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Reed Organ

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Thinking about the 19th Century Organ Music, one mustn't forget two organs both of which are quite well suited to romantic musical languages but are completely different in temper : Symphonic organ and Reed Organ (Harmonium). The first one is actually a pipe organ with mechanical perfection and orchestral sound concept (cf. Symphonic Organ Page). The last one on which we're going to discuss now is a rather small organ with free reeds without resonators for its sound generator.

History of music shows the changing musical language and taste from the medieval to the modern epoch, and so called evolution of the instrument runs after this change. In case of the organ, the key of its evolution is "expression." After French definition, this term means a successive augmentation and diminution of sound (crescendo, decrescendo etc.). Thus Harmonium came to be the first keyboard instrument with "expression" and was enthusiastically welcome.

The study of "expression" in organ building started in late 18th century, but traditional pipes not being so generous to allow "expression" without changing its diapason (pitch), have led the builder to investigate another esthetics than Reed Organ. One must know : Introduction of free reeds with bellows whose pressure can be regulated by the player himself, it is the most intimate way to get "expression" with organ.

It seems critic to talk about the 19th century organ music related only with Symphonic Organ, because it is impossible to separate two aspects of this music : symphonic and expressive. I think, therefore, the time's come to talk seriously about this small organ almost forgotten nowadays not from the nostalgic but from the scientific point of view.

Before starting the discussion on this instrument, I have a small announcement to those who love it and are interested in the situation around it in Japan. Over 300 people consisting of organists, organ builders, musicologists and amateurs, have been active in REED ORGAN CLUB JAPAN since 1996. Everyone is welcome to :

c/o Yoshihiro SUZUKI, Mr.
1822-15 Kasori-Machi, Wakaba-Ku, Chiba-Shi,
264-0017 CHIBA, JAPAN

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Image of this page :
Debain Harmonium (1860s), Collection Joris Verdin
Photo taken and prepared by
(C) 1995 Schoichiro TOYAMA
Last modified : 24/06/2001
Maintained by Shoichiro TOYAMA Mr.
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