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Description of a course offered
at Mather House
Harvard University, Spring, 1976


[This was a course planned by Frank Hubbard to combine in-depth knowledge of the harpsichord with hands-on building of an instrument. As the course was planned, John Koster would direct students in the construction of a harpsichord in the workshop. On the knowledge side of things, participating faculty included Professor Erwin Hiebert, Department of History Science, as head of the course, Dr. Elfrieda Hiebert, musicologist, John Gibbons, performer, Sheridan Germann, artist, and, of course, Frank Hubbard would lecture and work in the workshop with students. However, Hubbard died on February 26, 1976, before the course began. It is my understanding from John Koster that the course was held and an instrument was built by the class. I've gone to some length to include this text because some people might wonder what it would have been like to take a course with Frank Hubbard. I think all would agree that it would have been a strenuous and probably unique intellectual experience. As noted elsewhere, Hubbard was dissatisfied with the American educational system. This course outline perhaps typifies the intensity level of reading that he preferred. From this outline, one can get an idea where Hubbard was heading and what his contributions to the field might have been had he lived to develop these ideas further. The material was taken from a draft prepared by Frank Hubbard. Unfortunately, some of the references are incomplete. Appropriate scholarship can make them whole again. Edited by B.J.Fine]

It is proposed to orient a general historical study around the examination of certain artifacts - in this case, harpsichords. The role of the instrument in music, society, science, economy, and the decorative arts will be investigated.

It is also intended that the students assemble a harpsichord kit, gaining in the process an intimate acquaintance with the mechanism and structure of a French 18th century harpsichord and more than incidentally supplying Mather House with a two-manual harpsichord usable for concerts and individual practice.

This unusual format can be meaningful to students concentrating in various fields. They will attend a series of thirteen lecture discussions in which the harpsichord will be taken as a constant point of reference and departure. General topics to be considered will include the harpsichord as a musical entity, the harpsichord as both a stimulus to scientific research and as the beneficiary of efforts of scientists to methodize contemporary technology, the harpsichord as an ingredient in the social life and the economy of earlier centuries, and the harpsichord as a typical expression of the skill, inspiration and methods of the decorative artists of the time.

Course Outline

A. Music and the Harpsichord

Session #1 - Keyboard Instruments, 1500-1800 - Orientation and Historical Perspective
  • Organ

  • Clavichord

  • Harpsichord Family, virginals & spinets, clavicembali, etc.

  • Fortepiano

Tentative Readings
  • R. Russell - The Harpsichord and the Clavichord, London, 1959. pertinent articles in Grove

  • F. Hubbard - Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making, Cambridge, 1965.

  • R. Harding - The Piano-Forte, New York, 1973.

Sessions #2 & #3 - Harpsichord Music
  • Brief survey of historical evolution of the Renaissance, Baroque & Classical styles.

  • Development of keyboard music in the Renaissance (to 1600).

  • Development of keyboard music in the Baroque (to 1760)

  • Keyboard music in the Classical period (to 1800)

  • Role of the harpsichord in ensemble and orchestral music

Tentative Readings

Excerpts from:

  • Apel, Willi, The History of Keyboard Music to 1700. Trans. by Hans Tischler. Bloomington, 1972.

  • Gillespie, John,Five Centuries of Keyboard Music. Dover, 1965.

  • Kenyon, M., Harpsichord Music. Cassel, 1949.

  • Mathews, Denis, Ed. Keyboard Music. Penguin Books, 1972.

Additional selected studies
  • Borren, Charles van den. The Sources of Keyboard Music in England. London, 1913.

  • Caldwell, Joh.,English Keyboard Music before the 19th Century. Oxford, 1973.

  • Seiffert, Max., Geschichte der Klaviermusik

  • Alker, Hugo, Literatur für alte Tasteninstruments. Versuch einer Bibliographie für die Parxis, Vienna, 1967.

