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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000212.txt from 1999/04

From: "Mark Charette" <>
Subj: [kl] Materials when decoupled from the performer
Date: Sun, 4 Apr 1999 11:06:24 -0400

There was an experiment done (article was in the Windworld some time
back when issues were online. It seems that Windworld went out of
business) that decoupled the material from the performer in a wind
instrument. I'm restating this from memory, and I'm sure it's
essentially correct, but if anyone has the issue of Windworld in
question and can correct it, please feel free:

Now, I and I'm sure many others assumed that since the tubes on a pipe
organ are pretty thin that they'd vibrate and add their harmonics to the
sound produced by the organ. After all, considering the volume produced
by pipe organs, it would only stand to reason that those tubes would do
_something_ to the music when they vibrated.

So, someone (I wish I could remember who!) devised a devious experiment.
They jacketed the tubes on the pipe organ with another tube, but left
the air exit (nozzle) opened, of course. This left an air space between
the two tubes.

They had an organist play with an audience present, asking them to make
note of the sound. The space between the pipes was then filled with
water while the organist was playing - something, I think most of us
would agree, should change the sound produced in _some_ way.

The audience perceived no difference in sound, and if we are to believe
that the human ear is a very sensitive device, it should have (Benade's
book on Musical Acoustics does show the human ear to be a very sensitive
device in many regards). That took me aback - I had assumed the
materials make a difference, especially in something like a powerful
organ. Why do the different ranks make different sounds? Flute rank?
Diapason? Why are some wood, then? There are explanations and reasons,
but the material properties of the pipes are made of doesn't seem to be
one of them.

The sound production methods (air column vibrations) between clarinet
and pipe organ are essentially the same, except that the metal organ
pipes are substantially thinner and vibrate easier due to their material

In this case the performer (organist) was totally decoupled mechanically
from the physical sound production mechanism (he/she didn't "touch" the
tubes, only opened and closed valves which allowed air into the
respective tubes).

To be clear and precise, this effect is what I mean when I talk of the
materials not affecting the sound.
"Cards by Aimee",
"The phenomenon is too variable for proper study" often
translates from "I don't know how to get musicians to do
anything twice the same" - A. H. Benade

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