AMIS 2022: The Hochbrucker Family and the Adoption of the Pedal Harp before 1760

The American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) promotes better understanding of all aspects of the history, design, construction, restoration, and usage of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods. In June 2022, their annual meeting was held at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

The Hochbrucker Family and the Adoption of the Pedal Harp before 1760 (Remote Presentation)
Mike Baldwin and Lewis Jones

Mike Baldwin, after completing a degree in Music Technology in 1995, in which he specialized in harp making, he worked for Pilgrim Harps, the UK’s leading harp maker. In 2000, he retrained as a special-needs teacher and now teaches outdoor learning to teenagers with moderate and severe learning disabilities in a West London woodland. Following his 2008 discovery of the Erat harp company papers, Mike completed an MA in Musical Instrument Technology; he completed an AHRC-funded PhD in 2017. In 2019, he won the Terence Pamplin Award for Organology from The Musicians’ Company, London. Harp Making in Late-Georgian London (2020) is Mike’s second book from Bright Light Books, a company he founded to publish history books.

Lewis Jones directs postgraduate research in music, musical instrument studies, and material culture at London Metropolitan University. He studied music at the University of York and musicology at King’s College, London. As Professor of medieval and Renaissance music at the Royal College of Music in the 1980s–90s, he advanced novel approaches to teaching founded on deep reading of historical sources, improvisation, and critical listening, also lecturing on historical performance practice. In 1990, he introduced the first BSc course in Music Technology, and in the following decade he directed the Centre for New Musical Instruments of London Guildhall University. He has practiced as a performer and as a designer, maker, and restorer of musical instruments, both new instruments for new music and reconstructions of historical examples.

This paper examines the work of Jacob Hochbrucker (1673–1763), who invented the pedal harp in 1697, and his sons, Simon (1699–after 1762), Johann Christoph (1715–1762 or later), and Johann Baptist (1732–1812), in making and, through widespread performance and teaching, spreading use and awareness of the instrument. It seeks to integrate analysis of the design of Hochbrucker’s harps, of which four well-preserved examples are extant, with selective examination of the initial presentation of the new instrument in centers including Vienna, Leipzig, London, and Paris. Hochbrucker’s harp design, including the implications of his string scaling, is characterized in relation to the contemporary German hook harp and Doppelharfe, and his superbly engineered mechanism, demonstrating precision linkage work, is compared favorably with later designs. This collaborative project also attempts to replicate Hochbrucker’s harp for modern uses. Some suggestions will be offered on how a practice-led program of research into playing a range of early- and mid-eighteenth-century music using copies of Jacob Hochbrucker’s early-eighteenth-century harps, alongside contemporaneous hook, double, and later crochet-action counterparts, might be designed.

Watch more videos from the 2022 AMIS Conference here.