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Public Defense: The “harpe organisée"

On December 13th & 14th harpist Maria Cleary will defend her thesis 'The “harpe organisée”, 1720-1840. Rediscovering the lost pedal techniques on harps with a single-action pedal mechanism' to obtain her doctoral degree.

The “harpe organisée”, 1720-1840

The “harpe organisée”, 1720-1840: Rediscovering the lost pedal techniques on harps with a single-action pedal mechanism, is the title of Maria Christina Cleary's PhD thesis. This is the first monographic study on harp pedal techniques, tracing the historical way to pedal on the early pedal harps with a single-action pedal mechanism, the “harpe organisée”, the term used by Diderot.

The pedals make up at least half of the pitches on a pedal harp, so when playing the harp, the feet movements are just as important as the fingers. The feet and their dance are an inherent part of the musical phrase. Pedal markings are unnecessary in tonal music, if the feet move with the changing harmonies and modulations in a classical or romantic piece of music.

Maria has re-discovered the technique of moving two or three pedals at a time on one side of the harp, while playing the works by Louis Spohr. Double-pedalling becomes a simple foot movement simplified when a central pedal is folded away in order to operate two non-adjacent pedals at the same time. The heel and toe can move pedals independently.

This thesis looks at a range of historical sources from the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries, including the harpists' footwear. Further chapters include historical pedalling for the later pedal harp, the double-action pedal harp, a practical method for historical pedalling and the complete pedal solutions for the works by Spohr for harp and for other important harp works of the period including Mozart's Concerto for flute and harp and Krumpholtz's Op. 2.


The public defense takes place in two stages. On December 13th she will perform solo harp and duo harp/violin in the Waalse Kerk to elucidate her artistic work in relation to her thesis. On December 14th Maria Cleary will publicly defend her thesis  in the  Senate Chamber of the Academy building in Leiden.

13 December 2016 at 8.30 PM

Waalse Kerk

Breestraat 62-64, Leiden


14 December 2016 at 10 AM

Senate Chamber of the Academy building

Leiden University, Rapenburg 73



Prof. dr. Ton Koopman

Prof. Frans de Ruiter

Prof. dr. Dinko Fabris

Prof. Robert  Adelson


Both defenses are open to the public. Entrance is free.

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