Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rockefeller Chapel's Organ


The E.M. Skinner Organ (opus 634)

Built with the Chapel itself in 1928, Rockefeller Chapel’s regal organ is one of four University organs of the American organ-builder E.M. Skinner (the others being at Yale, Princeton, and Michigan). These organs are considered among the finest examples of 20th century romantic organs built in America. Rockefeller’s organ, Opus 634, was unveiled at a recital by Lynnwood Farnam, reportedly to a crowd of over 2,500 admirers, on November 1, 1928.

In the Rockefeller organ, Skinner fully invested his genius for realizing a full orchestral sound, with a complete collection of voices and many soft ethereal effects. Many of the large pipe scales, which are necessary to achieve a full sound in a building the size of the Chapel, are no longer built and thus cannot be found in contemporary organs. The original Chapel organ included four manuals, and had 6,610 organ pipes in 108 ranks; since its 2008 restoration, it now has 8,565 pipes in 132 ranks. Its bay of pipes, located in the Chapel chancel, is a work of art in itself and is an integral element of the interior architecture of Rockefeller. In addition to the chancel organ located at the front of the chapel, Skinner installed a gallery organ in the upper balcony of the Chapel, to accompany the gallery choir. The organs can be played independently or as one, using either console.

The “Ideal” Organ

As a young man during the late nineteenth century, Ernest M. Skinner dropped out of school after failing a course in Latin and sought work in the music industry. While singing as a tenor in a Pennsylvania church, he was introduced to his first pipe organ, a hand-blown one, which he described as a clumsy instrument. During the next 20 years of his life he sought to correct this clumsiness by introducing a self-playing pipe organ with the ability to emulate all the sounds of a symphony orchestra. By the late 1920s, Skinner had virtually succeeded in his creation, influenced by French and English organ makers, in particular the Willis Company of England. Skinner pipe organs could successfully play literature from all eras, including the works of Bach as well as orchestral transcriptions, popular during the early twentieth century.

Rockefeller Chapel's Carillon

Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon

This carillon, and its sister instrument at Riverside Church in New York City (also named the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon), were the masterworks of the Gillett & Johnston bell foundry of Croydon, England. Carillons of this size had never before been made, and have not been made since that time. The Chicago instrument, comprising 72 bells and 100 tons of bronze, is the single largest musical instrument ever built. Its bells were cast over a three-year period and include a massive 18.5-ton bourdon sounding a low C#. The definitive history of manufacturer Cyril Johnston’s career, including his collaboration with John D. Rockefeller, Jr., has recently been told by Johnston’s daughter, Jill, in “England’s Child.”

This carillon was installed during the summer of 1932, a year after the New York instrument, and was dedicated during Thanksgiving week of that year. The design consultant was Frederick Mayer, organist and choirmaster at West Point (the sister chapel designed by Rockefeller architect Bertram Goodhue), who heralded the improvements Johnston had made on the heels of the more experimental Riverside carillon. Since carefully-tuned carillon bells of this size had never before been created, Mayer took the ground-breaking step of placing the 14 largest bells below the playing cabin so that the sound of these bells would not deafen the performer to the smaller bells. Similarly, he laid out these 58 smaller bells so that the tiniest of them would be directly above the cabin, with the larger ones higher in the tower (this arrangement was changed in the 2006-08 restoration with the audience rather than the carillonneur in mind). He also placed trapdoors in the roof of the cabin, thus providing the carillonneur with a balanced sound. In order to allow the performer to practice without disturbing the neighborhood, a practice instrument with an identical keyboard and pedalboard was installed in the playing cabin, whose keys were attached to metal chimes. Finally, to protect the bells from weather, movable wooden shutters were installed in the openings of the tower.

In the 1960s, under the direction of Daniel Robins, the third University Carillonneur, several changes were made to the installation. First, it was noted that having a practice keyboard in the playing cabin 235 steps up the tower was not an ideal situation. The practice keyboard was therefore disassembled and reassembled in a new space in the lower level of the Chapel, a development for which successive generations of carillon students have been particularly grateful. At the same time, the movable wooden shutters had become warped and immobile, and were replaced by stationary angled louvers. Finally, after three decades of use, many of the soft iron clappers had become flattened from repeatedly striking the harder bronze bells. To remedy this, their flat shanks were turned 180 degrees in order to once again present a round surface to the bell.

By the 1990s, several factors were adversely affecting the instrument. With the passing of another thirty-year period, the clappers were again becoming flattened and turning them 180 degrees back to their original position was pointless. The louvers, while protecting the bells from inclement weather, prevented the sounds of the smallest bells from reaching the ground (higher audio frequencies must have “line of sight” with the listener to be heard). The mechanism connecting the clappers to the playing console used the 1930s-era design that involved heavy connecting rods and counterweights for the largest bells and was unnecessarily bulky when compared to modern linkages and materials (and this mechanism had deteriorated throughout).

A major restoration was undertaken in 2006-08.

Monday, June 11, 2012

鳕鱼角(Cape Cod)


每次开车到波士顿一定是最先看到这个闪闪发光的金顶, 然后,开始在圆盘里绕几个弯,查尔斯河就在眼前了。

公司在剑桥的一座玻璃楼高楼里, 就在查尔斯河畔。从窗户里望出去,波士顿就在河的对岸。天气暖和晴朗的时候,河里有许多帆船。

我从来都是走路进城的。波士顿城区不大,即使从剑桥,也走不了多长时间。 从剑桥往城里走, 会经过好几座庞大的混凝土水泥楼, 和整个城市的风貌非常不相称。这大多是上个世纪60年代的建筑。

从来没有一个城市像波士顿一样让我如此留恋。一年四季,我都可以在它的大街小巷里晃悠闲逛。刚才还和Kerwin说, 下次我再到波士顿, 就和他漫无边际的逛街。 


Sunday, June 3, 2012



来美国看到的第一个动心的电影是汤姆。汉克主演的《费城》,才知道男人之间的爱也可以催人泪下,男人和男人也可以生死与共。Philadelphia, 全称“费拉德尔菲亚”。英文简称为 Philly。该词的由二个希腊单词组成,Philos 意思为 爱,adelphos 意思为兄弟。所以费城也被称为 “city of brotherly love”,“兄弟之爱之城”。兄弟之爱也可以是情人之爱。 



Friday, June 1, 2012