Patented Instruments (a blog post from @Orchestrasfan)

Posted: November 7, 2013 in Music

Patented Instruments, or How the Oboe got its Name

The ever well-dressed Ulrike Schmid, who blogs and tweets auf Deutsch as @orchestrasfan, posted a fascinating summary of an exhibition that will be on display over the next few months in Hamburg.  Here’s my translation:

November 5th, 2013 from Orchestrasfan

Pictured: Johann Matthias Augustus Stroh (1828-1914), Stroh-Fiddle, London circa 1910, Ebony, Aluminum. Photo: Roman Raacke

With the exhibition “Patented Instruments”, the Hamburg Museum of Art and Craft transports visitors to the instrumental and musical history of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Unusual Instruments

Around 100 instruments from the collection of Wolfgang Hanneforth tell the story, in sixteen chapters, of how luthiers, engineers, inventors, musicians, watchmakers, goldsmiths, and other adventurous craftsmen conceived musical instruments as technological, scientific objects.  They tinkered, studied, experimented, and availed themselves of the latest technological and physical scientific insights, in search of the perfect sound.

Tinkering and Experimentation

The fruits of this tinkering and experimentation are shown in the exhibition.  They include some string and woodwind instruments that are technically exceptional and innovative in their construction.  Among the unusual items in the exhibition are the “Stroh-Fiddle”, which Matthias August Stroh equipped with a sound-enhancing metal cone, or violins with extraordinary body shapes, such as the one with a guitar-like body developed by François Chanot.  Also on display are rare damsel- or pocket-fiddles (pochettes), as well as various silent violins and miniature instruments.

Along the way come the answers to questions such as, “Did Stradivari have no competition?”, “What, exactly, is a beak flute?”, “How did the oboe get its name and the flute its valves?”, or “How long have women been allowed to play the flute?”

Unsigned silent violin, possibly from late 19th-Century Germany, maple, ebony. Photo: Roman Raacke

The exhibition, which is on display through May, 2014, features an audio guide, which is also available as an iPhone-App (click here to download).  With 42 tracks with samples of the historic instruments, film clips with minuet- and tango-dancing, and two audio features, it will breathe life into the musical instruments, your effort, and your time.

Sounds to me like an interesting exhibition.


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