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An international symposium on algorithms in the Soviet Union


Playing the organs
Donald Knuth Scientist
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Many Stanford students have given recitals here including Walter Hewlett who's now, you know, one of the big people in the Hewlett Foundation and... and director of Hewlett Packard - he was the son of the original Hewlett. And so... so it's been... it's been nice to have this... this also as now considered one of the... one of the Stanford organs. I'm... I'm no great shakes as an organist but as a computer scientist I'm... I'm okay, so that this gives me an intro, I... I can... where I can go many... many places in the world and people will show me the pipe organ that... that... and allow me to play. And I don't have to be that good because I'm just a computer scientist, I'm not a... I'm not supposed to be a musician. So I've played on, you know, I... I...the most exciting... in fact in Zurich last November I had an hour to play the... the fantastic organ at the Fraumünster - the best organ in Zurich. I... I, you know, I could play the organ at Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia - the largest in the world - and, you know, organs in... in Netherlands - the... the famous one at Haarlem. The... and, well, in Kyoto there was a... there was a very fine organ with... with four ranks of pipes that were based on Japanese instruments, quite... quite intriguing. The... I guess the... I hardly ever play in public, the only... the only time really was in Waterloo, Canada, where... where the professor of organ there and I put on a... a program of organ duets and so we were... we... some pretty interesting music was written for two... for two players, usually at one organ but... but in one case at... at two organs. And... and that was the high...  I mean I... I practiced pretty hard before... before that occasion and... so that was kind of the high point of... of my organ playing of my life.

[Q] How frequently do you play these days at home?

Yeah, I play in spurts, so... so sometimes I'll go for more than a month without... without touching it and then I'll sit down and I'll play for three hours or something like that. I just... it's a... it... I should really, you know, I... I shouldn't penalize myself, I usually think oh, Don, you're... you're behind on this project, you can't afford to... to take time off and play. So... so I don't, you know... so I should... so I shouldn't argue that to myself, I should... I should allow myself to... to do it more. But I enjoy music very... very much and the... the pieces that... there are... there are some pieces written for organ that are so good that you never get tired of them no matter how... how often you... you play them.

Born in 1938, American computing pioneer Donald Knuth is known for his greatly influential multi-volume work, 'The Art of Computer Programming', his novel 'Surreal Numbers', his invention of TeX and METAFONT electronic publishing tools and his quirky sense of humor.

Listeners: Dikran Karagueuzian

Trained as a journalist, Dikran Karagueuzian is the director of CSLI Publications, publisher of seven books by Donald Knuth. He has known Knuth since the late seventies when Knuth was developing TeX and Metafont, the typesetting and type designing computer programs, respectively.

Tags: Stanford University, Hewlett Foundation, Hewlett Packard, Zurich, Wanamaker's, Philadelphia, Netherlands, Haarlem, Kyoto, Waterloo, Canada, Walter Hewlett

Duration: 3 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008