  • Bedbrook, Gerald Stares, Keyboard Music from the Middle Ages to the Beginnings of the Baroque. London, 1949.

Session #4 - Possibly a lecture-demonstration by John Gibbons
Session # 5 - The influence of Musical Writers on the Composition and Performance of Music.
Tentative Readings
  • Donington, Robert, The Interpretation of Early Music. London, 1975 (3rd Edition).

  • Donington, Robert, A Performer's Guide to Baroque Music. London, 1973.

  • Ferguson, Howard, Keyboard Interpretation from the 14th to the 19th Century. Oxford Univ. Press, 1975.

  • Arnold, Frank Thomas, The Art of Accompaniment from a Thorough-Bass as Practiced in the 17th & 18th Centuries. New York, 1965.

  • Keller, Hermann, Phrasing and Articulation. New York, 1965.

Teaching Manuals
  • Couperin, Francois, L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin. Paris, 1716.

  • Bach, C. P. E. , Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen. Berlin, 1753.

  • Schott, Howard, Playing the Harpsichord. London, 1974.

Additional Selected Studies
  • Harich-Schneider, Eta. The Harpsichord, An introduction to Technique, Style and the Historical Sources. 2nd Ed. Kassel, 1973.

  • Nuri, Ruth, A Plain and Easy Introduction to the Harpsichord. Albuquerque, 1974.

  • Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm, Die Kunst das Clavier zu spielen. Berlin, 1750, 1761. New edition, Hildesheim, 1969.

  • Gasparini, Francesco, L'Armonico prativo al Cimbalo. Venice, 1708.

B. Science and the Harpsichord

Session # 6 - Basic Notions on the Mathematics, Physics, Physiology, and Psychology of Vibrating Strings.
Tentative Readings
  • Backus, John, The Acoustical Foundations of Music. New York, 1969.

  • Benade, Arthur H.Horns, Strings and Harmony. Doubleday PB, 1960.

  • Roederer, Juan G.,Introduction to the Physics and Psychophysics of Music. London, 1973.

  • Taylor, C. A., The Physics of Music Sounds. New York, 1965.

Session # 7 - Historical Investigation of the Stimulus to the Physical and Mathematical Analysis of Vibrating Strings as Provided by Music Theory and Instrument Making Practice.
Tentative Readings
  • Drake, Stillman, Renaissance Music and Experimental Science. Journal of the History of Ideas, 1970, 31, 483-500.

  • Drake, Stillman, Vinceuzio and Galileo Galile. Galileo Studies, Ann Arbor, 1970.

  • Helmholtz, Hermann, On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music. Heidelberg, 1863.

  • Lindsay, R. Bruce (Ed.)Acoustics: Historical and Philosophical Development. Stroudsburg, PA, 1974. Notably primary papers in English translation from Galileo (1638) to Ohm (1843).

  • Palisca, Claude, V., Scientific Empiricism in Musical Thought. in Hedley H. Rhys (Ed.) Seventeenth Century Science and the Arts. Princeton, 1961.

  • Truedell, Clifford A. The Rational Mechanics of Flexible and Elastic Bodies, 1638-1788. in Leonhardi Euler: Opera Omnia II, vols. 10 & 11, Zurich, 1960.

Session #8 - The Application of Scientific Principles to the Craft (technology) of Harpsichord Construction.
Tentative Readings
  • Cole, A.H. & Walts, G.B., The Handicrafts of France as Recorded in the Description des Arts et. Métiers, 1761-1788. Harvard, 1952.

  • Gillispie, C.,C. Introduction to a Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia. New York, 1959; and selected graphics on the harpsichord from the Encyclopedia.

  • Hubbard, Frank,Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making. Appendices A through F. Sachs, Curt, Real-Lexikon des Musik-Instruments. 2nd ed., New York, 1964.

  • Schaeffner, André, Origine des instruments de musique. Paris, 1936. Especially for its bibliography.

