A visual tour of innovations in musical instruments
Posted by DPLA in April 23, 2014.
Music is universal. All cultures have music in their history. How they go about making that music and with what instruments differs. Music of non-Western cultures (and even instruments used in Western folk music) has long been made with objects of necessity, like gourds, shells, and animal skins. DPLA has some fantastic image examples of these (such as this African harp). The traditional instruments of Western classical music, however, have long existed in much their same forms over time, constructed out of wood and metal (and occasionally other bits such as reed, gut, etc.). There have been subtle changes here and there, but a 17th century violin looks and functions much the same as a 21st century one.
But at various points in time, instrument makers have experimented with creating new instruments, or with radically changing the form of existing instruments. Visual tools like DPLA offer scholars and practitioners alike the capacity to see both how instruments have changed over time and see examples of ones that never made it into the popular domain. It is one thing to read about new and different instruments, but the ability to see (and in some cases hear) them is incredibly useful.
Here is a sampling of images from the Smithsonian Institution found in DPLA.
- Upright harp piano, 1850-1875. United States
- Work Table piano, 1840s. Germany or Austria
- Lyre guitar, probably France ca. 1800-1820
- Gibson Harp guitar, 1919. Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company
- Practice violin, ca. 1910. Mittenwald, Germany
- Hammel Practice violin, 1904. R. J. Hammel
- Albert Practice Violin, invented by Charles Francis Albert in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1877
- Horn violin, patented by Sewall Short of New London, Connecticut, in 1854
- Echo viol, patented by Michael H. Collins of Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1872
- Vocalin, patented by Lewis Cass Smith in New York, New York, in 1906
- Stroh Fiddle, patented by John M. A. Stroh in London, England, in 1899
- Patent violin, 1902. Charles R. Luscombe
- Chanot Experimental violin, 1818. François Chanot. Paris, France
- Fruman Nickel Violin, 1911. Felipe Fruman. Possibly Buenos Aires, Argentina
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