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Wendelin Weißheimer at the flame organ

The pyrophone is an organ-like keyboard instrument in which the glass pipes are stimulated to vibrate by hydrogen flames.


The instrument was originally invented in 1875 by Georges Frédéric Eugène Kastner . The instrument was offered by his mother at the International Exhibition of Inventions in London in 1885. Among other things, Henri Dunant , the founder of the Red Cross movement , tried his luck in marketing this idea at the instigation of Kastner's mother Léonie Kastner-Boursault . However, he did not have much success because one of the first pyrophones exploded at a concert and injured the organist.

Sound-forming gas burners in the pyrophone

Mode of action

The instrument used the so-called singing flames . Glass tubes of various sizes were used as organ pipes , which were made to vibrate over a labium by means of small gas flames instead of the usual air flow in organ building. Musical purity and increased pitch were achieved by burners with several small flames (6 to 16, sometimes even more), the size of which was precisely measured for each tube. The depression of the keys then caused the division of the large flame burning in the corresponding tube into individual flames and in this way produced the desired tone.

The pyrophone consisted of three chromatic octaves , corresponding to the 16-, 8- and 4-legged organ pipes. The timbre was similar to a human voice. In the 19th century, Wendelin Weißheimer , among others, composed works for the flame organ, as the pyrophone was also called. Even nowadays there are always artists who construct pyrophones, which then work with propane gas and are equipped with MIDI interfaces.


  • Frédéric Kastner: Les flammes chantantes, theorie des vibrations et considerations sur l'électricité . 3. Edition. Paris 1876 ( ).

Web links

Commons : Pyrophone  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hermann Ludwig von Jan: Johann Georg Kastner, an Alsatian composer, theorist and music researcher - his becoming and work . tape 2 , part 2. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1886, p. 287-327 ( ).
  2. Official Catalog: International Inventions Exhibition, London . William Clowes and Sons, 1885. p. 338
  3. ^ Henri Dunant: The Pyrophone . In: Popular Science Monthly . Vol. 7, August 1875, pp. 444-453 ( Wikisource ).