The ever-changing music world has gone through some great inventions in the past that have changed the entire approach to different music techniques, and harmonium is one of them. Also known as reed organ, melodeon, or pump organ, harmonium history is commonly traced back to Indian origin, which is not true. Though most music historians associate harmonium with Indian origin, but this music tool belonged to Europe. It was used in the churches in Europe during the middle ages.
A Brief History of Harmonium
It was in the 18th century when the British arrived in India and introduced harmonium for the very first time. But, initially, it featured a foot pedal for playing. After a while, a new version featuring a pump was introduced.
The first-ever harmonium was introduced by Professor Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein (1723-1837). He was a Professor of physiology at Copenhagen.
In the first stage, the design of the instrument was very simple. It was altered by Gabriel Joseph Grenie (1756-1837). The design was known as Orgue express as it produced diminuendo and crescendo sounds.
This device was modified by Alexandre Debian. In fact, it was this man who improvised the Orgue expressed further and named it Harmonium.
Other alterations and improvisations to the shape and design were made by the firm of Mason & Hamlin from Boston. In 1860, they introduced suction bellows it which became immensely famous in America.
It was 1900 when the harmonium was at its peak, and the different versions of the instrument were introduced to the market. They were straightforward models featuring plain encasements, huge harmoniums with intricate cases, and some other mechanisms. There were harmoniums made with two keywords, whereas some models had a pedal keyboard along with the electrical pump.
After the invention of the electronic organ in the mid-1930s, the era of harmonium in the west ended. However, in other parts of the world, the harmonium reached the highest level of mechanical complexity with compact dimensions and exceptional tonal range.
Different manufacturers patented the updated versions of the Harmonium, which resulted in various rods, shafts, cranks, and levers in the instrument.
Estey was the last company that created harmoniums in North America, but they also stopped the operations in the mid-50s. However, some Italian manufacturers continued to produce harmoniums till the 70s.