World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Clavecin électrique

Article Id: WHEBN0004525046
Reproduction Date:

Title: Clavecin électrique  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Harpsichord, Electronic keyboard, Electrostatics, Electronic musical instruments, List of French inventions and discoveries
Collection: Electronic Musical Instruments, Electrostatics, Harpsichord
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Clavecin électrique

Diagram of the clavecin électrique.

The clavecin électrique (or clavessin électrique) was a musical instrument invented in 1759 by Jean-Baptiste Thillaie Delaborde, a French Jesuit priest. It is the earliest surviving electric-powered musical instrument, pre-dated only by the Denis d'or, which is only known from written accounts.

Delaborde described the instrument in his 1761 publication, Le clavessin électrique. The mechanism was based on a contemporary warning-bell device, and the instrument is essentially an electric carillon. A number of bells, two for each pitch, hang from iron bars along with their clappers (one for each pair). A globe generator charges the prime conductor and the iron bars. The musician presses a key and one of the bells of the corresponding pair is grounded, cut off from the charge source. The clapper then oscillates between the grounded and the charged bells, producing the desired tone.

The somewhat inappropriate choice of the instrument's name was defended by Delaborde, who claimed that it was far superior to a carillon. He also mentioned that during a performance in a dark room the listener's "eyes are agreeably surprised by the brilliant sparks" that were produced by the instrument. The press and the public admired the innovative machine, but it wasn't developed further. The model Delaborde himself built survives and is kept at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.


  • Schiffer, Michael; Hollenback, Kasy; and Bell, Carrie. 2003. Draw the Lightning Down: Benjamin Franklin and Electrical Technology In the Age of Enlightenment. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-23802-2

External links

  • Audio demo and photographs of a contemporary reconstruction of the clavecin électrique
  • Clavecin électrique at '120 Years of Electronic Music'
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.