Organ, Harmonium, and Snake Bites

In conjunction with the new online classes, I am providing a brief synopsis of some material covered each week here in these posts. 

In yesterday's group class we took a tour of various keyboard instruments with stops in Poland, India and the UK.

Continuing our exploration of early European polyphony (compositions with more than one melodic line), we took a turn from Paris of the 12th century into Italy in the 14th century with a work by the blind Italian master, Francesco Landini. Landini is often depicted playing the portative organ, and this performance recorded in Glogow, Poland provides an example of his music.


Because the video doesn't identify the instrument initially and it's not a well known instrument for students, I invited students to try to identify the instrument by listening, and then we listened for the mode(s) and dominant intervals used by Landini. 

From this introduction to an early keyboard instrument, I decided to share a clip of students from an academy in India performing on the harmonium, a similar type of portable keyboard instrument with bellows operated by the left hand. Although a more recent addition to Indian classical music, the harmonium is now considered a standard instrument in those traditions. Students were able to compare the timbre (tone color) of the harmonium vs. organ and also the different scales and modal structures of the music. 

This type of comparison and exploration is what I enjoy most about these classes. Any given topic doesn't have to be limited to one region or follow a historical trajectory. The immediacy of online content allows us to follow any and all possible connections that we hear. In this particular case, we found the website for the school that produced the video - Sargam Sangeet Vidyalay - and discovered they offer online instruction! 

Next I shared a unique music video that synchronized a run of the video game Snake with an original piano composition by Yshani Perinpanayagam, a composer of Indian descent living in the UK.

Watch and listen to "I only bite because you make me."


Have fun exploring on your own but remember keywords and algorithms aren't ever going to provide this kind of content when surfing on YouTube! Joining a class discussion gives you access to multiple perspectives and allows you to share your own! 

~Kathryn Woodard

Leave a comment