This instrument comes with a ready-made question attached to it: Why?
And a response printed on the reverse side of said question: Why not? 😉
About two years ago I saw an add online where someone was selling used organ pipes. I found myself fascinated with the idea of owning pipes from an organ… but didn’t have a reason or application for them. When I thought about it further and asked myself what I would do with a bunch of loose organ pipes… I decided that I would probably find some way to strap them to my body and make music.
Fast forward 2 years and I have a bunch of organ pipes in my workshop (49 of them, to be exact). Although I still haven’t used them. This first incarnation of what I’ve come to call the “borgan”, or backpack-organ, is actually an air driven reed organ. The sound is produced when air flows over metal reeds in the keyboards.
The keyboards came from a pair of lonely, sad and broken accordions that I found in a local antique shop. I decided I didn’t want to use accordions in good working order… because to create this instrument I would have to destroy two accordions in the process. So, I fixed the keyboard side of both instruments up and salvaged the components that I would need to create the borgan.
The instrument is 100% acoustic and human powered. Air is pumped by the feet using a pair of home-made foot bellows pumps which can strap onto the wearer’s shoes.
The foot pumps are hooked into the accordion bellows, which have been linked together to serve as the pressure chamber for the instrument. When the wearer’s feet move up and down, it fills the bellows.
When the keys are pressed, air travels through the larger air hoses shown on the left and right in the picture above. It flows into an air intake on the back of the keyboard assembly and then out through the reeds.
It’s not a very practical instrument, but it’s a lot of fun to play 🙂 The key difference between this instrument and, say, a standard accordion is that it makes it possible to easily play independent lines of melody with both hands as opposed to melody with the right hand and only chords with the left.
The best, most surprising and interesting part of this project? I discovered in the process of making it that I am not alone! There is a man in Argentina, Núñez Cortés, who built a very similar instrument in the 1980’s. It is a lovely instrument and it’s creator is one of my personal heros. Here is a link to information on his instrument which he calls the Organo De Campanias. http://www.lesluthiers.com/frame_instrumentos.htm