Ploch-floeten und so weiter

What’s a Ploch-flöt?

Well, what’s a biffaro? A pardunen? A Bazuin?

They all represent the close relationship of the letters B and P. B and P are in fact the same sound, in their voiced and unvoiced versions.  P equals B, to put it simply.

So a biffaro is a piffaro; a pardunen, a Bourdon; and a bazuin, a posaune.

By the same token, guided by common sense as well as basic linguistics (not to mention readily-available databases for confirmation) a Ploch-flöt is a Blockflöte.

Organ terminology is not immune to regional and dialectic variations. It’s important to remember that certain characteristic shifts can occur. One of these is the B-P shift. Another, similar, is T-D; another is K-G. All of these are voiced/unvoiced pairs.

So Virdung’s treatise, Musica getutcht, means Music in German(y); Music “verdeutscht.” “-tucht” is a form of “deutsch.”

So, too, I’ve seen “Pachelbel” spelled in contemporaneous documents as “Bachhelbel.”

This doesn’t address unique alphabetic symbols. So the Gross Gedackt, usually spelled “groβ” with an eszet and always paired on organs with a “klein Gedackt,” is misspelled as Grob Gedackt. Grob, with a B. Was this a joke, a pun, a real mistake, or what? I don’t know.  But it’s traditional now.

Don’t even get started on the spelling of “gedackt.” There are more variations than there are varieties of hosta.

Anyhow…a Ploch-flöt is a Recorder stop. Wide, two-foot, nice rank.

Where did I find this odd term? On the original organ in Sts. Peter and Paul in Görlitz. I haven’t yet seen an English translation of the rich materials available on this organ that glosses “Ploch-flöt” as “Blockflöte.” It’s a small point, but worth making. What fascinates me more about that organ is the incredibly macaronic stop lists. A “Ploch-flöt” happily coexists with a “vigesima nona”–a situation I’ve not seen before.

The Germans loved their Italian! Further context for my idea that Bach isn’t necessary to explain absolutely everything that happened in the organ world in that era.

He’s still my Main Man, but there’s the rest of humanity as well…


About Jonathan B. Hall

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food. Cat lover, too.
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