A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Electric Action

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ELECTRIC ACTION. Under the head Key-movement a description is given of the usual forms in which communication is established between the claviers of an organ and the soundboard pallets which admit wind for the service of the pipes.

There are some situations, however, in which it is difficult or even impossible to establish a satisfactory connection by means of the ordinary mechanism; or if possible is scarcely desirable on account of drawbacks which may easily be foreseen. Apart from the tendency to derangement inevitable in the numerous parts of an extended movement of the kind under consideration, the trackers when so very long are apt to expand with the damp and shrink with the drought; and if in tracker-work, traversing a distance of 30 feet or more, the total alteration amounts to no more than one eighth of an inch, that is quite sufficient to cause a thorough disarrangement. The normal depth for the touch of an organ is three eighths of an inch. If reduced by one eighth—to a quarter of an inch—the pallets are opened imperfectly, the wind admitted is insufficient, and the organ sounds out of tune: if increased by that much—to half an inch—some of the pallets are drawn slightly open, and hummings or 'cypherings' are the result.

Some other means of communication, which should if possible be less under the influence of atmospheric variation, and therefore better adapted to withstand the frequent sudden changes of our climate, as well as for other reasons, thus became a great desideratum, and two were devised—first the electric action,' and then the 'pneumatic tubular transmission system.'

The earliest patent for anything like electric action was taken out by the late Dr. Gauntlett in 1851, who proposed erecting in the Great Exhibition of that year facsimiles of the eight most celebrated organs in Europe, and playing them all together or separately from the centre of the building by electric agency; but the suggestion was not favourably received. In 1863 Mr. Goundry patented an elaborate electric system; and in 68 Mr. Barker protected his 'electro-pneumatic system' for opening pallets, drawing stops, etc.; since then Messrs. Bryceson[1] have simplified the system by devising a new form of pallet which offers no resistance in opening, and thus does away with the necessity for the pneumatic bellows. The action may be thus briefly described. Each key is furnished with a rocking lever provided with a copper point, which latter, on being depressed, is plunged into a mercury cell, and so establishes the electric current. The other end of the wire is furnished with an electro-magnet, acting directly on the pallet. The insulated wires of the several keys can be gathered up into a cable not more than an inch in diameter and carried in any desired direction, and to any distance, without there being any appreciable interval between the touch upon the keys and the response at the pipes.

[ E. J. H. ]

  1. The house of Bryceson—now Messrs. Bryceson Brothers & Morten—was founded in 1798 by Henry Bryceson. Amongst their instruments may be mentioned those at the Great Concert Hall, Brighton; the Pro-Cathedral, Kensington; St. Michael's, Cornhill; St. Peter and St. Paul, Cork; and that for Mr. Holmes, Primrose Hill Road.