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WORKSHOP NEWS: March 2011

It is a long, long time since I updated this ‘Workshop News’ page: in the interim I have made two instruments: a German fretted clavichord with split keys throughout for D sharp and E flat, and a second ‘Bavdechtel’ clavichord in cherry wood: I shall do my best to put details of this one on to this website as soon as possible.

I have also written and published a second paper on Clavichords made in Latin America.

The current project is an adventurous one. I am making a reconstruction of the clavichord described and depicted by Marin Mersenne, a mathematician and philosopher who published works on music in Latin and French in the 1630s which include a description of a manicordion, accompanied by a copper-plate engraving.

The instrument is unusual in several respects, and Mersenne’s account of the clavichord has been dismissed as ‘inconsistent and vague’; however, Maria Boxall showed in an article in the Galpin Society Journal in 2001 that it is, in fact, both precise and detailed, and the engraving shows the instrument’s true proportions in a form of isometric projection. Such inconsistencies as there are can be fairly easily resolved.

I am aiming to complete the reconstruction in time for it to be exhibited at the Magnano Symposium in September this year. Wish me luck!

The prominence of the harpsichord in French musical culture during the Baroque period has tended to obscure the role played by other keyboard instruments, including the clavichord. Although French clavichords are quite rare among surviving instruments, there is good documentary evidence – for example, probate inventories – of French people making, owning, and presumably playing the instrument throughout the period 1500–1800. Hopefully, this project will help to give us some idea of what these clavichords were like, and what they were capable of.

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