robertogreco + instruments   17

Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments
"About
“We do not know what the dragon means, just as we do not know the meaning of the universe, but there is something in the image of the dragon that is congenial to man’s imagination…. It is, one might say, a necessary monster.”

Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Imaginary Beings

Invention stems not only from necessity, as the cliché has it, but also from the irrepressible impulse for play, for experiment, for the joyful proliferation of the superfluous. This is especially true of musical instruments. Because of the fluid and amorphous nature of music itself, the question of what constitutes an instrument is always open. Instruments are not merely the passive tools into which the composer breathes creative energy, but rather the constellation of forms, at once material and intellectual, which constitute the very conditions of possibility for all we understand by that little word, “music.”

Since the taxonomical work of Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs in the early twentieth century, organologists have classified musical instruments into four major categories, each distinguished by its primary sound-producing mechanism: idiophones (vibrating body), membranophones (vibrating membrane), chordophones (vibrating strings) and aerophones (vibrating air columns). Beyond these basic divisions, scholars have proposed such logically consistent additions as electrophones (for electronic instruments) and corpophones (for the human body as a source of sound). We propose a seventh category: fictophones, for imaginary musical instruments. Existing as diagrams, drawings or written descriptions, these devices never produce a sound. Yet they are no less a part of musical culture for that. Indeed, fictophones represent an essential if hitherto unrecognized domain of musical thought and activity, and it is in order to catalog these conceptual artifacts that we have established the first institution of its kind: the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments.

Technology and imagination are related in a manner both intimate and subtle. On the one hand, thought builds on what human beings find in their environment: imagination is to some extent determined by technology. Thus, certain artifacts can be judged “unimaginable” at earlier periods of history, insofar as they make use of technical means that did not then exist. On the other hand, however, technology is by no means a purely physical affair. Our tools and instruments are indeed material things, but of a different kind than the natural forms such as rocks and trees that predated the appearance of humans. They are objects given form by the human mind. Thus, technology can be understood as the process through which things take on physical reality that previously existed only in the conceptual space of human thought. In the two-way flow between the world of the mind and the world of force and matter, technology functions as a valve or threshold, acting upon and reacting to swirling forces on either side.

Imaginary instruments are a special kind of technological phenomenon. Such instruments never fully make the passage from the imagination into the world. They remain unconsummated objects, indifferent to the chaotic forces at play outside the test-tube of pure conceptuality. Ranging from the physically impossible to the simply impractical, from the “never” to the “not yet,” imaginary instruments rattle suggestively at the windowpane separating our comfortable sense of reality from that nebulous space beyond. In the words of Ernst Cassirer, such instruments are “concerned in the final analysis not with what is, but with what could be.”

A few words about the contents of our collection. We use the term “instrument” in a deliberately broad sense to mean any device used to perform, compose, listen to, or otherwise engage with musical sound. Thus, a radio or a piece of music software is an instrument no less than a piano or guitar. In historical terms, the entries span from ancient Rome to the late 20th century. Although the collection is more heavily weighted toward the recent past, the presence of older entries should dispel any notions of the unique modernity of technological speculation. (Indeed, the current state of instrument building—from the renaissance of DIY analog electronics, to the emergence of seemingly omnipotent computer music languages and the ultra-specialized “apps” of devices such as the iPad—may make us wonder whether our musical imagination no longer outstrips our technological capabilities.) Some entries are true thought experiments, or as Douglas Kahn has called them, “conceptual instruments” which—at least according to our current estimations of technological possibility—could not exist outside of the imagination. Others bear close relationship to historical instruments, of which they can be seen as derivatives, variations, or mutant offspring. Sources include speculative literature and science fiction, avant-garde manifestoes, journalistic criticism, scholarly treatises, and (in the 20th century) radio, television, and motion pictures—virtually any medium in which the human mind has found expression.

The ubiquitous appearance of imaginary instruments in these diverse cultural, historic, and symbolic forms suggests something of the enduring fascination they excite. Like Borges’ dragon, they are “necessary monsters”: we cannot say exactly what they mean, and yet they transfix our minds with powerful symbolic energies and hints of possibilities which we ourselves can only gropingly intuit. We hope that our little museum conveys something of the joy and wonder we experienced in collecting these remarkable artifacts.

Deirdre Loughridge and Thomas Patteson
Berkeley and Philadelphia, June 2013

Your curators

Deirdre Loughridge specializes in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but is interested in music and technology across their long intertwined histories. Since 2011 she has been a Visiting Assistant Professor in Music at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is working on a book about audiovisual culture from Haydn to Beethoven. She has taught courses on the history of the symphony, music and visual media, and music and technology from bone flute to auto-tune. Deirdre’s work can be read in the Journal of Musicology, Eighteenth-Century Music, the Journal of the American Musicological Society and on the blog Spooky and the Metronome.

