Instruments | Organ | Late Romantic | Classical
While the medieval, Renaissance and even Baroque organs produced effects with the keyboard (or ‘manual’) and the stops, the Baroque period in England saw the first development of the ‘swell box’. The front of the swell box comprises a set of movable shutters connected to pedals which, lying under the organist’s feet, allow the sound to grow louder or softer. Even in England, swell boxes were insignificant in both number and effect for most of the eighteenth century, and virtually unknown elsewhere until the nineteenth. They became a standard feature only in the Romantic period.
Despite all such developments, the medieval organist would have continued broadly to recognize his instrument not only through the nineteenth but indeed well into the twentieth century, when electronic technology first helped the organist to manage the stops of a pipe organ and then produce the sound without benefit of pipes. Although pipe organs continue to be built, the advent of transistors in the 1960s, silicon chips in the 1980s and MIDI interface in the 1990s has made a very different construction possible.
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