Our Philosophy of Organ Building
Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company builds pipe organs following the centuries-old tradition of European organ building. Our primary key action is mechanical (tracker). Despite his keen preference for the solidity and touch responsiveness of mechanical (tracker) action, Martin Ott has also built organs with electric pull-down, slider-chests and electro-pneumatic action chests. The magnets are controlled via an electronic relay. These instruments, like Opus 112, were commissioned with enhanced levels of stop combination flexibility and also for the use of external interfaces such as MIDI in/out. It is true that for very large pipe organs, destined to large acoustical environments, electric actions can render the project more feasible. That said, an instrument like Opus 90, with its 51 stops and 69 ranks has an electrical stop action but maintains its full keyboard agility with totally mechanical key action. For Martin, perhaps this instrument exemplified the best of both worlds.
Electrical and electronic components have their place. While electrical pull-downs and stop actions can be viewed as advantageous on large organs to facilitate multi-levels stop-set combination, Martin maintains that the use of electronics for the keyboard control has its limits. Here is why: First, the quality of the keyboard touch and responsiveness on a note attack is greatly questionable, if not impairing, for the organist. Each note becomes an on/off switch, with no-articulation or differentiation of attack from one note to the next. Secondly, the reliability of electronic key based action in the making of a pipe organ is as stable as the components it is made of. In simple terms, computers are computers; they quickly become obsolete, need replacements and can be prone to erratic failure. Modern electronics, used to control a pipe organ, require software updates and software diagnoses for troubleshooting as well as for servicing. It is the world of the virtual, the invisible.
Historically, many early electric and electronic systems have fallen into a state of disrepair, as the technical competence has evolved beyond many of these proprietary devices. Even with more recent electronics, it appears to be a pity to go hastily toward such compromises in order to achieve a multitude of artifices that turn out to be more a fashion requirement than a need for actual usage. After all, one does not listen to the electronic controls but, rather, to the music and how the organist makes the pipes sing and captures emotions.
The test of centuries. Comparatively, mechanical (tracker) actions have always been restorable, and some have survived the test of centuries (read 800 years). By the mid-seventies (1975-78), the knowhow and subtleties in mechanical-action designs had very much reached their peak. The bad rap of some old, heavy to the touch, mechanical keyboards and keyboard couplings had given place to a generation of agile and responsive key actions. The welcome re-design of the suspended key action, better science and geometry and integration of light and stable wood for tracker components allowed even large instruments to be conceived. Some are even built with a detached console, without impairing the level of connectivity the performer desires with each note played. For Martin Ott, the musical difference a contemporary mechanical keyboard action promotes is just that, a note can be played versus stricken, therefore allowing the organist to be precise in musical articulation.