Rest in peace, oh beautiful, sad organ

Today, we take a moment to honor the antique Clough & Warren organ that played a significant role in our Rite of Spring music film — and in many peoples' lives over the past 135 years.

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I found the organ on Craigslist exactly a year ago. The owners, who were totally charming and helpful, had cared for the instrument for several generations and were looking to de-clutter. No judgements on them: while the instrument, built in 1878, was something of a family heirloom and an example of impeccable craftsmanship, it was a bit of an eyesore... a gothic monstrosity... the Debbie Downer of furniture items. It's so creepy, in fact, that they advertised the organ on Craigslist as the perfect addition to a haunted house!

They were so taken with our videos that they generously offered us the instrument for a price we couldn't refuse, even though we had no idea how we would incorporate the instrument into a future video. 

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Greg with the original owners of the instrument. October 2012.

The organ quickly made its way into the conception of our Rite of Spring film, after we had decided upon the themes of materialism, gluttony, and sacrifice — as a symbol of the first two, and something that could serve as, well... a sacrifice. The organ first makes its way into the film in Episode 6 (the "Introduction to Part II"), stark and alone in the middle of the desert. Throughout the film, and especially throughout the video shoots, the instrument took an enormous beating: we covered it in paint, red wine, bugs, bubbles, and sweat. In the end, we managed to bring our original vision to life: we sacrificially destroy the instrument in a baptism of flames and water. Watch for the dramatic sacrifice in the final episode. We literally pushed the organ into the ocean, then hauled it back out and set it on fire. :-)

(The organ got its comeuppance when it tore off my large toenail while filming in the massive waves of water.)


We grew fond of the organ after working with it for nearly a year. We'll show some footage of us playing it — really playing it — when we release the behind-the-scenes video. For now, suffice it to say that while the complete and utter destruction of a beautiful, 135-year-old organ was sad (tear-inducing, even), we did it for the music. We went to these extreme lengths because we ultimately had no other choice: we had to stay true to the colossal scope and vision of the music. In the end, while the instrument will no longer play its reedy tune, it will live on forever in our visual realization of Stravinsky's cacophonous and apocalyptic score.