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The Harmonium ~ Maddy’s Ramblings

The Harmonium ~ Maddy’s Ramblings

2023-05-02 07:05:40

And its checkered historical past in India

It could shock many readers that this musical instrument,
so widespread to the music scene at this time, had such a troubled previous. Born in France
and additional modified to fulfill Indian necessities at Calcutta, to be mass
produced and offered in within the 1000’s, this humble hand powered instrument had
a tough historical past, to say the least. So many individuals have tried exhausting to erase
it off the Indian musical scene, and individuals of nice reputation have been credited
in banning it from the AIR for all of 30 + years. John Fielden, John Foulds,
Anand Coomaraswamy, Jawaharlal Nehru, Keskar, Rabindranath Tagore, and so on. have all
been named because the folks behind the ban, whereas the instrument itself not solely
gained in recognition within the drama phases and music composing studios, but additionally
ported instrumental music and accompaniment from the performing phases to many

Not all particulars of the ‘anti harmonium’ motion have but come
to mild. Although for all sensible functions, the ultimate dying knell got here by means of
Fielden primarily based on an article by Foulds, there’s a story behind it, and
surprisingly, hidden in plain sight, a really persistent woman, who hated the
instrument. Not solely did she affect lots of the above-mentioned individuals, however
was curiously a real exponent of Carnatic music, and the primary individual to
take it to the London music scene. Why did so many Europeans rally in opposition to what
was basically a European music idea? To begin with, allow us to take a fast
have a look at the event of the instrument itself, the way it got here to India and why
it turned well-liked.

One could conclude that Alexandre Debain the Frenchman
invented the primary of the harmoniums, a smaller model of the good Church
organ, however utilizing air, pumped with foot pedals. Massive Victorian houses had area
to accommodate this new contraption. The Harmoni-flute (organ accordion or
flutina polka) was the subsequent improvement, a cross between the small French
accordion and the bigger free reed organ. Two inventors vie for credit score, Fixed
Busson and Mayer Marix, although it was Busson who offered it first and received an
award in 1855. Marix marketed it as an instrument which may mimic the human
voice. Over time, music fanatics in addition to European missionaries in India carted
massive harmoniums to India and it slowly entered the performing scene as nicely,
nonetheless it was unwieldy, and tough to keep up in India’s warmth and humid environs.

One of many corporations buying and selling in European harmoniums was
Harold and Co at Calcutta, the place a shiny restore technician named Dwaraknath
(Dwaraka) Ghose labored. Dwaraka is credited with the mass manufacture and
provide of an Indian model. Because the story goes, Dwaraka left Harold to open
store as D Ghose & sons in 1875, renaming it as Dwarkin and Sons, in 1878. Many
of the variations out there at this time are nonetheless primarily based on a Dwarkin design courting to
1887, with minor modifications. The naming of the corporate as Dwarkin, sounding
fairly European, and so chosen for that very function (to get a bigger and
faster acceptance) is credited to his assistant and the music maestro Upendra
Kishore Ray Chowdhury. Chowdhury apparently advised it by combining the identify
of Thomas Dawkins and Dwaraka. The latter is hardly talked about within the accounts
floating spherical, however Thomas Dawkins, a musical tools supplier is listed because the
patent holder of the polychord, (US Patent 243,861 dated July 5, 1881). Maybe
he had a producing settlement with Ghose. UpendraKishore went on to write down a
couple of instruction books on taking part in it, earlier than changing into an entrepreneur
(printing), author and painter, himself.

