SPENDOR: S8E test review

SALLY REYNOLDS: Once I had the opportunity to explore the Great Organ at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. This Aeolian- Skinner's 8000 or so pipes live in two huge "attics" above the choir lofts on both sides of the main apse. I was taken up among them by the organ tuner, climbing through dusty spaces and across beams. His assistant played a note, and the tuner tapped at each pipe in turn. The experience was magical from start to finish, but two particular events stand out in my memory. After the tuning was done, the assistant organist came in to play and I stood high over the ground floor, in the forest of treble and midrange pipes, from a tiny two or three inches to several feet in height, hearing truly organic sound for the only time in my life.

At such close range, organ music gets through your skin and into your body, and moves around in there. You can barely make out a melody and really you don't care, any more than you care what's on your car radio when you go into a skid—the fact that sound accompanies your physical experience will be with you forever, but the actual music is unimportant. (I started to say "incidental" till I recollected the musical connotation of that word.) The second event was when I stood in front of the 32' pedal pipe—a great wooden box, tall and broad, with a maw of an opening. The organist called out: "Now!" And I heard—nothing. But my skirt blew in the wind from that opening. Then, long seconds later and a hundred feet behind me, came the note. Not the fundamental, but a harmonic, booming and shaking. And then, in a few moments, the organist filled the entire cathedral with glorious layers of the sound of Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary.

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