Primitive Free Reed Instruments

The earliest reed instrument was probably a mouth organ in Chingmian and somewhat later in the third millennium B.C. in China a sheng or tchiang, a mouth blown calabash with connected reed pipes.

In Europe the first reed sounding device is known from 1619, (Michael Preatorius, Syntagma Musicum II, De Organographia) But the invention, perhaps inspired by a Sheng, was forgotten. The sheng itself was introduced by Johann Wilde in the 1740's into the Russian Court Society of St. Petersburg. Benjamin Franklin invented in 1762 the glass-harmonica and which was played even in the 19th century and for which original compositions were made by Mozart and Beethoven. Inspired by Wilde, the Danish physicist Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein used the principle of the sheng to invent a speaking machine, able to pronounce five vowels and which was published in 1770. The first harmonica with a hand driven bellow and an organ like keyboard was build by Kirsnik, Kratzenstein's assistant. The new invention led to Vogler's Orchestrion, an organ like instrument with four keyboards and 63 notes each, and which was finished by the Swedish master Rakwitz in 1790.

In 1810 the German Bernhard Eschenbach was the first to invent a name for a musical instrument Aeoline, combining the name of Greek wind God Aeolos with the German term violine. Newer versions were called Aelodion, Aeolodikon, Elodikon, Aeol-harmonika, Clav-aeoline or Aeola. In contrast to the use at that times, Eschenbach gave away his ideas and knowledge, so that many experimenters like Voit of Schweinfurt and J. D. Buschmann in 1812, Anton Häckl (Vienna), F. Sturm and Schortmann took advantage of this. Therefore many claim to be the inventor of the Aeoline.

In 1821 Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann (June 17th, 1805 - October 1st, 1864) of Berlin invented a diatonic single action mouth organ with 15 metal reeds which he called Aura or Mundaeoline. One year later he added a bellow and constructed the first portable bellow driven free reed instrument which he called Handharmonika or Handaeoline and which he used as an aid for tuning organs. This single action instrument consisted of a reed plate mounted on an wooden base with valves connected to a bellow in a way to produce sounds by the pressure of the own instrument weight. Anton Häckl used in 1821 the term Physharmonika to describe his harmonium-like instrument, a term which is still used today in Italy.

G. A. Reinlein, also Vienna, used the term Aeol-harmonika in 1825 and 1827 and in 1828 the first printed tunes appeared for Mundharmonika (today's harmonica). This name was previously used for the Maultrommel, a single reed instrument using the mouth as a resonant. After the privilege to build harmonikas of the Chinese type was given to Anton and Rudolph Reinlein in 1824, the other inventors were forced to find names for their products. The term Harmonika was then valid to describe a reed instrument with bellow, specially after the Wiener Privilegienverzeichnis (sort of patent) of 1830 thus displacing the term physharmonika. But the common term was Chineser, black lackered square boxes with Chinese ornaments, exported from Vienna through Gera to Leipzig.

Cyrill Demian & Sons (1772 - 1847) from Vienna registered in 1829 a description and drawings of an Aeoline, and which name was manually corrected by someone else to Accordion.

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last update: 2018-08-07
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