The Dwarkin-flute because it was known as then, was nicely obtained. Instruction
booklets had been written on taking part in the gadget and its worth was pegged between Rs
75/- and Rs 150/-, fairly modest in perspective. It was additional developed and
whereas the primary model coated 3 octaves, with 4 stops and a couple of units of Parisian (or
cheaper German) reeds, the subsequent model got here with further stops and coated 3
½ octaves, with choices for organ or celeste tunes, product of teak wooden (British
and French wooden had been choices). A easy design, the Indian Harmonium because it was
recognized these days, consists of a financial institution of brass steel tongues known as reeds which
vibrated when air handed over them. A bellow equipment pumped air over the
reeds, whereas stops managed the airflow. There have been additionally stops for drone
results (steady tones) in addition to a keyboard, all constructed right into a wood field
(for that reason it was known as field harmonium ‘Petti’ in lots of locations), usually
teak to last more and resist termites and humidity. Because it was constructed to a
European design, it coated the standard 12 western notes. A newspaper
commercial proclaimed – “Drive out your sorrows and worries, with a Dwarkin

By now it was known as the Dwarkin – Gramola harmonium, marketed
as a masterpiece in tone, and unmatched in high quality and end. As is commonly the
case, opponents corresponding to Ahuja, Pal & sons, Harold & Co, Mundal & Co,
Biswas & sons, Nationwide Harmonium Co, Mohkam Singh and Sons, Ghose & Co
and so on., rushed to make comparable variations. In a couple of many years, telling on its
recognition, the market was saturated, and costs dipped as little as Rs 28/-. Many
turned proficient within the easy instrument and bridged its 12-note deficiency
with skillful taking part in. The instrument was the mainstay for Hindustani music vocal
accompaniment, although it discovered an entry into the Southern Carnatic music scene,
comparatively tough. A scale-changing mechanism was added, and it turned
nicely suited to the seated Indian musician, for it might be performed whereas positioned
on the bottom, one hand dealing with the bellows with the opposite on the keyboard and
suiting each proper and left-handed gamers. Dwarkin in the meantime, branched off into
different ventures corresponding to phonograph information, industrial recording, skilled
harmoniums, complicated music organs (bulbul, folding) and what not.

One may safely conclude that the majority the musicians in
Bengal perfected their music, with a Dwarkin harmonium to accompany, be it the
Ray’s, the Tagore’s, or stalwarts like Pankaj Mullick, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and
KL Saigal. The Indian music populace had taken the instrument to coronary heart. It was
made in India, low-cost sufficient for budding musicians who may neither afford a
piano nor different western devices. Folks like Rabindranath Tagore and his
brother Jyothirindranath Tagore performed the harmonium at residence, and a younger
Rabindranath Tagore even featured in its promotion – together with his certification
that he loved taking part in the instrument and felt it ideally suited for Indian music. Hindustani
musicians liked it, it was simple to play and sing alongside and no matter its decreased
high quality, it stuffed gaps when the singer wanted a bit break, or when he
paused to take a breath. Gharanas created their very own Dwarkin fingering types. However
whereas a few of the stalwarts felt it an integral a part of their repertoire, others
grew as much as hate it and that’s the story, we’ll get to, subsequent.

The standard Hindustani music efficiency was by then
linked to the natch (Anglicized Nautch) dance which had descended from the
Mughal occasions, an occasion full with singing and dance. A nautch lady was additionally
referred to as a Naachwali, Tawaaif, a Kothaywali and/or devadasi (south). The
imposition of Victorian morals within the 19th century British India
resulted within the anti-nautch motion. Devadasis and Nautanki’s (dancing women)
got a brief shrift, and devices used throughout their performances, such
because the sarangi and tambura had been frowned upon. Within the pre-harmonium days, Indian
vocalists would often be accompanied by musicians taking part in the sarangi. Although
mentioned to approximate the human voice, the sarangi was fairly tough to grasp
and needed to be tuned for every raga. Some Hindu performers shunned it as a result of it
was traditionally related to courtesans and titillating music, and a
mainstay of Muslim Hindustani gharanas. Along with assist from Christian
teams and missionaries, these age-old practices had been shortly disallowed.

