Martin Parker

Shonky Music

Shonky Music for tracker action organs was written in February 2001.

The score of Shonky Music is not a reliable guide to how the piece actually sounds. Written for tracker action organs that are able to make sound while the pipes are half drawn, Shonky exploits the unreliability of the king of instruments when prepared in this uneven manner. Certain configurations of the stops result in a keyboard that is both out of tune and consistently unpredictable; the generic scales and runs that litter the score become rhythms and melodies.

Shonky was first performed on the Reid organ, a fabulous machine housed in Edinburgh’s Reid Concert Hall. It is an organ similar to that which Bach would have used in Leipzig. A second recording was made on the Henry Willis organ in the song school of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, which was built in 1887.

Four and seven minutes long respectively, the Willis and the Reid organ recordings show how wildly different the piece can sound. With no tempo marking on the score, it is the player’s decision to respond to the idiosyncrasies of the instrument. When prepared, the Reid organ responded more sluggishly to touch and thus required a slower pace. For the more immediate response of the Henry Willis organ the performance was naturally much faster; labouring over the rather banal finger work would have yielded less interesting results.