Acoustics has played a central role in church organ development . In fact, it has been said that a building’s acoustics is the most important stop on an organ.
The organ is known as the “King of Instruments” due to its unique polyphony, allowing a single musician to play dozens of sounds, simultaneously. The fundamental sounds of pipe organs were developed in the acoustical environments of European churches, which allowed these varied sounds to work together in cohesive ensembles.
The tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral Paris in April 2019 brought to the forefront the importance of building acoustics. With the damage to the building, it is feared that the sonic footprint of the Cathedral could not be reproduced, even after the building is restored. A recently published article, “How to restore the legendary acoustics of Notre Dame” reviews the importance of this challenge in detail concluding: “As a result, the roots of modern Western music may have been shaped by the acoustics of Notre Dame.”
As reported in the article, link supplied below, advanced digital technology is being used to help re-create Notre Dame’s original acoustics. “Now, as the cathedral is rebuilt, researchers are using principles of physics to understand and protect the medieval church’s reverberant acoustics.” This emphasizes the importance of the acoustical rebuild of the Cathedral with researcher Brian Katz of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Sorbonne University in Paris commenting that the Cathedral’s personality had been erased with the lost acoustics. His goal is to use advanced technology to rebuild the building’s sonic signature.
Scientists, like Katz, use advanced physics through a technique called convolution to accurately re-create a real acoustical environment. With convolution, the sonic fingerprint of a building is recorded with the resulting algorithms used to apply these acoustics to any sound.
A challenge with convolution is that it requires significant processing power, in excess of hundreds of million calculations per second. This technology is state-of-the-art and available in premium audio equipment.
Many digital organ manufacturers continue to use digital reverberation, an older technology that is not capable of reproducing actual acoustics. In contrast, Allen Organs employ Acoustic Portrait™ with convolution technology accurately reproducing the acoustics of famous buildings, as well as enabling the interplay between sounds in an organ chamber, as found in pipe organs. Only with convolution technology can digital organs not only accurately reproduce the sounds of famous pipe organs, but also the buildings in which they were originally installed.