Organology (Ger. Instrumentenkunde )
- Laurence Libin
(Ger. Instrumentenkunde )
The study of musical instruments in terms of their history and social function, design, construction and relation to performance. Organology has interested scholars since at least as early as the 17th century. Praetorius, in his Syntagma musicum ii (1618) provided an important section on instruments, including some non-Western types, with realistic illustrations drawn to scale (Theatrum instrumentorum, 1620). Other technical discussions appear in the encyclopedic works of Mersenne (1636) and Kircher (1650). Modern organologists and reproducers of historical instruments (who might be called ‘applied organologists’) have benefited from the observations of such early scholars, particularly in cases where well-preserved original instruments are rare or nonexistent. In addition to providing practical information useful to performers and instrument makers, organologists seek to elucidate the complex, ever-changing relationships among musical style, performing practices and evolution of instruments worldwide. This study involves authenticating and dating old instruments by scientific means, discerning the methods by which instruments of different cultures have been designed and produced and investigating the many extra-musical influences – such as advances in technology and changing economic conditions – that lead to innovation and obsolescence. The symbolism and folklore of instruments are subjects that organology shares with music iconography and ethnomusicology....