Harmonium: what is it, history, types, interesting facts
In the middle of the XNUMXth century, in the houses of European cities one could often see an amazing musical instrument, the harmonium. Outwardly, it resembles a piano, but has a completely different internal fullness. Belongs to the class of aerophones or harmonics. The sound is produced by the action of airflow on the reeds. This tool is an essential attribute of Catholic churches.
What is a harmonium
By design, a keyboard wind instrument is similar to a piano or an organ. The harmonium also has keys, but that’s where the similarity ends. When playing the piano, the hammers that strike the strings are responsible for extracting the sound. Organ sound occurs due to the passage of air currents through pipes. The harmonium is closer to the organ. Air currents are pumped by bellows, pass through tubes of various lengths, actuating metal tongues.
The instrument is placed on the floor or on a table. The middle part is occupied by the keyboard. It can be single-row or arranged in two rows. Under it are doors and pedals. Acting on the pedals, the musician regulates the air supply to the furs, the flaps are controlled by the knees. They are responsible for the dynamic shades of sound. The range of music playing is five octaves. The capabilities of the instrument are extensive, it can be used to perform program works, arrange improvisations.
The body of the harmonium is made of wood. Inside there are voice bars with slipping tongues. The keyboard is divided into right and left parts, which are controlled by levers located above the keyboard. The classical instrument has impressive dimensions – one and a half meters high and 130 centimeters wide.
History of the tool
The method of extracting sounds, on which the harmonium is based, appeared long before the invention of this “organ”. Before Europeans, the Chinese learned to use metal tongues. On this principle, the accordion and harmonica developed. At the end of the XNUMXth century, the Czech master F. Kirschnik achieved the effect of “espressivo” on the invented new mechanism. It made it possible to amplify or weaken the sound depending on the depth of the keystroke.
The instrument was improved by a student of the Czech master, using slipping reeds. At the beginning of the 1818th century, G. Grenier, I. Bushman made their changes, the name “harmonium” was voiced by the Viennese master A. Heckel in 1840. The name is based on the Greek words, which are translated as “fur” and “harmony”. A patent for a new invention was received only in XNUMX by A. Deben. At this time, the instrument was already actively used by performers in home music salons.
The harmonium underwent structural changes and improved throughout the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries. Masters from different countries made adjustments based on national traditions of music making. Today, in different cultures, there are separate varieties of the instrument:
- accordionflute – this was the name of the very first harmonium, created according to one version by A. Heckel, and according to another – by M. Busson. It was installed on a stand, and the furs were powered by pedals. The sound range was not extensive – only 3-4 octaves.
- Indian harmonium – Hindus, Pakistanis, Nepalese play on it, sitting on the floor. Feet are not involved in sound extraction. The performer of one hand activates the fur, the other presses the keys.
- enharmonic harmonium – experimenting with a keyboard instrument, Oxford professor Robert Bosanquet divided the octaves of a generalized keyboard into 53 equal steps, obtaining an accurate sound. His invention has long been used in German musical art.
Later, electrified copies appeared. Organola and multimonica became the progenitors of modern synthesizers.
Use of the harmonium
Thanks to the soft, expressive sound, the instrument gained popularity. Until the beginning of the XNUMXth century, it was played in noble nests, in the homes of well-born gentlemen. Many works have been written for the harmonium. The pieces are distinguished by melodiousness, melody, calmness. Most often, the performers played transcriptions of vocal, clavier works.
The instrument came to Russia en masse along with immigrants from Germany to Western and Eastern Ukraine. Then it could be seen in almost every house. Before the war, the popularity of the harmonium began to decline sharply. Today, only true fans play it, and it is also used to learn musical works written for the organ.
- The harmonium was blessed by Pope Pius the 10th to perform liturgies, in his opinion, this instrument “possessed a soul.” It began to be installed in all churches that did not have the opportunity to purchase an organ.
- In Russia, one of the popularizers of the harmonium was V.F. Odoevsky is a famous thinker and founder of Russian musicology.
- The Astrakhan Museum-Reserve presents an exposition dedicated to the instrument and the contribution of the Yu.G. Zimmerman in the development of musical culture. The body of the harmonium is adorned with a floral ornament and a branded plate indicating the manufacturer’s affiliation.
Today, aerophones are almost never found on sale. True connoisseurs order its personal production at music factories.