Concurrently music follow was transferring from organized
gharanas to the home, and when there was a scarcity of accompaniments or
accompanying artistes on the Tambura or the Sarangi, the emergence of the ‘simple
to study and use Harmonium’ was an awesome boon. Furthermore, the Harmonium may moreover
present a drone impact or shruti utilizing the extra stops offered by Dwarkin,
and it gained recognition. However the harmonium had its personal limitations as a
western note-based instrument, it couldn’t generate the meend or gamaka (a
glide from one word to a different) in the best way a veena or a sitar may. Thus, the
harmonium can’t produce alankars that are half and parcel of Indian classical
music, be it North or South Indian. Moreover, the occasions had been robust and
Swadeshi or anti-British emotions had been on the rise. The ‘European’ harmonium
was quickly going to ‘face the music’.

However earlier than we get to that, allow us to go to Madras, the place a
Ukrainian Émigré, named Helena Blavatsky (along with American Henry Olcott)
had established what we all know because the Theosophist motion throughout 1880, allied to
Dayanad Saraswati’s Arya Samaj, one thing that shortly gained traction amongst
the educated, who had been impressed with these foreigners championing Indian
faith and heritage. Their month-to-month journal ‘The Theosophist’ was nicely
obtained, although fairly unpopular with the Christian missionaries and the
British colonial administration. By 1883, Blavatsky had departed for Europe,
and in 1893, Annie Besant, an ardent supporter of self-rule in India, travelled
to Adayar, to later turn into the group’s head. I cannot get into particulars
on all these, for it would lead us far astray.

What earthly connection would the Theosophist have with the
lowly harmonium? Properly, the Theosophists considered music in a different way and
linked it to vibratory influences. Additionally they argued that Indian music
carried out within the truest manner, with Indian devices, was a technique of correctly
creating what they known as ‘thought types’. Annie Besant was fairly clear that
she believed Japanese music types had been far superior – she mentioned, “A chromatic
scale within the West provides the bounds on a western piano; within the East, many notes
are interposed, and the gradations are so wonderful as to be indistinguishable to a
western ear till it’s skilled to listen to them.
Japanese music is a
succession of notes, a melody, whereas western music consists of notes performed
concurrently, and yielding concord

This argument was linked on to the harmonium by a
sensible violinist who arrived on the scene, an individual hardly recognized to Indians,
a younger woman of Irish extract, named Maud McCarthy. She began out as a baby
prodigy, enrolled within the Royal faculty of Music at London aged simply 9 and
carried out everywhere in the world to turn into a violin virtuoso, solely to retire from performing
aged 23, because of the onset of neuritis. In 1900, she joined the Theosophical
society and married William Mann, a Theosophist author. She traveled to India
1907-08, touring by means of the north and south of the nation – and residing at
Banaras and Mussoorie after which Adyar, experiencing the glory of Indian music. MacCarthy
then experimented with what she described because the magical, occult results of
music on the human thoughts and physique, and practiced what she known as ‘phonotherapy’,
a medical process consisting of therapeutic by means of the facility of sound vibrations
alone. In line with her, Western music had reached its technical limits and
wanted to be revitalized by the ecstatic music of India. She returned to London
within the 1910s and began to popularize Indian music in London and it was at
this juncture that she met and began a relationship with the musician John

Let’s now convey again the main focus to the Harmonium. Maud
MaCarthy hated the Indian harmonium and maybe goaded by Annie Besant, began
the preliminary tirade in opposition to it. In April 1911 she wrote – What, then, are the
supplies by which we could set up the truth that music remains to be a residing artwork
in India? Not the conventionalisms, if I’ll use the time period, of the mass of
Indian musicians; not their disputes over the authenticity of this word or that
word of a raga; not the woeful makes an attempt to repeat brass bands and missionary
hymns which we hear in most Indian colleges and households at this time; not the trendy
Indian music-schools, whereby the pupils are fastidiously skilled out of their
capacities for pure intonation, and their tonal concepts are stifled by
tempered pitch on screeching harmoniums
; not even the songs of the outdated
composers, if they’re taken solely on the proof, ipso facto, of the remaining

