It is gratifying how Jim never fails to land smack in the middle of an
observation rich in possibilities.
I agree with Bill's account of how the phenomenon comes about, though I'm
less well-informed in the case of the organ. But this phenomenon is in my
opinion a very big part of what makes a harpsichord a good instrument.
It is rather sad how little awareness of this there is in modern keyboard
pedagogy (none, perhaps?).
Anyway: as Bill points out, it means that the player must make a new
adjustment in response to the instrument in front of him every time he
plays on one new to him. This is a relationship between player and
instrument rather unusual, eh? It involves listening rather than mastery.
There ARE harpsichordists whose approach to a new instrument is to attempt
to beat it into submission, either literally or figuratively. They are not
the sort of artists who endear themselves to sensitive harpsichord makers.
The wonderful Seattle-based baroque soprano Nancy Zylstra was once holding
a masterclass for singers learning how to sing with harpsichord. She spent
quite a bit of time explaining to them that the tempo of their singing, and
the time taken to swell or bloom their held notes would have to be dictated
by the length of time it took the harpsichord notes to "bloom." Some, I
suspect, found this revelatory, some, alas, no doubt found it
On a good clavichord, the manipulation of this phenomenon with a subtle
swell in pitch is far more useful and interesting than a heavy-handed use
> how is this effect used to produce a
>quite simply, really. The good musician listens to the instrument and
>adjusts his tempo and breathing accordingly. Like someone talking, the
>instrument need time to "breath". Preconcieved notions of what the music
>should sound like stand in the way; the instruments sounds, not the music.
>The "breathing" can be used to emphasize as well as not and this, too, is
>part of the dynamic playing possiblities any good instrument more or less
>offers. Not at all such a primative matter as piano- like playing loud and
>Your observations in the later post are right on.
>gotta take the dogs out...
>Keyboard Instrument Maker