The Sultan’s organ

Howard Goodall runs a good organ miscellania page here, of which the Sultan and Elizabeth I organ donation anecdote was one of the few useful pieces of information I learnt as a child. Peter English over at Aramco has more:

The Grand Signor then commanded for silence. All being quiet, the clock struck twenty-two hours followed by a chiming of sixteen bells and a four-party song. That over, two persons stood on the second storey holding silver trumpets sticking out a tantarra. Such revelry continued for an hour. Then the Grand Signor sat near to me before the (organ) keys where a man should play upon the instrument … There were some four hundred at the gathering of which half were young, apparelled in rich gold (laced) cloth made into gowns; upon their heads little caps of gold; great pieces of silk about their waists instead of girdles, and upon their legs Cordivan buskins. All heads were shaven, saving that behind their ears did hand a lock of hair like a squirrel’s tail. Their beards were shaven excepting upper lips parts…

The Spanish connection lies in the Novelda rock organ, of which more here, and the information that “Spanish organs of the 18th century include a number of mischievous sound effects: bird tweeting (pajaritos), military drums (tambour) and horizontal battle trumpets (trompeta real, trompeta magna).”

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All kinds of verbs are used in Spanish to express what a barrel organ does, but I was quite please to see that the Cuban Enrique Serpa in Contrabando (1938) lets his grind: “un organillo molía un fox”.
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Barrel organs play an important role in several early twentieth century comedies–Carlos Arniches’ El amigo Melquiades o Por la boca muere el pez and Ramón María del Valle-Inclán’s La hija del capitán–, the Argentine Leopoldo Lugones wrote sentimental verses about barrel organs ( “Polichinela toca un organillo. Arlequín y Colombina danzan un paso lánguidamente amoroso, que atrae a los señores poco a poco”), and our friend Ernesto Giménez Caballero singles the barrel organ out for quite extraordinary and extended praise in his Notas marruecas de un soldado: “Iberian instrument by now, whatever your origins”. Here‘s an even better story, about the barrel organ belonging to the Californian San Juan Bautista Mission:

Of the many stories concerning this barrel organ, one of the best shows its almost hypnotic power over the child-like savages. A tribe of warring Tulare Indians swooped down on the mission one day, and the neophytes ran for cover. Fortunately the padre kept his wits. He lugged out the hand-organ and began cranking. The neophytes caught on and began to sing with the music at the top of their voices, with the result that their foes were so entranced that they lay down their weapons and demanded more music, even asking to stay so they could enjoy it all the time.

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This is a cross-post from kalebeul.
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