Short takes: "melodica" - WOTD OED

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 17 09:50:30 UTC 2010

This turned out to be not so short, although that's largely due to the
number of included citations. I split it into two parts.


Melodica 1. 1890-->1857-->1824
Melodica 2. 1961-->1959
?? Melodica 3. 1804 ?? musical instrument
?? Melodica 4. 1824 ?? musical instrument
?? Melodica 5. 1884 ?? organ stop

It is easy to antedate many standard entries because all it requires is
a simple brute-force look-up. GB is perpetually expanding and even 2008
entries, if they had already been verified then, can find antecedents.
In fact, I believe, I've even found some new info for a March 2010 draft
(see "multidrug").

But I am at a loss for options when I come across a relatively rare but
clear alternate interpretation--a distinct but related variant of the
one listed--or an entirely new meaning that was more than a flash in the
pan, but was temporally very localized. Here we have an example of all
of the above.

There is a real difficulty with "Melodica" because in four out of five
cases it originated as a proper noun--two are historical musical
instruments, a third a gereticized trademark of a recent musical
instrument, the fourth is the name of an organ stop--I was going to skip
that last one, but I noticed that "Harmonica" has "organ stop" under 2.
So, it seems, it is perfectly reasonable to include "organ stop" as a
sub-entry under "Melodica" as well.

I shall look at them in order.

1. The trick here is that the articles in earlier dictionaries (and
encyclopedias) appeared under Stein, not under Melodica.
A dictionary of musicians: from the earliest ages to the present time.
Volume 2. London: 1824
p. 454/1
> Stein, (Johann Andreas) an organist at Augsburg, born in 1728, was
> particularly celebrated as a manufacturer of a musical instrument
> called the /melodica/, which was fashionable at Paris for some time.
> He died at Augsburg in 1792.

Articles for Melodica appeared a bit later.
An encyclopoedia, or dictionary of music; By John Feltham Danneley.
London: 1825
> MELODICA, the name of a clavier instrument invented by J. A. Stien
> [sic], in the year 1770.

Given the following source, it is interesting how it could have been
missed by editors.
Encyclopaedia Britannica. 8th ed. Volume 14. London: 1857
p, 485/2
> MELODICA, a keyed instrument in the form of a harpsichord and having a
> flute register of three and a half octaves, from the lowest G of the
> violin upwards. It was invented by J. A. Stein at Augsburg in 1770.

2. There is a 1960 Billboard article that describes the instrument in
great detail, but even this is preceded by ads and novelty briefs in
Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.
Popular Science. March 1959. p. 137
> *Keyboard Flute.* Holes are replaced by piano-like keys on the
> Melodica (below), which was recently introduced in West Germany. The
> manufacturer, Hohner, claims that this unusual arrangement makes the
> musical instrument easier to play.
Popular Mechanics. November 1959
> Discover your musical talent with the HOHNER MELODICA, the musical
> instrument you play right away. Two full chromatic octaves and a tone
> that's great, group or solo.



melodica, n.            DRAFT ENTRY Mar. 2008

[[< MELODY  n. + -ica (in HARMONICA  n.), after German Melodica (1772 or
earlier in sense 1; the work cited in quot. 1961 at sense 2 attributes
the name and the instrument to the German company Matt. Hohner AG, who
today market such instruments under the name Melodica).]]

      *1.* A small pipe organ, invented by J. A. Stein of Vienna. Now
*1890* /Cent. Dict./ (at cited word), /Melodica/, a small variety of
pipe organ invented by J. A. Stein in 1770. *1938* /Oxf. Compan. Music/
789/1 Grenié's invention, the /Orgue Expressif/, became the parent of a
progeny including the..Melodica, Melodicon..[etc.]{em}little more than
the names of most of which survive.

      *2.* A wind instrument consisting of a mouthpiece and a small
keyboard controlling a row of reeds.
*1961* J. HOWARTH in A. Baines /Musical Instruments through Ages/ xiii.
326 The 'Melodica' is a chromatic mouth-organ held like a recorder and
fingered with a miniature piano-style keyboard. *1978* /Times/ 15 July
2/4 (/caption/) Pupils..playing a Swanee whistle..and a Melodica, a wind
keyboard. *1992* /Option/ July-Aug. 118/3 There's a hushed, minimalist
opening piece with a piano ostinato, random percussion, and a melodica
melody line.

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