Posted by: eaubeauhorn | June 19, 2012

Why I hate the harpsichord

Here’s the short answer: because to my ears it sounds like a bunch of tin cans having a cat fight inside a barrel. Sort of pitched tin cans, but tin cans nonetheless.
I wouldn’t have developed this dislike except for our local classical music station; between the hours of about 7 a.m. and noon, when one particular DJ is on duty, about every third piece has harpsichord in it. If every third piece contained, for example, xylophone, I bet there would be a lot of people calling in and whining about it, but for some reason that preponderance of harpsichord seems to go on unopposed.
I think the reason why the harpsichord sounds so discordant to me has to do with both its innate “tone” quality (those tin cans having a cat fight) and the fact that most of the avenues available for musical expression on other instruments aren’t available on the harpsichord. For example, if I am playing the horn or the violin, I have available to me, variation in volume, tempo, timbre, articulation, and probably a couple more I can’t think of right now. On the harpsichord, I have only tempo variation; I can’t change any of the others. So it is inherently less expressive than most other instruments, and it grates on my nerves, sounding like a bunch of tin cans in a cat fight.

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Responses

  1. My favorite harpsichord piece is Lurch playing the Addams Family theme. All harpischord music reminds me of that. It brings a smile to my face and minimizes the cat fights. 😉

  2. I agree


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