studio for digital crafts

Control electronics and devices to operate a pipe organ in a non-organ-like fashion

Digital wooden pipe organ

German composer and pianist Nils Frahm asked for an organ for his tour in spring 2015. The organ was required to be still portable enough for touring and should fit within Frahms’ elaborate stage setup, which consists of a custom upright piano, a grand piano, two synthesizers, a Mellotron, a Fender Rhodes, three tape delays, a drum machine and various effect devices. Therefor the whole layout (3 modules plus air supply) and electronics (MIDI controlled with external control interface) were developed in an unusual fashion. This made the organ very versatile and suitable for use on-stage.

The organ is controlled by multiple microcontrollers to treat it more like a synthesizer. For example the controller features classic synthesizer envelope curves and an arpeggiator. To extend the tonal characteristics of the single register organ, there are two additional “air dump” valves built into each pipe module. Those valves can be controlled with variable speed and intensity to fluctuate air pressure within the system. This results in a tremulating effect.


Pipes and air supply system by Peter Petersohn
Wiring by Matthias H. Franz Hahn
Full live concert from July 7th 2015 at the 49th Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland
Stage photos by Claudia Gödke