Organology: Cabinet Exhibition

  Geschichte und Bau der barocken Trompete
Cabinet Exhibition: November 2, 2012 to April 7, 2013, curated by Annette Otterstedt
(Technical implementation by Elisabeth Heil)

Organology as a musicological research area is devoted to the study and description of musical instruments. Since   Curt Sachs established the discipline, it employs interdisciplinary means and techniques, borrowed mainly from art history, but also from ethnology and physics.

Organology historically classifies musical instruments in relation to music history by considering technical, stylistic and performance practical characteristics. It also systemises, describes and catalogues instruments, studies their playing technique (performance practice) and analyses their acoustic characteristics. Furthermore, in collaboration with natural scientists, specialised restorers and instrument makers run tests of the instruments' materials (e.g. at the    Rathgen-Forschungslabor of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin). The historical craftsman's techniques of instrument makers are also analysed and subsequently verified by making replicas.

The latest acoustic techniques help the organologists and restorers of the Musikinstrumenten-Museum to preserve and analyse the sound of historical instruments, and to optimise it when restoring or copying instruments. For that purpose, the sound of the whole instrument is recorded as well as that of separate sound emitting parts (e.g. sounding board or the strings).

Individual sound phenomena are studied in detail and documented. Thus, an unusual stringing of a harpsichord or the transient phenomena of old restored organ pipes can be optimised. Ideally, acoustic examinations help organologists to determine which parts of an instrument are original and which are later complements. If for a restoration project the original materials are not available any more, acoustical testing of alternative materials helps to choose those which come closest to the original substance.

Therefore, it is one of our core projects to systematically file all playable instruments of the museum in a sound archive. The instruments from the collection are recorded during museum concerts; and the different stages of a restoration process (e.g. before and after a successful restoration) are sonically documented, too.

Many of the recordings made at the SIM studio are published in the   CD series »Klingendes Museum« and »Klingendes Museum live«.