Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.10

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Germany has nominated Organ craftsmanship and music (No. 01277) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Organ craftsmanship and music has shaped Germany’s musical landscape and instrument-making for centuries, and there are a diverse number of related traditions in the country. Organ craftsmanship and music are closely related since each instrument is created specifically for the architectural space in which it will be played. The highly specialized knowledge and skills related to the practice have been developed by craftspeople, composers and musicians working together throughout history, and the specialized and mostly informally-transmitted knowledge and skills are significant markers of group identity. Transcultural by its very nature, organ music is a universal language that fosters interreligious understanding. Though mostly associated with church services, concerts and modern cultural events, it is also played during important community-building festivities. There are 400 medium-sized craftspeople’s establishments in Germany, which guarantee its viability and transmission, as well as some larger family-owned workshops. Knowledge and skills related to the element are transmitted through a direct teacher-pupil experience, which is complemented by training in vocational schools and universities. Apprentices gain practical experience in organ construction workshops as well as theoretical knowledge in vocational schools, and efforts to safeguard the element also include teaching in universities and music academies, conferences, and presentations via the media.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Organ craftsmanship and music is an artistic practice that combines innovative techniques and knowledge about the nature and creative improvisation of performing organ music. There is a wide range of traditions around constructing and playing the organ in Germany, with several thousand organ builders and organists throughout the country. The knowledge and skills used in organ construction and organ music are passed on from masters to their apprentices or from teachers to young organists and organ builders in organ construction workshops. In the context of the Christian church, the organ has had a spiritual influence on the attitudes and values of wide populations. On the other hand, it is also practised in secular contexts, such as during concerts and various cultural events. With regard to sustainable development, the file describes the sustainable use of trees for the construction of organs and the generation of sustainable income for bearers and practitioners.

R.2:   The element fosters interreligious understanding and even acts as a connecting factor between believers and non-believers. Its inscription would enhance dialogue among various communities and foster connections between them both within Germany and beyond. It would serve as a unifying element for the communities while acknowledging the diversity of local and regional characteristics. The global visibility of intangible cultural heritage would be ensured given that the element is widely practised in many countries. Organ craftsmanship and music exemplify the constant transmission and development of culture from generation to generation over the centuries.

R.3:   Comprehensive educational activities at both the formal and informal levels and activities related to the transmission and dissemination of the element are planned or already underway. Church and international organizations likewise strive to ensure its viability. Diverse funding resources are available through both private incentives and public administrations. The protection of historic heritage is, moreover, part of a long-standing public policy in the country, which includes the safeguarding of organ playing and making. A thorough analysis of the realistic circumstances that may threaten the development of the element in the future is provided. Some awareness-raising activities targeting young people and the wider public are described. These include: advocacy efforts led by churches and higher education institutions; the construction of new concert halls and international organ festivals and competitions, etc. Safeguarding organ culture in Germany relies on the efforts of committed individuals and institutional volunteers, and bearers have founded organizations aimed at safeguarding the tradition. One of their goals is to foster the network of stakeholders in order to exploit synergies and strengthen advocacy.

R.4:   With the support of the German Commission for UNESCO, the main associations of practitioners – the Federation of German Master Organ Builders, the German Association of Organ Experts and the Society of the Friends of the Organ – initiated the process of nominating the element for inclusion on the German national inventory in 2013. Numerous community members and institutions interested in organs were actively involved in all stages of the preparation of this nomination file and expressed their free, prior and informed consent. The expressions of consent provide a precise explanation of the roles of every organization supporting this nomination.

R.5:   The element was included in the national German Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2014. The inventory was drawn up with the active participation of the communities, traditional bearers and non-governmental organizations concerned. The German National Commission for UNESCO is the organization responsible for maintaining the inventory; the expert committee, which comprises twenty-two people experienced in at least one of the five domains of intangible cultural heritage, regularly evaluates and updates the inventory by proposing new elements for inscription as well as by reviewing the viability of the elements already inscribed.

  1. Inscribes Organ craftsmanship and music on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party that references to the ‘universality’ of an element are not in line with the spirit of the Convention.