In 1912 she rallied a name to abolish the instrument with a full-blown
article within the Trendy evaluate, and her hatred for keyed devices was strident
It is just a make-shift transportable instrument which the missionaries introduced
to India, no such factor getting used within the West, excepting at streetcorner
conferences within the slums of our cities, the place no different keyed instrument can be
potential. This, then – a degraded type of a degradation-is what Indians have
elected to make use of for the accompaniment of their divine ragas and raginis! The general public
home corners of the West wedded to the soul of Indian music! Some Indians have
even gone as far as to make what they name a sruti harmonium-to repair the srutis
as one would possibly attempt to repair the echoes of the ocean! It’s within the nature of music
that the srutis shouldn’t be mounted: mathematically good sounds, as I’ve
indicated above, being all the time in a state of change and adaptation, underneath the
sole steering of instinct and aesthetic sense-the solely infallible requirements of
musical tonality. Any try subsequently to find out the srutis should finish in

It’s apparent. There are seventy-two modes, as an illustration,
in South India. How can any mounted commonplace of srutis be made to suit all of
these? What’s the usage of making an attempt to rely the drops within the ocean of sound? What
utter fatuity is it that impels Indians to attempt to make a harmonium to register
these sounds? The standard of harmonium tone, loud and rasping, is ruining the
capability to listen to delicate grades of pitch (srutis).
How can murchchhanas
(fainting-notes) be heard or wanted in that din? Noise kills music. All
mushy gliding results are additionally precluded. The drums-copying the harmonium—develop
louder and louder, and the singer should shriek if he isn’t to drown. So, with
this stuff Indians are ruining their splendid vocal heritage…

A.H. Fox Strangways in his 1914 – Music of Hindoostan requested
if the Mohammedan ‘star’ singer knew that the harmonium with which he
accompanies himself was ruining his chief asset, his musical ear… in India the
harmonium, has a novel energy of creating an unharmonized melody sound invincibly
. He then went to Trivandrum and listened to the famous lullaby
– Omana Thingal kidavo
and writes – The songstress wished to accompany
herself on the inevitable harmonium, till I identified that it will be a lot
in her manner when she pulled the string of the cradle, and that the sound of it
would possibly forestall the newborn from going to sleep…
including – Therefore the intense
menace to Indian music of the harmonium, which has penetrated already to the
remotest components of India… I used to be current for an hour at a live performance in Trivandrum
at which this appalling instrument by no means ceased.

John Herbert Foulds by the way, was an English cellist and
composer of classical music, a notable within the English Musical Renaissance. His
gigantic composition – World Requiem (1919–1921), in reminiscence of the lifeless of all
nations, was carried out on the Royal Albert Corridor in 1923 by as much as 1,250
instrumentalists and singers!! Maud continued her tirade – and she or he discovered a eager
listener in John Foulds whom she married later. She skilled him on Indian music
traditions and her particular mystic ideas. Foulds seemingly mastered the artwork
of receiving divine music as taught by his mentor and companion MacCarthy, immediately
from gandharva’s!!

In 1935 Foulds travelled to India, the place he collected folks
music, turned Director of European Music for All-India Radio in Delhi, created
an orchestra from scratch, and started to work in direction of his dream of a musical
synthesis of East and West, composing items for ensembles of conventional
Indian devices. Foulds took the case of the Harmonium to the press, writing
many articles and rebuttals on the subject.

Now we come to Margret Cousins, Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru and
Coomaraswamy. Cousins agreed in 1935 that the instrument, suited solely to
Central European beggars, was a bane to Indian music. Gandhi believed that the
music of the spinning wheel was higher than the execrable harmonium. Nehru advised
a ban in his ebook. Coomaraswamy was extra vocal stating- For no man of one other
nation will come to study of India, if her academics be gramophones and
harmoniums and imitators of European real looking artwork.

