Cembalophilia: Hidden Histories of the Harpsichord

June 6–8, 2016
Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704 USA

Program | Participants | Travel to Berkeley

Musical instrument, technological wonder, decorative art work, guiding metaphor of natural philosophy, historical curio.
For centuries, the harpsichord has been all of these things and more, standing amid changing domestic and public habitats, and enabling a vast range of new musical practices, philosophical speculations, and social encounters. Cembalophilia: Hidden Histories of the Harpsichord aims to rethink the harpsichord as a beloved actor in European social life: this distinctive early modern machine entered, and powerfully reshaped, generations of argument about the human soul, the aesthetics of poetry and painting, and ultimately the history of music itself.

The Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, in partnership with the San Francisco Early Music Society's 2016 Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, presented three days of concerts, lectures, a masterclass with Edward Parmentier, and a panel discussion and concert in honor of the late scholar, harpsichordist and Early Music pioneer, Alan Curtis.

Keynote speaker Richard Leppert, along with scholars of organology, social history, material culture, and the history of technology, explored various moments in this long history of the harpsichord - from its earliest years as a mechanism that promoted new ideas about musical simultaneity and sonority, through its heyday as a sounding board of human feeling and sensation, to its ghostly presence in the era of industrial modernity. Concert performances of music from the 14th to the late 18th centuries - ranging from Frescobaldi to Soler, Bull to Scarlatti, Lully to Balbastre - featured instruments by builders including Derek Adlam, Owen Daly, Joel Katzman, and Bruce Kennedy.