PowerBooks and the Large Hot Pipe Organ

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive


According to a news item in Electric Word 8.12 in the December 2000 issue of Wired magazine, the Large Hot Pipe Organ is a pretty cool musical instrument that is controlled by two PowerBooks. Look for it at Burning Man 2001.

Puff! Foomp! Foof! Boom! The 11-tone Large Hot Pipe Organ (www.lhpo.org/) redefines industrial music with a blast of flaming propane gas. A house-sized assemblage of 20 steel pipes ranging in height from 11 to 33 feet, the instrument is played via two PowerBooks and a MIDI keyboard and drum pads. The computer generates the background rhythm, while MIDI signals control the gas valves and igniters (each hour long performance burns about 800 pounds of fuel).

An upgrade of the 19th-century flame organs, this percussive beast was built by fire artist Bastiaan Maris and MIT computer science grad student Geo Homsy in 1993. With a half-dozen European shows under their belts, the two are talking with Burning Man 2001 organizers about a US debut.

“It’s not just sound,” says Homsy. “It’s light. It’s heat. It’s smell. It’s steam coming off the pipes. It’s people screaming with excitement.” -Valerie Hamilton

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