of Old and New: Oberlin's C.B. Fisk Organ ...continued
has even outdone one of Cavaillé-Coll's own innovations
his Barker Lever, a pneumatic assist. Fisk's answer is
the Servopneumatic Lever.
The Barker Lever solved certain romantic-era mechanical problems.
Keys within a manual could be coupled (a key automatically playing
its octave, for example), and manuals themselves could be coupled,
so that a single keystroke opened multiple valves. With all these
mechanisms in play, the necessary key pressure would be unwieldy,
says Thomson. "You'd need to exert an excessive amount of
finger and foot pressure to push the keys down."
The Barker Lever incorporated in the Grand Orgue division
augmented the organist's key action with pneumatic pressure.
But the Barker Lever created an on-off effect and was maintenance
Like Barker Levers, Fisk's Servopneumatic Levers augment the
keystrokes of the Grand Orgue, but through an ingenious mechanical
arrangement invented by long-time Fisk employee, Stephen Kowalyshyn,
they track the keystroke, allowing the organist to open the valve
slowly or suddenly, as he or she wishes.
organ's designers have deftly added elements necessary to 20th-century
music: a few more keys in each division and a handful of new stops.
Using the organ's computerized system, an organist can preset
myriad registrations (stop combinations), and put each into effect
at the touch of a button. Or the player can use the French Mode, in
which the spoon-shaped bronze foot pedals recreate Cavaillé-Coll's
innovative mechanism for changing registrations.
"Oberlin is one of two or three institutions in America that
have been leaders in organ studies," says Dean of the Conservatory
Robert K. Dodson. "This is a fulfillment of that destiny. It
speaks to Oberlin's position in the musical universe."
"We've been fortunate to build at a lot of the places in
the United States where people learn to play the organ," says
Fisk vice president Gregory Bover. "Oberlin is perhaps the king
. . . of that group. We know the organ will be appreciated."
Haskell Thomson throws his head back with delight when asked how he
feels about Opus 116. "I go over during the voicing and I play
and I listen and I think, Is this real?' David (Boe) and
I worked on this project for 10 years. The thought of moving from
abstractions, from pure paper, to this living thing that is being
built up right in front of our eyes it's absolutely incredible!"
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