• The Pinned Barrel as Music Archive

    Project leader – Johan Norrback
    Host – Göteborg International Organ Academy Association


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    Organ clock from Skärva estate, Karlskrona. Now in Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
    Photo: Johan Norrback


    The Gothenburg International Organ Academy Association is currently hosting a three-year research project, The Pinned Barrel as Music Archive, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) and led by Johan Norrback. During the organ festival, a conference on this theme will be organized during the first weekend.
    Organ clocks are fascinating constructions, containing both a clockwork and an advanced automatic musical instrument – usually a small organ. Pehr Strand (1758–1826), regarded as the foremost builder of organ clocks in Sweden around 1800, built such instruments for merchants, factory proprietors, noblemen and royalty. The music in the playing device is programmed using metal pins and bridges on a wooden cylinder. When the barrel rotates, reading arms transfer the information and play the music on the organ. These barrels can be seen as a kind of music archive, often silent, but unique, since they carry information about how the music was intended to sound at that time.


    The present project aims at making accessible the music in Strand’s preserved organ clocks and their almost 150 pinned barrels. What music was popular among owners of organ clocks, and how was it processed to be made suitable for an organ clock? The project will use a method of optical recognition in order to digitalize the music on those pinned barrels that cannot be played in their original playing device.


    To conclude: in addition, the project wishes to make information on the organ clocks and their music available to a large audience – a unique cultural heritage from Sweden around 1800.


    Read the article "The Pinned Barrel as Music Archive" by Johan Norrback.