Pascal Henner (Strasbourg)

Cithare D’accompagnementa Clavier

Patent: Republique Francaise No 76 21691
Filed on 15th July 1976 (at 15.55)

Example image - aligright 

Example image - aligned to the right“Il existe dans ce domaine un systeme anglo-saxon (autoharp) qui a l’inconveneient de ne permettre que 12 our 15 accords …"

"An Anglo-Saxon system (autoharp) exists in this sector that inconveniently, does not allow more than 12 or 15 chords.."

Understanding the ideas in this patent presented something of challenge; in addition to the language barrier, the drawings are scrappy and there is little or no attempt at scale. Fortunately the description is short, and the ideas are centred around the same concerns as all keyboard innovators on the autoharp.

Example image - aligned to the right“Chaque touché (A) est en contact libre avec une poutrelle (B) montee d’etouffoirs (C) situes aux octaves de chaque touché…”

Example image - aligned to the right

Despite the changed appearance, which is momentarily disorienting, the keyboard (which uniquely across all of this lineage of innovation begins from F rather than C) remains perpendicular to the strings, and therefore this instrument is another tabletop design. In this formulation the damping mechanism is placed under the strings and damping is provided at the side of the string through feet extending upwards from the damper beam. Figure 3.2 shows the damper in contact with the string at point C. The downward movement of the key provides force on the beam towards point D, which is sprung, at the treble end of the harp. You can pick out the fact that the damper at point C is not in contact with the string in figure 3.2 when the key is depressed. Force from the spring at point D will return the mechanism to rest point. This is a simple and clever mechanism, and has the advantage that it requires only one set of springs that provide force evenly throughout the damping system. Provided that the measurements are controlled strictly, I see no reason for it not to work. However, I am not sure that this arrangement would produce an attractive keyboard action; the pivot points on the keyboard are very short. This issue could be resolved, but this resolution might further compromise the interface as a whole.

The unusual symmetrical harp design is formulated to allow equal access for left and right-handed players. This is a weaker aspect of the design which I consider would not work at all well in practice — there is simply not enough space in the high treble to allow for this symmetrical presentation and the instrument certainly cannot be said to have an optimised string surface.

The issue of handed interfaces is worth considering however. Within the spectrum of western musical instruments as a whole there is mixed practice for left handed implementation; left handed guitars are relatively common, but the violin, for example, is played left handed rarely — although there are no practical obstacles to this possibility. Whilst I considered the issue of left handed players in the initial stages of prototyping, I quickly dismissed it from my mind as impractical and over-complicated to execute at prototyping stage. Left-handed autoharps do exist, but are also quite a rarity; a left handed ReAPH however, would be further complicated, because the keyboard cannot (easily) be reversed, so the access for the respective hands would be completely different.

Example image - aligned to the rightThe final plate of this patent becomes rather scrappy, but you can certainly pick out the defining points of the mechanism: the pivot point of the keys (bottom left and right) the single spring mechanism which receives the far end of the damper beams (centre right), the damper beams and extending felted feet (centre left) and the symmetrical harp shape.

Henner does not refer to any other designs in this patent, which suggest that this patent (like the previous three) was also written in isolation from the ideas of previous patents.