Your assignment is to prepare and submit a paper on keyboard instruments and its social and cultural impact. The shortlist of keyboard instruments, which had an impact and influence on European music as well as on society and culture, starts off with the harpsichord.
Harpsichord, also known as Italian cembalo and French clavecin, is a stringed keyboard instrument developed in Europe in the 14th century. It was widely used in all forms of European music till the early 19th century when it was superseded by the piano. So, Harpsichord being the precursor of Piano, mainly had a wing-shaped body, or case, like a grand piano. however, its proportions are narrower and longer, and the case and its inner bracing are normally lighter (baroque-music.com). Harpsichords in most of the European countries were manufactured with two keyboards or manuals, which can be separated or coupled to provide further variations in the music, it creates. So, “a typical two-manual harpsichord of the 18th century had strings at normal and octave-high pitch playable on the lower manual, strings at normal pitch controlled by the upper manual, and a coupling mechanism” (baroque-music.com). This harpsichord along with other keyboard instruments only revived European music, by giving the European musicians the correct opportunity to create effective compositions. The incisive sound quality of the plucked metal strings added great clarity to the melodic lines of European music. Also, the harpsichord is particularly effective in performing contrapuntal music of Europe. “That type of music consisted of two or more melodies played at the same time, such as that of the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach.” (baroque-music.com). Bach only composed the Eight Short Preludes and Fugues as a collection of works, using the keyboard instruments, and among them, only the earlier G minor version was created using the harpsichord (Hennessy and Parle). From the cultural and societal point of view, Harpsichords were also regarded as interior decorative articles, like well-furnished furniture.