The future role of the french harmonium
Abstract: In this work, the nature of the nineteenth-century French harmonium is explored in order to identify its possible future role. It was shown that the instrument is suitable for the performance of contemporary repertoire, including newly discovered extended playing techniques, and that it has pedagogical strengths. In particular, the results in- dicate that a modern audience is a↵ected by the expression of the instrument, even with a new harmonium aesthetic. Furthermore, it was discussed that the unique qualities of the instrument may be valuable for developing expressive performance among key- board instrumentalists, and for bringing special attention to dynamic variation within composing. Today the instrument is almost exclusively known within certain spheres of enthusiasts, which is rather intriguing since its popularity once crossed many cultural and societal boundaries. The fact that the harmonium developed in di↵erent directions, and used in various contexts may explain its present anonymity. In this regard, the aim of this work was to explore its qualities from three di↵erent perspectives, namely: (1) the performer, (2) the audience, and (3) the composer. Specifically, the method consisted of (1) a comparison study, in which the same piece was performed on the harmonium and a French romantic organ, and (2) composing and evaluating new harmonium music. This work includes a composer collaboration and subsequently a composer interview. Furthermore, to include the perspective of a modern audience, two listening surveys were conducted in which the participants were asked to rate each piece on a scale and to answer a questionnaire.
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