Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
The khaen is a Southeast Asian mouth organ consisting of a number of free-reed pipes (commonly sixteen) mounted in a wooden wind chamber. From one point of view, it is possible to think of this instrument as an extremely small pipe organ: one with one rank of sixteen free-reed pipes. There have been a number of studies of the khaen in recent decades, often focusing on the coupling between a single reed and the pipe in which it is mounted. Yet music for the khaen, both traditional music and new music by current composers and players, almost always involves multiple notes sounding simultaneously. This paper summarizes some investigations involving the instrument as a whole, sometimes observing similarities and differences between the khaen and the pipe organ. A significant difference is the wind supply, which in the khaen is continually reversing direction. This certainly affects the musical playing style of the instrument, but may have other acoustical complications. Another area recently explored experimentally involves possible musical consequences of mode locking between pipes.
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