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I believe I saw this mentioned in an article/blog post I read a while ago.

From what I remember, the article was about a person's amazing singing voice. However, I looked it up recently and didn't come up with much other than this Urban Dictionary definition:

Golden Pipes

(n.) A person's absolutely amazing singing voice that overtakes the listener with so much emotion that he has no choice but to cry uncontrollably or laugh hysterically.

Listen to Robert Plant's golden pipes! He can hit notes perfectly.

Maybe I'm using it wrong; if so, what's the correct usage? Also, any ideas about its origins?

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    It means "beautiful singing voice"; the metaphor is clear: pipes as in "wind pipe" as in "the part of human anatomy producing the beautiful sound" and golden as in "rare and highly valued; of the highest quality". That said, I can't speak to origins specifically. – Dan Bron Jan 9 '15 at 12:46
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    It might stem from organ pipes. They quite often look golden from use of copper, even though most of the original pipes without additional colouring would look silver. And of course they produce amazing sound. – skymningen Jan 9 '15 at 12:48
  • @DanBron That does make a lot of sense. Thanks! skymninge's comment about organ pipes also seems on point. – Vinayak Jan 9 '15 at 12:55
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It may be quite old.

The medieval Welsh Book of Taliesin is from the 14th century but the poems it contains may date from the 10th century.

It contains (in translation) a reference to "the golden pipes of Lleu" which looks to have the meaning "Lleu's singing".

The Four Ancient Books of Wales, ed. William F. Skene, p.509, Abela Publishing 2011 (reprint)

OED also has 1851, which directly uses the metaphor of human singing voices as organ pipes:

† people-organ n. Obs. rare a body of people seen figuratively as constituting a church organ.

  • 1851 E. B. Browning Casa Guidi Windows i. xx. 56 This..teacher, will.. build the golden pipes and synthesize This people-organ for a holy strain.

"people, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2014. Web. 9 January 2015.

Following up on the possible Welsh connection, I've found a translation of Welsh lyrics in "Musical and poetical relicks of the Welsh Bards", Edward Jones, 1808, p.100:

image of original text from "Musical and poetical relicks of the Welsh Bards", Edward Jones, 1808, p.100

How sweet, Isgywer*, is thy charming sound,
Which makes the youthful heart with transport bound
Thy various notes, mellifluous and strong,
Flow tuneful as the golden pipes of song!

[*] Iſgywer = small harp

Jones is obviously quoted from an existing song here, but the footnote just says "D. Samwell", so I'm not sure where he's getting it from or how old it is - or whether the translation is made by Jones himself, or if it's pre-existing. It would be nice to know how literal (or not) this translation is - do we have anyone here who can read Welsh?

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