The Owl Organ refurbished in 2020

Now available to play over at This Museum is (Not) Obsolete!

Christmas songs on the Owl Organ 2013

The Owl Organ in Berlin

Back in 2013 I was invited to the Worldtronics festival at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. The aim of the annual festival is to gather a load of people who are into music / art involving electronics, then have a big party. Everyone there was awesome - I had a great time, and heard lots of fantastic noisy music, and some fantastic quiet music.

The Owl Organ was packed into a crate and shipped from London, then set up for the public to play during the festival. The Owl Organ is a musical instrument consisting of 4 octaves of chromatically tuned owls, which hoot in tune while a keyboard is played. The eyes of the owls light up when the corresponding key is pressed. The instrument is polyphonic, i.e. you can play as many simultaneous notes as you like.

One of the highlights of the festival was meeting Pierre Bastien, who played a delightful set on the third night. Whilst chatting I mentioned seeing his performance at Koko in Camden (which I've just realised was 8 years ago now), and he reminisced about how some of his machines had been shaken into a state of partial disarray by the bass vibrations from Luke Vibert's set on the same night...

HKW used material from this website for promotional graphics, branding, video projections etc, and it was very entertaining to see past projects turning up in unexpected places...

Pierre making some fine adjustments:

Berlin was awesome. Here is an orange thing I bought in a market for €20:

As there are 50 owls but only 49 keys on the keyboard, owl number 50 had lasers fitted to make it more useful. It would be fun to do this to all of the owls and film someone playing it in a big empty warehouse...

Massive thanks to Pia and Gabriele for organising everything and being so enthusiastic, and to Cao for showing us around and being so helpful.

While I was there I had a chance to take some photos at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum. If you like strange vintage electronic musical instruments, be sure to check out Oskar Sala's Mixtur-Trautonium...

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