As Bob van der Linden defined, this was additionally a interval when
Hindu musicians extra aligned to the western ideas of music, decried the
takeover of Hindustani music by the Muslim Ustads. Because the harmonium was used
usually by the Muslim stalwarts, Harmonium promoters corresponding to Sourindro Mohun
Tagore now joined the outcry to dismiss Muslim musicians as unwilling and
‘illiterate’ academics. Tagore’s case is fascinating, for he had used a number of
Harmoniums and promoted the instrument itself for some time, later deciding that
it was not good, and eliminating all of them from Shanti Niketan. On the
different hand, his brother Jyotirindranath was fairly proficient in taking part in the
harmonium and plenty of a music was composed by the brothers, utilizing it. Was it his
anger in opposition to the Ustads, or his anti-European or Swadeshi emotions behind the request
for a ban? Was it because of MacCarthy with whom he collaborated (he thought extremely
of her) once in a while and carried out collectively (1914)? Troublesome to conclude!

Tagore too wrote to the AIR in Jan 1940 asking them to ban this
instrument of British domination as he noticed it. I’ve all the time been very a lot
in opposition to the prevalent use of the harmonium for functions of accompaniment in our
music and it has been banished fully from our asrama. You can be doing a
nice service to the reason for Indian music if you will get it deserted from the
studios of All India Radio..

That every one of them had correspondence or and knew MacCarthy,
make it much more fascinating. Did she throughout her conferences with them (Nehru, Tagore,
Coomaraswamy and Foulds) convey up the subject? Additionally unusual is the truth that every
of them knew the opposite and talked about the issues with the instrument over
roughly 25 years earlier than a ban might be enacted!! Dr Zakir Hussain  commented that the instrument was
contemptible, Raza Ali, Gul Mohammed Khan, and Lakshmana Pillai agreed that it
be banned. Earlier, the American author & composer David Rudhyar, in his ‘The
Rebirth of Hindu Music’, influenced by Coomaraswamy, too had known as the
harmonium a ‘cancerous development’ within the physique of Hindu music. The foyer in opposition to
the Harmonium was too highly effective and the Ustads within the Gharanas had been powerless in
the corridors of Delhi.

In June 1938 Foulds, now on the AIR, revealed an article
known as “The Hurt-onium” through which he advised that it’s banned
as a result of its tuning was incompatible with Indian classical music stating –  As an alternative of the pervasive tambura, the beautiful
sarangi, the lordly vina, the charming sitar and dilruba, the naive bamboo
flute— as an alternative of those new and intriguing tone qualities, what did one hear
upon all sides? One heard a contraption that il can be a praise to name
harmonium. The factor in query, which imposes itself upon music all through
the size and breadth of India, isn’t any extra a harmonium than a bike is a
Rolls Royce limousine.
He added – It’s strangling vocalisation,
fettering rhythm, fouling each tala and raga, ousting the refined and beautiful
Indian devices. debauching the sensitivity of the ear, checking and
stifling improvisation, and, in each manner, I can consider, doing incalculable
For impact, Foulds additionally quoted Nehru’s remark partly, from his
Autobiography. Foulds additionally famous his enjoyment of seeing a discover in a
broadcasting studio (Bombay as I understood) not way back, providing an
elevated charge to those that sang with out the harmonium!

Nehru had written – They (the center class of the cities)
glory in low-cost and horrid prints made in bulk in Germany and Austria, and
generally even rise to Ravi Varma’s photos. The harmonium is their favourite instrument.
(I reside in hope that one of many earliest acts of the Swaraj authorities shall be
to ban this terrible instrument).

See Also

Fielden, simply arrived from the BBC to go the AIR
(beforehand ISBS) in 1935 and knew Nehru personally, was finally concerned in
the formal ban on the harmonium w.e.f. March 1, 1940. Regardless that the matter
was raised within the Station Administrators Convention in 1939 and endorsed by it, the
choice got here from Fielden’s initiative and formal approval. A procession of
pall bearers ceremoniously took some harmoniums for a burial (echoing the music
ban by Aurangzeb) and its remaining rites had been performed. The puritans had dominated.

