Dereux introduced the electrostatic church organ

In the 1950s and 1960s, ir. Dereux designed organs with the sampled sound of real organ pipes, mainly French romantic church organs, built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. 

For many years Dereux pursued his plan to develop an instrument that would be cheaper to produce and easier to set up than a conventional pipe organ, but not inferior to the traditional instrument of church music in terms of sonority...

A brilliant instrument and a great invention, but...

Some regional church councils were against these innovations

An article in which the German church councils of Bavaria, Bremen, Hamburg, Westphalia and Berlin forbids the use of electric organs ... it is blasphemy!  (From the German magazine "Der Spiegel"  December 1962)


Preserved Pipes


This spring, two experts from Pianobouwbedrijf Steinway & Sons sat blindfolded in a room in the Belgian Abbey of Averbode. They listened to organ music. One time it came from a traditional type of pipe organ, at another from a small five-quarter meter wide instrument plugged into an electrical outlet. Result: The guests from Hamburg could not hear any difference between the two instruments.

The smaller and much cheaper instrument reproduces the sounds of real pipe organs. But without pipes. The recordings are of the electrostatic type - similar to a tape recording, and can be called up by operating the keys and pedals.

The experiment at Averbode Abbey convinced the representatives of Steinway to such an extent that the company acquired the distribution rights to the new organ for the Federal Republic of Germany.


The manufacturer and inventor of the organ named after him is the Parisian engineer Dr. Jean-Adolphe Dereux. For years, Dereux pursued his plan to develop an instrument that is cheaper to manufacture and much easier to install than a conventional pipe organ. But with the sound quality of the traditional instrument.


Dereux recorded organ sounds with a microphone, including organs build by the Parisian organ builder Cavaillé-Coll. He recorded the waveforms with an oscilloscope and then transferred them to round plastic discs with silver alloys. A scanning device converts them back into sounds as soon as the player presses the keys of the Dereux organ. The registration corresponds exactly to the registration of pipe organs.


Unlike conventional organs, the arrangement of the instrument patented by Dereux is hardly problematic. Where normally a few organ builders have to work for months on a medium-sized conventional organ (price: about 45,000 to 60,000 marks), the Dereux organ with a weight of about 90 kilograms (price: 12,000 marks) only needs to be put in the right place by two workers, and connected to the mains socket.

A conventional instrument is tuned twice a year on average, the Dereux organ requires no maintenance.


Because Dereux's invention was sold well in the United States and  in Western Europe, Steinway & Sons thought it was also doing good business in the Federal Republic of Germany. The head of the Organ Department calculated: “Every year about three hundred and fifty new churches, chapels and parish halls are planned in the Federal Republic”. Especially in smaller communities that cannot afford an expensive organ, and are also not satisfied with a harmonium that lags far behind the pipe organ in terms of sound richness, the Steinway company saw good sales opportunities.


However, Steinway did not expect that the offices of the state church and other ecclesiastical entities would apparently view electronically generated or electrostatic stored music for liturgical use as a form of sacrilege. In fact, the evangelical church leaders of Bavaria, Bremen, Hamburg, Westphalia and Berlin have  warned their parishes to purchase electronic organs for years. And the churches of Württemberg, Lippe and Kurhessen-Waldeck have directly prohibited the purchase of such Instruments. Warnings and prohibitions also apply to instruments that produce a similar or identical sound to that of a pipe organ.


At a conference of the Evangelical Academy in Berlin last November, was the question "Electronic music in church services?"

A panelist advised that in principle there were no objections to technical innovations, such as the introduction of the electric light, but that the altar candles could never be replaced by electricity because their job is not to illuminate.

The pipe organ, the theological adviser explained, is not the ceiling lights in the churches, but is actually the altar candles.


Thus the Dereux organ by Steinway -despite the deviating principle- was counted among the electronic instruments. It was not even possible to advertise in the magazine "Der Kirchenmusiker", the official organ of the Central Office for Protestant Church Music.

They returned an ad order saying, “The regional churches prohibit the use of electronic organs in churches.” Organs of Dereux: electronic sacrilege!


By Aadriejan MONTENS


Born on 10 July 1911 in Denain, Jean-Adolphe Dereux began his technical training at the École Nationale Professionnelle in Armentières as a scholarship student between 1924 and 1928.

He then studied physics by correspondence at the Ecole Spéciale des Travaux Publics (ESTP) from 1929 to 1930, while at the same time doing inspection work on transformer and motor platforms in an industry in Saint-Ouen.


At the age of 20, he became a member of a laboratory at the French Faculty of Engineering in Beirut, Lebanon, where he remained until 1931.


He continued his career as technical director in the radio department of the French violin company Laberte et Magnie in Mirecourt from 1932 to 1933. He then set up his own laboratory where he continued to build radios, still in Mirecourt, from 1933 until he was mobilised for the Second World War.

During these years, he carried out research in the field of electroacoustic transformation of oscillations and sound propagation in enclosed spaces, which was to become the subject of his university thesis a few years later.


The Synthèses Sonores company was founded in 1946 by Jean-Adolphe in collaboration with Professor Eugène Huguenard of the Conservatoire National des Arts et des Métiers (CNAM), with whom he also worked on his theory of preverberation and measurement in reverberant spaces.


On 17 June 1953, he obtained the title of doctor from the University of Paris (Sorbonne) by defending two thesis subjects, namely "the analysis and rational synthesis of sounds in reverberant spaces" by presenting the electrostatic organ of synthesis (the first Recording organ), as well as "the establishment and justification of a vibrato of frequency".


Jean-Adolphe Dereux took out a large number of patents at the end of his career, including a theory of prereverberation, the response curve of reverberant spaces, periodicity conditions in horns, virtual horns, and well over a dozen patents for Dereux electrostatic organs.


He died on 24 August 1979 in Brou-sur-Chantereine probably as a result of a road accident in which he was hit as a pedestrian. 

Handwritten manuscript from 1952

Document fourni par Aadriejan Montes
Document fourni par Aadriejan Montes
Paris, 123 Rue Oberkampf. Here engineer Dereux had his "Syntheses Sonores" company (Google Streetview)
Paris, 123 Rue Oberkampf. Here engineer Dereux had his "Syntheses Sonores" company (Google Streetview)
According to the above patent text, Dereux's residential address would be this house. (Google Maps)
According to the above patent text, Dereux's residential address would be this house. (Google Maps)

Friends of the Dereux organ

The restoration of Dereux organs: a small step for humanity, a nice step for the musical heritage.


The Musée des Orgues Dereux thanks its enthusiastic supporters:

Ondřej Kabrna: a master in music and technology: discover

Jean-Sébastien Borghetti: Professor of private law at the Panthéon-Assas University in Paris, donated the 'Dereux from Paris'.

Therese Härtel: organist, Donated the 'Dereux from Berlin'.

Pieter de Jong: Experienced Dereux connoisseur, gave valuable information and essential tips.

Wim Verhulst: Staff member of the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, helped with his knowledge and contacts:

Marc Delhaye: retired professor at the university of Mons in Belgium, initiated a Dereux restoration project at Mons University.

Beatrix Kersten: Research, translations and text support:

Aadriejan Montens: Musicology student at the Université Catholique de Louvain, university thesis about the Dereux organ. Donated many valuable documents.

Thierry Correard: Sectors manager for audiovisual, cinema and recorded music au Direction Générale des Entreprises (Ministère de l'Economie et des Finances), organist, organ-connoisseur and Dereux enthusiast.



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