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HPSCHD-L  October 2006

HPSCHD-L October 2006

Subject:

Harpsichord a changing definition

From:

Jack Peters <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 30 Oct 2006 07:20:48 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (60 lines)

In spite of all the bad things that builders will say about kits, thanks 
to all the kits and the internet, in a short 40 years, much of the world 
now recognizes a total different instrument than before. The words 
virginal and spinet are clearer to many but it will still remain fuzzy 
what the differences are in harpsichord makers and kit assemblers.
I did not come out of my hole to complain as some of the best all around 
voicers and regulators come out of the later group. I just thought an 
interesting topic might be started.Despite all that has been said about 
the original Zuckermann kit, with its production design mentality and 
piano parts in a plywood box, the only similarity left between that and 
todays harpsichord is the delrin plectrum and plastic jack. We old 
timers hate to admit our crude beginnings, but when the spare of 
interest was there, the price was right and in my case Wally was 
practically in my backyard only 8 miles across the Hudson River. I 
recently researched the 4 obsolete kits which changed
the way the world thinks about the harpsichord
   I hope by now that everyone knows about the infamous slabside: 62" 
inches of plywood and lead. the ubiquitous three legged machine still 
seen in church basements.The overwhelming production flooded the western 
world !  I will take a short trip through the history of the brief but 
turbulent period (just two years) in which David Way and his advisers 
transformed this lowly pig into a silk purse!
    Greenwich Village, 1969, The book"The Modern Harpsichord" banned in 
Germany, the riot at the Stonewall Inn gays against police, Everything 
condensed in to a small space and time. I had moved to the west coast 2 
years before and learned all this latter from newsletters, assembly 
manuals, and customers drawings. When I returned to NYC in 1970 there 
was a new Zuckermann in the person of David J. Way. The instruments were 
all new in bright colors. Walnut was "out"! plywood was hidden. All the 
instruments sat on 4 legged stands. The exact location was 160 6th Ave 
(SO HO) a new idea then. Artist lofts had become trendy living spaces.
  What had happened? Where was Wally?  David introduced the "6 footer" a 
huge slabside with more notes G-f3 and a new white plastic jack (three 
rows of them).He had improved the sound with a tapered bridge and room 
for it. Almost immediately the next run was deemed "The 5 Octave " 
GG-g3, the inner case shrank to 1/2"ply and the keyboard (still 
Pratt-Reed) had no front pins and no lead plumb bobs. The poplar ply 
soundboard had been changed to spruce with a basswood core and although 
popular, the basic case (without case pieces) was doomed in favor to the 
"complete kit" at more than twice the price. The 3rd kit came out in 
1971. A "new" flagship model " the Flemish". Taking the best features of 
the 5 octave (overkeyrail and short keys guided in the back), Way 
managed to get the Arrow Josias Co of Philadephia to produce laminated 
basswood bentsides and spline joints. A "horse" (two belly rails,two 
side supports and the wrestplank) replaced the "inner case".
  The use of roman numerals now identified the modified designs. Between 
Flemish I and Flemish VI, the walnut plywood, screw on legs disappeared 
and a solid spruce soundboard emerged . The jacks lost the adjust screws 
and mortice for leather and several "historical improvements" : oldstyle 
tuning pins, rack guided keys,
restored two registers, multi backpinned bass on elevated rail, and soft 
iron wire. I mentioned 4 kits. In 1972, a new big single was announced. 
It would be longer than any kit before, three rows of jacks, a full five 
octaves. matched upper and lower guides and no plywood (the lid and 
bottom was still ply in the Concert I etc.)
      The concept of what a harpsichord was had changed. It was an 
expensive and all consuming project. Today most kits come partially 
assembled, Labor is the only missing parts and advise may not be 
personal.                                           thought you'd like 
to know Jack Peters

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