Thomas Patteson is a writer, educator, and curator whose work explores the classical, electronic, and experimental traditions in twentieth-century music. A member of the Musical Studies faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he has studied at the University of Pennsylvania, New College of Florida, and as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Cologne. Among his non-academic activities, Thomas runs the music blog Acousmata and serves as an Associate Curator for Bowerbird, a Philadelphia-based organization that presents new music, film, and dance."
music  instruments  musicalinstruments  deirdreloughridge  thomaspatteson 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Lifehacker - Learn to Play an Instrument Online - Learning
"Chances are at one point or another, you've either purchased an instrument or considered doing so with the intention of learning to play it; most of us, however, never get around the learning part. The internet is a glorious fount of freely available information, and it's slowly filling up with excellent tutorials for getting good at just about anything—including playing a new instrument. Hit the jump for a handful of great resources for getting started with a new instrument online for the low, low price of free."
education  learning  srg  edg  drums  guitar  percussion  lifehacks  howto  tutorials  e-learning  instruments  free  online 
april 2009 by robertogreco
YouTube - Caribbean PVC Marimba Children's Orchestra
"Michael Greiner created this set of plastic pipe marimbas. On this clip are three generations of prototypes designed to be low cost for use by childrens' programming."
music  instruments  percussion  pasadena  make  diy  classideas  children  video  performance  losangeles 
june 2008 by robertogreco
PingMag - LCDD: Crazy Toy Performers From Madrid
"They make music with old Walkmen and all kinds of old and broken toys that have been developed into weird sounding instruments, simply by remodeling them and plugging them in!"
music  instruments  make  madrid  spain  pingmag  españa 
june 2008 by robertogreco
PingMag - Tenori-on: The Light Of Sound
"This sampler and MIDI controller is the brain child of a colabo between media artists Toshio Iwai and developer Yu Nishibori of Yamaha. For its worldwide launch (it’s been out already in the UK since last autumn,) Yu talked with PingMag a bit."
music  tenori-on  toshioiwai  instruments  pingmag 
april 2008 by robertogreco
the vegetable orchestra
"The Vegetable Orchestra performs music solely on instruments made of vegetables. Using carrot flutes, pumpkin basses, leek violins, leek-zucchini-vibrators, cucumberophones and celery bongos, the orchestra creates its own extraordinary and vegetabile sou
instruments  food  experimental  diy  performance  music  orchestra  vegetables 
november 2007 by robertogreco
TENORI-ON - Yamaha Global Gateway
"Media artist Toshio Iwai and Yamaha have collaborated to design a new digital musical instrument for the 21st century, TENORI-ON."
tenori-on  music  gadgets  interface  interactive  instruments  toshioiwai  electroplankton  visualization  sound  hardware  audio  art 
september 2007 by robertogreco
ReacTable Tactile Synth Catches Björk's Eye -- and Ear
"The reacTable, a new instrument that lets musicians manipulate sounds by moving glowing blocks on a round, transparent table, is wowing festival audiences after it was hand-picked by Björk for use on the singer's summer tour."
music  reactable  interface  interactive  instruments 
august 2007 by robertogreco
Music Thing: Why do ice cream vans sound the way they do?
"Nothing sounds quite like an ice cream van, and this post on EM411 left me wondering how they work. This is what I found:"
music  instruments  mp3  icecream  culture 
august 2007 by robertogreco
Nanoloop
"Nanoloop is a synthesizer / sequencer for the Nintendo Game Boy systems. Stored on a normal game cartridge, it allows to produce nice electronic music without further hardware, using either headphones or an external amplifier (home stereo, active speaker
nintendo  games  diy  audio  music  instruments  software  sound  gameboy 
december 2006 by robertogreco
David Ahmed
an audio sample and image for hundreds of musical instruments
music  audio  encyclopedia  sound  instruments  reference  world 
december 2006 by robertogreco
Cabo San Roque
""Cabo San Roque," a Spanish band that makes its own instruments out of old toys and discarded junk."
music  spanish  español  international  world  make  instruments  art  toys 
september 2006 by robertogreco
PRI's The World - Cabo San Roque
"Walking into Cabo San Roque's rehearsal space is like walking into a Dr. Seuss story. Hanging from the walls are some of the weirdest contraptions you've ever seen..."
music  spanish  español  international  world  make  instruments  art  toys 
september 2006 by robertogreco

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