Flame organ




How beautiful is the pitch envelope and tonality of this ‘flame organ’ – it almost feels plaintive…

From RNZ: “By heating metal gauze inside 44 open-ended glass tubes with individual Bunsen burners, each mechanically linked to an antique piano keyboard, Alistair Galbraith and a team of glassblowers, physicists, and engineers have created a fire organ.

The glass Rijke tubes of the fire organ make musical notes that at times sound like a trombone, at others like a conch shell, or even a strange type of singing, but only after the heat from the Bunsen burners is removed from the red hot gauze sitting inside each of the tubes.

Invented by Petrus Leonardus Rijke in 1859, the Rijke tube and it’s cousin the Sondhauss tube (with one or both ends closed), translate heat-differential into sound waves, using thermoacoustics.”






4 thoughts on “Flame organ

  1. alastair galbraith

    so great to see someone interested! – there are trumpet-like qualities to the tone, but also hints of recorded whale-song and doppler shift – and if you speed up recordings of this flame organ it sounds like cats! Because – just like a “meeow” each note falls in pitch after a short interval.

    1. tim Post author

      Really fascinating Alistair – it is such an evocative sound! Of course it sent me down a youtube rabbit hole, watching different versions and demos people have made over the years – they seem quite loud? Would love to try same principle on an irrigation pipe… I love the way pitch gently bends – beautifully organic!

      1. alastair galbraith

        Hi Tim – Yes – it’s really loud! The organ in the video is now expanded and has 45 notes – the longest tube is now 2.4 metres. the notes only bend if you use flame to power them . If you use an electric heating element (like Trimpin) the note is steady and continuous (but not so loud). I started to make an electrically powered version but gave up when i found I had to use a small electric welder to power an element for a single note!!

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