organs

Multitalented maker Matthew Borgatti vividly recalls the monster pipe organ shoved into every nook and cranny of a home in his suburban childhood neighborhood. “I remember touring it as a Boy Scout, watching the elderly couple who owned the place pull up sections of the floor to reveal wooden organ pipes cut at odd angles to bend around the joists and conduit.” It was then, as he sat at the console playing “The Imperial March,” that Borgatti’s love affair was sealed.

Pipe organs have since gone the way of the dinosaur, as many churches have disposed of the behemoths in favor of PA systems. To Borgatti, 26, the biggest shame of the pipe organ’s demise is that only a select group of musicians ever gets to play them. “If I could create something mobile, where I could turn any space into a pipe organ and make it MIDI powered, I could create interactive installations to spread the love of this awesome instrument.” He did just that, and thus the Anywhere Organ was born.

Borgatti spent a year designing, building, harvesting parts, and raising funds, but now that the groundwork is laid, expansion is easy. All the parts are driven by simple tables in CAD, so whenever he acquires reclaimed pipes, he plugs in measurements, the organ patterns are generated, and the housing units are laser-cut from ¾-inch plywood. In action, the organ uses a j-Omega MTP-8 to control the valves from a MIDI signal, and has a USB-to-MIDI converter running from his laptop. Naturally, the project is open source.

Now Borgatti hopes to make it “bigger, better, weirder.” When he installed it at Maker Faire New York 2011, a local robotics team used it to rock a fantastic rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” What could be more perfect?

More Borgatti: har.ms