What is the avant garde? Each person asked will probably answer differently; our profession and experience inform our opinions. For that reason, it’s not too much of a surprise to hear organ builder Phillip Klais reference his family business as he attempts to answer the question. His great grandfather established a workshop over a 130 years ago, and it’s been passed down from generation to generation.
“The avant garde goes beyond invention” Klais tells us assuredly in the latest edition of Avant Garde Diares. “[It’s] using the experience of history to develop visions for the future.”
In addition to all that family history, Klais has constructed organs for cities hundreds of years in age, in buildings both new and old. As he recounts in the latest edition of the avant garde diaries, the largest organ he ever built, rests inside the National Grand Theatre in Beijing and consists of more than 6500 pipes and took more than 30,000 hours (nearly four years) to build. Perhaps even more impressive, though, is the organ he built for for the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg, which is the world’s first completely accessible and touchable organ. This work responded to goal of a larger development project within the city, which meant to bring culture closer to its people.
It’s a fantastic building, and a perfect physical representation of Klais’ definition of the avant garde for its melding tradition and design experimentation. We can’t wait to see more.