In April of 2019, fire ripped through Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral. Its magnificent pipe organ was not burned, but it was covered with smoke and toxic dust, and then exposed to the elements. So the organ and its 8,000 pipes are in the process of cleaning and restoration -which is expected to take five years.
To see an organ being dismantled is to watch men work in the belly of a colossal beast. Pipes of wood or metal come out like ribs and must be carefully placed and ordered in containers for storage and transport. At Notre Dame, the largest pipe is 32 feet long (representing the lowest bass note), and the smallest about half the length of a pencil. The organ is essentially based on medieval technology; the earliest incarnations at Notre Dame date as far back as the 14th century, though the current instrument dates to 1733 and has undergone a number of modifications since.
But the music that comes from such an organ is not only reliant on the pipes. The architecture around it, the organist who plays it, and even the care that goes into its maintenance all affect the sound. Read about the ins and out of the world’s greatest pipe organs at Atlas Obscura.
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