Down south in Madras, the violin had turn into the
favored instrument for Carnatic musicians
. CS Iyer gave many lectures primarily based
on Maud MacCarthy’s and Fould’s observations on why musicians ought to keep away
from the harmonium and remarked that it was Tamil genius to tackle the Violin,
even exhorting listeners to burn harmoniums. Whereas a couple of musicians did use the
harmonium (In Kerala and Madras movie composing studios, composers like Baburaj
and singers corresponding to Abdul Khader did favor the harmonium) it by no means took off,
particularly within the conventional Madras music circles.

Nonetheless, Harmonium gross sales continued to rise, and budding
musicians discovered it an ready ally. It was usually used as accompaniment in
impromptu bhakti sangeet classes and small mehfils all through India, and was
by and much the preferred instrument for on a regular basis musical follow in India.

Keskar by the best way, turned the I&B minister in 1952 or so,
nicely after the ban, however stored it going, was additionally in opposition to the gharana idea
dominated by Muslims and took steps to try to ban movie music, which he thought
was Urdu primarily based and too erotic. Anyway, all that resulted within the recognition of
Radio Ceylon and the creation of the Vivid Bharati, a topic for one more day. The
harmonium got here again into unrestricted use on the AIR in 1980 after the ban was
partially lifted in 1971, and top-grade artistes had been allowed to make use of it.

Nonetheless, the instrument remained well-liked within the movie,
drama and efficiency theaters and plenty of 1000’s had been manufactured and used
since its inception. It stays the favourite instructing accompaniment and power
for music composers in India, even at this time. However the instrument faces newfound
challenges, for Sikh factions who all the time used it of their gurudwaras, at the moment are
considering of eliminating the ‘British’ origin instrument. Whereas the harmonium
stays fairly well-liked in India, its use within the West declined, although we come
throughout some wonderful compositions by Gurdjieff within the late 1920’s utilizing a prime bellow
model harmonium.

Alongside the best way got here the 22 tone Shruti harmonium developed in
1911 by Earnest Clements, and Krishnaji Ballal Deval. The Shruti-Harmonium or the
Indian (Hindu) harmonium was sarcastically, manufactured in London by the ‘Moore and
Moore company
’. This proved to be a market failure and confronted plenty of
public opposition. Just lately one other model was developed by Dr Vidhyadhar Oak.

The music scene is altering quickly, and at this time low-cost and
transportable digital keyboards, synthesizers utilizing tone and sound libraries appear
to be taking on, as older devices turn into antiques. As it’s, the shruti
field, shruti apps in your cellphone, rhythm apps and so on., rule the roost, complete
orchestras have been changed by tracks and AI streams, and tone correction
software program removes all imperfections, off-line and generally even on-line. It’s
a world completely different from the one Maud MacCarthy and different purists noticed, however then
once more, that’s maybe ‘improvement’ – Who is aware of what the longer term holds?

All I can say is, Be open to it…

The Indian Listener – Numerous volumes
Theosophist – Numerous volumes
Pioneering Spirit: Maud MacCarthy, Mysticism, Music, and Modernity
Some Indian Conceptions of Music – Maud Mann (Maud MacCarthy)
Abolish Harmoniums – Maud MacCarthy (Trendy Overview)
Enchanted Music, Enchanted Modernity: Theosophy, Maud MacCarthy, and John Foulds – Christopher M. Scheer
From “harm-omnium” to harmonia omnium – Neil Sorrell
Composer John Foulds: The misplaced requiem – Jessica Duchen
Resonances of the Raj – Nalini Ghuman
The lifetime of Music in North India – Daniel M Neuman
Singing the Classical, Voicing the Trendy – A J Weidman
Music and Empire in Britain & India – Bob van der Linden
Indian Broadcasting – H R Luthra
Tangled Tapes Okay S Mullick

For many who need an in depth understanding of the idea
behind tones, semi tones and such, read this well
written, two part article, by Dhanya Subramanian


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