Friday, June 5, 2015

Key to a Hammond Organ

Hello Key Room Blog! My name is Matthew Porter, one of the two curator interns at the Baldpate this summer. I come to Estes Park from Ithaca, NY. I attend school at Ithaca College, where I study English. I hope to one day pursue a professorship in my field. I have just completed my freshman year and I look forward to the three ahead of me. I have been at the Baldpate for a little over two weeks now. I am completely fascinated by the different keys that I find on a daily basis. This is my first time off of the east coast. I have never seen beauty as pure as the mountains surrounding Estes. I am stricken with awe and inspiration every time I look out the window.

In the key room, located right next to the door, we have an exhibit of musical keys. Among the collection, there is a key from a Hammond Organ, signed by the inventor Laurens Hammond. The Hammond Organ is one of the first electric keyboards created. Its influence has reached many musicians of varying genres (specifically within Jazz and Rock). The white key taken from his organ holds massive significance in the progression of music. 

Laurens Hammond was born on January 11, 1895 in Evanston, IL. He attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY where he received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1916. While working for an automobile company, he would often tinker on his own. His first major invention came in 1920: The soundless clock. With his discovery, he went on to open his own clock company, appropriately named the Hammond Clock Company. 

His interest in music did not come until 1933. Hammond was not a musician by any means. He was just fascinated by the sounds that were produced by the phonograph that he had in his lab. Hammond and his engineers soon began to experiment with producing musical sound through electronic synthesis. With their experimentation, Hammond finally discovered the use of the tonewheel. The tonewheel is the most crucial part of the Hammond Organ, for it creates the sound when the instrument is played. 

The use of the organ took off soon after its creation. It was originally intended for smaller churches to get an organ sound without the space requirements of wind driven organs. Like most inventions, the original purpose was not quite what it became known for. The Hammond Organ is most well-known for its presence in early Jazz fusion, along with 60's rock. Notable artists that use the Hammond Organ include Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Doors, and The Grateful Dead. 

Laurens Hammond passed away on July 1, 1973. His instrument, however, will forever live in the classic sound of bands that we now look upon as timeless.

If you would like to hear a sample of a Hammond Organ, feel free to click the links below:   Compilation of Hammond Solos   Walk with me Lord- Terry Bradford   Boogie Woogie on the Hammond

Until next time!