Monday, November 30, 2009

The Harmonium

What is a Harmonium?

For those who are unaware, the Harmonium was once referred to as the "Poor man's Pipe Organ". It was a complicated musical instrument capable, on a lesser scale, of replicating the sounds created by a full pipe organ, without the pipes. The larger versions could even take the place of organs in churches. The instrument was hand and/or foot-powered, and ranged from a simple handheld keyboard instrument to a full upright piano-sized instrument.

It is unknown what was the inspiration for the creation of this instrument. It served no useful purpose, other than creating a cheap replacement for pipe organs in churches that could not afford such instruments. And, with the development of electronic organs, it became obsolete and is no longer used.

What could inspire someone to created such a thing? Something that would have limited use at best, and something that could be easily replaced by soemthing much smaller and more efficient?

Throughout history, invention has been at best an inefficient process, with highly inefficient creations preceding the more effective final (assumed) versions (think of the steam engine vs. the internal combustion engine). Rather than making the best of ourselves, invention is plagued with what are assumed to be numerous mistakes that are corrected before the final result.

But the mistakes can produce some pretty spectacular results...

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