SonarExtra brings a ‘Hyperorgan’ to Spain for the first time

Sónar brings a ‘Hyperorgan’ to Spain for the first time. It features one of the few instruments that are able to operate this technology: the organ of Palau Güell in Barcelona.
Berlin-based artists gamut inc., one of the world’s most renowned hyperorgan specialists, have created a special piece for the occasion, which will be played without interruption automatically between 15 and 19 June, allowing visitors to relive the essential avant-garde spirit of the building designed by Antoni Gaudí.
The experience, which the public will only be able to visit during the week of Sónar, from Wednesday 15 to Sunday 19 June, between 10:00h to 20:00h each day, allows the public to walk through the whole building. An experience that’s a walk through both music and architecture, with a path that ascends several levels of the Palau Güell to the rooftop, with the sound of the ‘Hyperorgan’ filling the entire space.
Sónar 2022 delegate pass holders can enter for free, and all festival ticket holders can enter for a reduced price of 5€.

‘Hyperorgan’: a 21st Century organ

The 21st century has introduced a new concept to the organ: the hyperorgan. Based on the same instrument (the sound is produced by the same air that creates the sound of flutes and trumpets), the ‘Hyperorgan’ has been integrated with new digital technologies that allow the pipes to sound in a different way, considerably expanding the possibilities of its use.
On the one hand, the organist has more interpretative possibilities at his disposal, since they can create previously unheard sounds by combining the organ’s features. This is achieved by digitally modifying the airflow to the pipes with high-precision electronically controlled valves and an application that modifies altering all parameters.
On the other hand, the ‘Hyperorgan’ has a MIDI input, which allows the instrument to be played by artists who are not trained organists, using any electronic device, such as computers, tablets, etc.
With this configuration, it is also possible to produce numerous sound effects (endless arpeggios, high-speed plucking…) that cannot be achieved manually. The possibilities, both in performance and composition, are almost endless.
With a ‘Hyperorgan’, therefore, a new phase in the trajectory of the instrument has been opened, placing it once again at the forefront of musical creation, just as it was centuries ago. It is an expanded instrument which can be played by electronic artists, Artificial Intelligence and researchers, as well as classically trained organists.

The expanded organ of Palau Güell

The organ, which presides over the central hall of the building built by Antoni Gaudí between 1886 and 1890, regularly sounds during visits to the Palau Güell. This is the only building that Gaudí designed with sound in mind, and Palau Güell is one of the best acoustic spaces in Barcelona.
Palau Güell had a Romantic-style organ built by Aquilino Amezua for the use of the Count of Güell’s daughters, Isabel and Maria Lluïsa, who had learned to play the organ in Paris. The console with the keyboards was located in the main hall, while the body of the organ with the pipes was 12 metres high, driven by a complex system of mechanisms. During the Civil War, the metal pipes disappeared and were melted down to make ammunition. In the post-war period, the rest of the instrument fell into disrepair.
When Palau Güell was restored, a new organ was designed to suit the new use of the space, which in 1984 went from being a private residence to a World HeritageSite open to visitors. A new instrument was commissioned by master organ builder Albert Blancafort, who increased the number of pipes and altered the style of the previous organ to give it a new external appearance. It was also fitted with a replay system that allowed the organ to play autonomously during visits. In contrast to the original organ, the console and keyboard was placed upstairs with the rest of the instrument.
The present organ has 22 stops or types of sound, with a total of 1,386 pipes distributed over two 56-note manual keyboards and a 30-note pedal keyboard.
In addition to Sónar, Palau Güell (owned by the Diputació de Barcelona) and gamut inc, the initiative involves master organ builder Albert Blancafort (of Blancafort OM) and technologistSanti Vilanova (Playmodes).

gamut inc

Berlin-based retro-futurist ensemble gamut inc, formed by Marion Wörle and Maciej Śledziecki, specialise in electro-acoustic music, innovative music theatre and music made with machines. Since 2011, they have been working with computer-controlled instrumental music and translating ancient musical ideas into a sonic language adapted to the present day.
They are currently involved in their international project AGGREGATE, in which they explore and perform automated pipe organs in churches and concert halls. It is within the framework of this project that gamut inc are collaborating with Albert Blancafort (from Blancafort OM),  technologist Santi Vilanova (Playmodes), Palau Güell and Sónar to present the first ‘Hyperorgan’ concert in Spain.
For the occasion, gamut inc have prepared a musical composition specially designed to fill every corner of the Gaudí designed building. Aggregate #10 will be played in the form of infinite loops during the five days that ‘Hyperorgan’ will be played in Barcelona, giving the public total freedom of movement around the Palau Güell.

Albert Blancafort (Blancafort OM)

A master organ builder, he has built numerous large-format instruments, including the organ in the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, that of the Basilica of Montserrat and the avant-garde organ of the Tenerife Auditorium. His work is characterised by the incorporation of new technologies and research, an organist in search of an organ that reflects our times.

Santi Vilanova (Playmodes)

A graphic designer and a master of musical composition, Santi Vilanova has combineed these two disciplines through the medium of “creative technologies”, of which he is a self-taught developer. Trained in the techno music scene of the early 2000s, his compositional work has evolved to integrate this influence into wider territories. His recent research combines digital algorithms and sonification engines with scores, traditional acoustic ensembles or hyper-organs, focusing on the idea of a visual music.

SonarExtra: a Sònar itinerary through Barcelona

SonarExtra is an itinerary offered by Sónar during the week of the festival, a route that takes in through three sonic interventionsin the heart of Barcelona. In addition to Palau Güell, the public can visit Hotel ME Barcelona, which will host the immersive audiovisual installation ‘Transient’ by Italian artist Quayola presented by ME by Melía. They’ll also be able to visit Fundació Antoni Tàpies, which hosts the sound installation Sondear by Mika Vainio, as well as the listening room ‘Museo del Sonido’, in which music by the late Finnish artist will be played.