  • Engelmann, Wilhelm, Bibliotheca Mechanico - Technologica ... über alle Theile der mechanischen and technischen Kunste und Gewerbe. Leipzig, 1844.

C. The Harpsichord in Economic and Social History

Session #9 - Attitudes, Work Habits and Living Standards of Artisans
Tentative Readings
  • Hardouin, P.J. Harpsichord Making in Paris, Galpin society Journal, X, XII, XIII.

  • Diderot, preface to Encyclopédie (excerpts).

  • Savary de Bruslons, Dictionnaire universelle de commerce, 1741.

  • Lespinasse, R., Les Métiers et corporations de la ville de Paris du 14ième au 18ième siecle, 1886-1897.

  • Sceaury, Paul Loubet de, Musiciens et facteurs de musique, statuts corporatifs, 1949.

  • Hubbard, F., Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making, Harvard, 1965, excerpts.

  • Dale, W., Tschudi the Harpsichord Maker, 1913.

Session #10 - The Techniques of Harpsichord Making with Special Reference to Harpsichord Making as a "Technologically Intensive" Industry
Tentative Readings
  • Hubbard, F. Three Centuries of Harpsichord MakingI., Harvard, 1965, "Workshop".

On Pins:
  • Reamur, R.A., L'Art de l'épinglier

  • Ure, Dictionary of Arts, Mines & Manufactures

  • Gillespie, C.C., Ed., "Pin Factory," A Diderot Pictorial Encyclopedia, Dover, 1959

On Wire:
  • Savary de Bruslons, Dictionnaire universelle de commerce, 1741, "Fil de fer," "Fil d'archal."

  • Ray, A Collection of English Words Not Generally Used, 1674, "The Manner of Wire Work At Tintern in Monmouthshire." in Hubbard, p. 282.

Session #11 - The Harpsichord in the Economy
Tentative Readings
  • Savary des Bruslons, Dictionnaire, (excerpts)

Session #12 -The Role of Music and the Harpsichord in Social Life
Tentative Readings
  • Burney, Charles, The Present State of Music in France and Italy. London, 1771. (London, 1959).

  • Burney, Charles, The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States. London, 1775 (London, 1959).

  • Loesser, Arthur, Men, Women and Pianos, a Social History. New York, 1954.

  • Rayner, Henry, A Social History of Music from the Middle Ages to Beethoven. New York, 1972.

  • Excerpts from William Newman's volumes on the history of the sonata in the Baroque and Classic periods. Chapters include "The Instruments and Settings," "The Uses of the Sonata" (church and court, etc.), "The Spread of the Baroque Sonata" in The Sonata in the Baroque Era. Chapel Hill, 1959. The harpsichord is important in the discussions in this volume as well as below.

  • "The Sonata in Classic Society," "The Spread of the Classic Sonata," "Instruments and Setting," in The Sonata in the Classic Era. Chapel Hill, 1963.

  • Bukofzer, Manfred, "Sociology in the Baroque." In Music in the Baroque Era. London, 1948.

  • Graf, Max, Composer and Critic, 1947.

  • Reichardt, J.F., Vertraute Briefe . . . 1808-1809.

  • Hanslick, Eduard, Geschichte des Concertwesens in Wien. 1869.

Special Selected Readings:
  • Helm, Ernest Eugene,Music at the Court of Frederick the Great. Norman, 1960.

  • Yorke-Long, Alan, Music at Cour. Four eighteenth century studies. London, 1954.

  • Preussner, Eberhard, Die bürgerliche Musikkultur, ein Beitrag zur deutschen Musikgeschichte des 18. Jahrhunderts. Kassel, 1950.

D. The Harpsichord as an Object d'Art

Session #13 - Slide Show by Sheridan Germann
  • Philip James, Early Keyboard Instruments, London, 1930.

  • Various illustrated catalogues

  • Readings as specified by Mrs. Germann

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