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date: 14 November 2019

Rhodes, Harold B. locked

  • Hugh Davies


(b Los Angeles, 1910; d Los Angeles, Dec 17, 2000). American piano teacher and designer of the Rhodes electric piano. The son of a baker, he was grounded in science and took an architectural degree at Los Angeles Polytechnic High School. About 1930 he established the Harold Rhodes School of Popular Piano. During World War II the Army Air Surgeon General asked him to develop a music therapy programme for servicemen in hospitals. For this he designed his 29-note Air Corps Piano, or ‘Xylette’ (1942), which could be played in bed and resembled a large, 15-pound toy piano; initially it used parts from wrecked aeroplanes and scrap plywood from engine crates. Instead of strings it had graduated lengths of flattened aluminium tubing from B-17 wings, mounted like xylophone bars and played from a piano-type keyboard. Thousands were built between 1942 and 1945, primarily for Air Corps hospitals; many of these ‘Make and Play’ instruments were assembled by the patients, following a manual that Rhodes wrote....

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