Positive (musical instrument)

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Table positive, Germany, 1978

A positive (from Latin ponere “to set, set, lay”) is a small, easily relocatable organ with a few registers , usually with one manual and with or without a pedal . A part of a large organ can also be called a positive .

In church music , the positive serves as a figured bass instrument or to support choral singing. In small church rooms (chapels) it is often the only organ. In secular music it is used both as a soloist and with other instruments. To his waitress was before the introduction of electric fans next to the organist a Kalkant required not provided the organist - similar to the harmonium - even the bellows with his feet could use.

Story of the positive

Portable field organ, inventory of the Ludwigsburg residential palace , 1712

The forerunner of the positive is the medieval portative . The canopy table organ emerged from this in the Renaissance . The two wedge bellows were attached to the rear and operated by a calculator . The pipework was not freely visible, but enclosed by a canopy as a fabric roof. Later these table organs got their own sub-box. This initially remained empty, but later it took on the wind supply and mostly also the largest bass pipes. Since then, the positive has mostly been in two parts and the principal pipes are visible in the organ prospectus. The disposition changed only slightly from the canopy organ to the positive.

Example of a canopy organ disposition:

Manual CDEFGA – g 2 a 2
shelf 8th'
Copel 4 ′
Principal 2 ′
Cymbel I-II
  • Secondary registers such as nightingale or drone (shelf-like reed pipes or closed labial pipes)

The 4′-register was mostly carried out in a hidden manner. The range was mostly CDEFGA – g 2 a 2 . Split loops were already widespread. The division point was often between h 0 / c 1 , but on the Iberian Peninsula the division point, which is uniformly c 1 / c sharp 1 , was established as with the organs there. In addition to playing sacred music in the context of devotions, the canopy organ was also used to a large extent to play secular music, mostly dance movements and arrangements of secular songs.

In the case of the baroque positive, the 8 'shelf mostly gave way to a closed 8' labial register. If there was space for a tongue register , it was often more fundamental than a shelf, e.g. B. a Krummhorn 8 ', disposed. A representative disposition example:

Manual C – c 3
Dumped 8th'
flute 4 ′
Principal 2 ′
Fifth 1 13
octave 1'

The 4 'register was often closed or designed as a reed flute. The range was usually C – C 3 with a short or broken octave. Split loops were rare during this period. Instead of the cymbal, a repeating fifth 1 13 ′ and an octave 1 ′ were often used in the Baroque era . In the baroque period the positive was played both as a soloist and as a figured bass instrument. The baroque positives were often equipped with lockable, sometimes painted, double doors. Nowadays you can often find free pipe brochures and modern shapes with swell boxes made of glass or the like.

Modern positives are often additionally equipped with reed parts (usually 8 'shelf) or treble registers , half registers only for the treble half of the manual. In Holland, a treble principal 8 ′ is enjoying a certain popularity, strings in an equal position or a transverse flute 4 ′ were very popular in Romanticism and are now sometimes used again. Also aliquots are to be found, for example, fifth 2 2 / 3 'or third 1 3 / 5 ', either on its own or combined to form a train Sesquialter 2-fold. If you build an aliquot continuously, it is more likely in the 1 13 ′ position. Especially in connection with half registers, all continuous registers are sometimes divided into bass and treble halves. The pitch range of today's positive and chest organs is most often C – f 3 .

Modern chest organs

Ton Koopman's chest positive during La Folle Journée , 2009

Today the positive in the form of chest organs for the interpretation of early music , especially for performing the figured bass in the continuo group, is increasingly used and also built. These easily transportable small organs with a few registers, often with a closed register made of wood in an 8 'position, a flute in a 4' position and a principal register in a 2 'position, have the shape of a large chest. The wind supply is mostly provided by an electric fan. With an extremely compact design, the technical upper limit is around seven registers for the bass half and nine registers for the treble half of the manual , whereby one or two short-cup reed registers are usually also available.

Today's chest organs are often equipped with a transposing device, which makes it possible to transpose from 440 Hz to 415 Hz or up to 465 Hz. Such transposition devices have been known since the Renaissance (table organ on the Churburg, around 1580). You can also often find split loops, these have also been known for a long time, see o. The division point is often between h 0 / c 1 . So that chest organs are as transportable as possible, they are mounted on rollers or can be dismantled into two parts for better transport.

Two example disposition of a small and a large chest organ:

Manual C – f 3
Dumped 8th'
Reed flute 4 ′
Principal 2 ′
Manual C – f 3 , division at h 0 / c 1
Dumped 8th' B / D
Principal 4 ′ B / D (from G, C – Fis transmission from reed flute 4 ′)
Reed flute 4 ′ B / D
Nasat 2 23 D.
octave 2 ′ B / D
third 1 35 D.
cymbal 1' B / D
Wooden shelf 16 ′ B / D
Krummhorn 8th' B / D (C – H with half cup length)

In order to allow the chest organs a greater dynamic range, some organ builders now equip chest organs with sills , some made of Plexiglas .

Modern small organs

Small organ of a cemetery chapel , Sauer Orgelbau, 1969

In recent decades there have been increasing efforts to build compact and comparatively inexpensive small organs in order to be able to equip as many churches and chapels as possible with adequate organs and to take account of the poor financial situation of many parishes. Furthermore, the organ building industry has to deal with the increasing competition of cheaper digital organs.

Examples of modern small organs are:


  • Otmar Heinz: Early Baroque organ positives in Styria and their artistic conception , diploma thesis University of Graz 2003.
  • Martin Kares: Small organs - history, types, technology. Verlag Evangelischer Presse-Verband für Baden, Karlsruhe 1998, ISBN 3-87210-366-0 .
  • Rudolf Quoika : The Positive in Past and Present. Bärenreiter, Kassel et al. 1957.
  • Kurt Estermann: The Christoph Egedacher organ of the Liebfrauenkirche in Kitzbühel . Helbling Verlag, Innsbruck 2015.

See also

Web links

Commons : Positive organs  - collection of images, videos and audio files