Carl Frei


Carl Frei

Carl Frei (b. 1884 - d. 1967), was a German organ builder, composer and music arranger who founded a company that manufactured Dutch fairground and street organs.

Born in Waldkirch, Frei studied music from a young age, and at nine he was studying harmony and contrapoint at the Waldkirch academy of music. From age 14 on, well-known musical instrument factories such as Bruder, Gavioli, Mortier and DeVreese were employing him in Waldkirch and Paris. [ [http://www.draaiorgel.org/english/Organ%20builders%20UK.htm Orgelbouwers UK ] ]

Finding himself unemployed after World War One, Frei made his way to Breda, Holland to repair what were popularly know as Dutch Street Organ's, but were actually built in almost every mainland European country except Holland, which was where they were most populous. Pre WW1, street organs were hand cranked and easily portable, but fell out of tune and repair due to the undulations of the cobbled Dutch streets. Frei started maintaining organs, but noticed that many owners wanted something louder (thanks to the increased street noise made by early cars), and distinct (thanks to the wider availbility of the record player).

Frei began to make his own organs from 1920, [ [http://www.lifeofguangzhou.com/node_10/node_35/node_116/node_610/2007/09/21/119035799827462.shtml Life of Guangzhou - Brief Introduction of Automatic Musical Instruments ] ] with a number of innovations. Firstly he devised a new organ register called the "bourdon céleste," which replaced the high-maintenance clarinets and vox humana's with two rows of stopped pipes with very bright intonation, one row tuned slightly sharp to the other. [ [http://www.draaiorgel.org/english/street%20organs.htm Dutch Street organs, a brief summary ] ] He also developed the 20 note roll scale for street organs, more popularly known as the 20 note Raffin scale because the vast majority of 20 note organs have been built by Josef Raffin. [ [http://www.melright.com/music/faqpage.htm FAQ Page ] ] Besides rebuilding older organs, Carl Frei started building new ones according to this concept. Into these he incorporated an amplified violin section by adding a violin-celeste stop, which was also tuned to this floating sound temperament. He also introduced the stop unda maris in the counter melody section while in the large (72 and 90 keys) organs they were incorporating stops with names like bifoon I (in melody) and bifoon II (in the countermelody). The biggest street version of these organs, with 90 keys, were true "castles of the street;" while the "Carl Frei Traveling Concert Organ" was considered to be the largest traveling Fair Organ in the world, which had 112 keys. [ [http://members.aol.com/tgcnc/frei.htm Carl Frei Concert Organ ] ]

Forced to leave Holland after the Second World War, Frei and his son Carl Frei Jnr returned to Waldkirch and continued their business, until his death in 1967.

References


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