The Tale of the World's First*
I had first heard of Burning Man in the late 90's, but was unable to pull together the time and preparations to attend until 2000. I attended again in 2001 and 2002.
It has been said that one's first year there is when they figure out what Burning Man "is". The second year there, a person figures out who they are in relation to the event and what they want to do. The third year is when they really dive in and try to participate in a big way that is also truly of themselves. Of course, this is just an axiom -- everyone relates to Burning Man according to their own views and timetable -- but this 3-year progression has applied to many of my friends, and of course, to me.
I was an organist in my teens, taking lessons and occasionally playing recitals. During college, my tastes migrated to MIDI synthesizers and sequencer-based composition, and circumstances also dictated that the family sell the Rodgers electronic organ that had been my practice instrument back home.
Musicians of all stripes have performed at Burning Man. There have been wandering one-man-bands, large stage performances, and many, many DJs. "Art Cars" roam the desert, many complete with roving nightclubs and bands - even a piano bar. My first year there, I wandered off away from Black Rock City (the name for the temporary city that forms in the desert) and encountered a complete marching band!
Despite this great variety of musical expression, there seemed to be a very limited amount of classical music performance at Burning Man. I suspect that this lack of classical music was not the result of a collective dislike for the music among the crowd, but rather due to both the impracticality of using classical instruments in the harsh desert environment, the lack of amplification of these instruments being able to compete with larger installations, and the instinctive impulse of thousands of revelers to initially focus on "party" music from the techno/house/ambient/etc. scene. Putting on a classical organ concert would truly be a new experience for Burning Man.
A Touring Organ?
There have been small, automated carousel-style organs known as "band organs" which travelled on carts and wagons. I have even heard of a touring Wicks pipe organ carried by an 18-wheeler which could be set up and playing in a few hours.
So why the "World's First" claim? This is partly show-business hyperbole - certainly I have not stumbled onto a new concept. Rather, taken as a whole, this is the first organ to go to the desert and perform and outdoor concert in such an environment. It is also, to my knowledge, the first classical organ constructed to run entirely from battery power! (More technical details later in this document.)
Next Page: The Concerts
All contents copyright (C) 2002 by Bob Richardson. All rights reserved.