonsai

- a great reference shot! i'd been looking for a good profile of a coast redwood since i have been training one as a bonsai, and this one is absolutely incredible - a nearly impossible shot to get since these trees are so huge, and since they are in the forest(!) you can't just back up to get a shot like this! - - 
"It involved three cameras, a team of scientists, a robotic dolly, a gyroscope, an 83-photo composite and a lot of patience." more about this photo below, including video

i'm training a bonsai redwood - it will start to look like something in another 3 to 5 years; and then another 10! ...and then another 50!

longer branches will be removed or trimmed eventually (now at this age it still needs this leggy vegetation, so it doesn't look so great). it will begin to take shape later, with more short branches and less overall width.

via Redwood Coast "Glad you like. It's too big for FB. Here's a larger image:"
This Redwood National Park giant was on the cover and in an 8-page centerfold of National Geographic in October 2009.

Biggest, Tallest Tree Photo Ever

National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols is one of the world's foremost wildlife photographers. But he recently said that he'd happily spend the rest of his life photographing trees. Of course, the folks over at National Geographic would almost certainly never hear of it. Nichols' newfound love developed after a serious, yearlong relationship with redwoods.
National Geographic sent Nichols to spend an entire year in California's redwood forest. His mission was to capture the majesty of some of the tallest trees on Earth, some of which date back before Christ. And if you've ever photographed in a forest, you'll understand the challenge this presented. There's no capturing the awe one feels before these monoliths that measure, in some cases, upward of 300 feet.
In a recent lecture at National Geographic in Washington, D.C., Nichols described his frustrations. Eventually, though, he devised a way to do redwoods justice. It involved three cameras, a team of scientists, a robotic dolly, a gyroscope, an 83-photo composite and a lot of patience. (And, OK, maybe it's not the Biggest, Tallest Tree Photo Ever — but it's the biggest one I've ever seen.) Here's how they did it:

Uploaded by  on Sep 23, 2009
Photographer Nick Nichols spent a year planning the nearly impossible: a top-to-bottom photograph of a 300-foot-tall redwood tree, now the centerpiece of the October issue of National Geographic Magazine.
Watch Nick in "Explorer: Climbing Redwood Giants" on the National Geographic Channel

The photograph appears as a huge foldout in the the October issue of National Geographic magazine, which hits newsstands today and is definitely worth reading. The magazine, with the help of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Save The Redwoods League, also sent explorer-in-residence Mike Fay on a transect from the southernmost redwood in Big Sur to the northernmost tree near Oregon's Chetco River. It took him and his hiking partner, Lindsey Holm, more than a year of non-stop hiking to complete the trek of more than 2,000 miles. It also took three pairs of shoes.

Redwoods have been heavily forested over the past few decades and are only just now beginning to replenish in numbers. With the enormous collection of data compiled by Fay and other conservationists, we now know more than ever about this thin stretch of ancient forest along the California coast. To learn more, check out the extensive coverage on

Biggest, Tallest Tree Photo Ever : The Picture Show : NPR