Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reminiscences of an Active Life #15 -- April 19, 2009

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde was born in Nymegen, Holland in 1813. He went on to live a remarkable life of achievement in the sciences and the arts. He died in America in 1895.

While serving as editor of Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, he wrote many articles, including the ones which gave this blog its name. In 1893 and 1894, he published a 23-part (!) memoir in the same periodical. Here is the fifteenth part. He continues to music.

General Krayenhoff was Cornelis Rudolphus Theodorus Krayenhoff, a doctor, scientist and soldier.

The image comes from Manufacturer and Builder Volume 4, Issue 10, October 1872, page 233.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Part Ten

Part Eleven

Part Twelve

Part Thirteen

Part Fourteen

Reminiscences of an Active Life.


From Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 26, Issue 4, April 1894

(Continued from page 64.)

9th. Career as a Musician.-- In the year 1828, an event took place such as usually happens only once, in a generation -- namely, the colossal organ in the, cathedral of my native town (Nymegen), which had been built some fifty years before, and had become celebrated for the beauty of its intonation and the excellent acoustic properties of the church in which it was placed, had to be overhauled for the purpose of cleaning and repairing. It was one of the celebrated organs in the Netherlands, where the different Protestant churches are proud of the excellence of their organs, on which, on certain days of the week, the organist is in duty-bound to perform. for the benefit of all lovers of music, who never fail to take advantage of the opportunity, and especially strangers, who in the summer season visit that city in order to enjoy the lovely scenery offered by the variety of the surrounding hills and valleys, and on which the city itself is built. The public parks, situated on the highest parts, offer the most charming view of the highly-cultivated bottom lands of the German Rhine, which, when entering the territory of the Netherlands, divides itself into three branches -- the Yssel, the lower Rhine, and the river Waal, or Vaal, which latter is the largest, and, in fact, the only branch which is navigable the whole year round. This fact makes Nymegen a very important city, being on the great highways by water or land for entrance and exit from the territory of the Netherlands.

English divines, as well as laymen, have been in the habit of ridiculing what they call the extravagantly large size of the organs built in the Protestant churches of Holland. This ridicule is also frequently found repeated in the musical literature of England. The cause of this erroneous judgment is to be found in the fact that the established Church of England follows a service, or custom, originally derived from the Roman Catholic service, and gives no chance for truly congregational singing, in which every member of the congregation joins, to the number of several hundreds, and even thousands, and requiring for its leadership a colossal organ, which, however, may be insufficient to disturb the congregation when once started in a well-known choral melody; they hold their own, and may compel the organist to be silent if he has not the presence of mind to keep in unison with the congregation.

Large as these organs are, they cannot in power compete with a great number of the divine instruments -- the human voice -- when united in a plain choral melody. Like a full orchestra may predominate over a single instrument, a large church organ may predominate over an orchestra, but a united chorus of many human voices will predominate over even a large church organ.

The event referred to, that the large organ was to be overhauled, induced me to make the acquaintance of the organ-builder who had undertaken the labor, and I found him to be willing to give me all the information I wished, of which I made a liberal use, so as to satisfy my desire for information about the details of an instrument, which, in regard to power, may be considered the king of musical instruments.

Any one in the least familiar with the construction of large church organs, will agree that it is one of the most admirable products which human ingenuity has contrived, and may be considered equally meritorious as a dynamo, an electric motor, steam engine, hydraulic motor, etc., all of which have recently been made serviceable to produce the most necessary element in the organ namely, the blast of air which gives it life, and, as we may truly say, also the soul, which inspires it with the power to produce the religious emotions so desirable in the practice of public divine worship.

General Krayenhoff, one of my fathers old friends, on hearing of my interest in the structure of church organs, called my attention to the fact that the science of acoustics was very far behind most all other branches of physics; thus, for instance, in optics everything was based on positive mathematical principles, by which the curvature of lenses required for telescopes and microscopes could be calculated a priori with absolute certainty, while in acoustics a great deal was still subject to empiricism. He added that if I would contribute something to the progress of science, there was a wide field open in this branch of pursuit, while in optics almost everything had been determined and settled long ago. He advised me to make a specialty of acoustics. I did so, but my love for progress induced me to take some other steps, and led me to give more attention to that most charming application of acoustics -- music.

There was one inducement which perhaps was the main cause for this tendency -- namely, the attraction of "forbidden fruit." I had often heard my father say that his boy might study anything he chose to learn, except music. Why? Because all the musicians he had ever known were men of very loose moral character, especially those who played the fiddle. This might have been so when he was a boy in 1780, but there were in 1840 several respectable violin players in the town.

(To be Continued.)


MonkAre said...

It’s so nice site. We love to see more on this site. Keep on updating… MonkAreRee Bali ***dwfetger

Joe Thompson said...

Thank you. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

Joe Thompson ;0)