Geeking out over Gehry Organ at LA's Disney Hall

Last night, I crawled out from behind my laptop to go hear Handel's Messiah at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, with a few friends. The performance was beautiful, the architecture of the space was beautiful, but the coolest part of the evening by far? Geeking out over the awesome, gigantomongous, french-fry-esque pipe organ at the back of the hall. It's comprised of more than 6,000 pipes, only a portion of which are visible. Some are conical and made of metal, others are shaped like long, slender boxes and are made of wood. The pipes range in size from ballpoint pens to palm trees.

The organ wasn't played last night, but I'm told that when it debuted privately to a group of pipe organ professionals earlier this year — they all removed their shoes so they could feel the deep bass vibrations in the floor. A couple friends mentioned that when the LA Phil played Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (opening theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey) a while back, this thing emitted gut-liquefying bass notes that remind you why that piece of music was selected to open a sci-fi film in the first place. That uber-low opening note doesn't kick you in the innards on a recording the way it does from a huge pipe organ in an acoustically rich venue.

Oh, also, it even smells cool! Many different fine woods were used to construct the pipes, so it emits a magical, cedary sort of fragrance that reminded me of incense in a Catholic mass.

Image: a phonecam snapshot I took of the organ, while standing beneath its tall, sonic stalagmites: Link to full-size.

Here are some wonderful photos, Link, and an Organ FAQ, from the LA Phil's website: Link. NPR did a cool segment about the organ's construction and sound, here: Link. And Link to a San Diego Union-Trib article. Here are upcoming organ performances at the WDCH: Link (thanks tons, Shawn Sites, and Michael and Cynthia Perry!)


BoingBoing reader Bill B. says,

"I live in the Kansas City area, and have been to a concert at the huge Latter Day Saints Church in Independence, Missouri. The organ is unbelievable there as well but not designed like the one you reported on. I have been an afficiondo ever since seminary when I was a radio host for the 'Organ Hour'. One note: with organs like the one you described, you don't just feel it in your feet but all through your body. The harmonics will literally vibrate your insides when the proper notes are played. Now I must make plans to come and hear the one out in LA."