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Article

Laurence Libin

Practice of design to optimize safety, comfort, and efficiency in the interaction between player and instrument. Many instruments are physically awkward to play and place unusual demands on the human body. Long periods of practising and performing under pressure exacerbate physical problems caused by unnatural postures, repetitive stresses on joints, extreme muscle tension, and displacement of fingers, shoulders, neck, and spine. As a result, especially when poorly trained, players of certain instruments can develop calluses, bruises, misaligned teeth, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more serious injuries that, over time, impair health and performance ability.

To address this risk, innovative designers strive to improve instruments by, among other ways, reshaping them to refine their balance, bring parts within easier reach, and reduce muscle strain. For example, the distance between the mouthpiece and bell of an orchestral horn, and the position of the bell in relation to the player, were optimized with the establishment of hand technique—the practice of inserting the right hand into the bell to correct intonation and manipulate pitch. Grouping the piano’s pedals under the centre of the keyboard rather than employing knee levers or long pedals hinged to the piano’s legs (as was common before ...

Article

Byrgy  

Timo Leisiö

Manchu-Tungusic word used in various forms (purgu, abyrga, syynpyrgyzy, amyrga) by several Turkic populations for a lip-vibrated aerophone played by inhalation. Three forms are known: a tube of alder or willow or a long hollow stalk of a vascular plant or bamboo; a coiled roll of bark; and a length of tree trunk or branch, split, hollowed, and reunited like an alphorn. Whereas with blown trumpets the lips of a player vibrate outward, with the byrgy the lips vibrate inward, producing a relatively quiet sound. Both the Khanty wooden byrgy from West Siberia and the similar Karagas-Turkic wooden byrgy from Central Siberia have an integral carved mouthpiece. These examples are about 80 cm long and 4 to 6 cm in maximum diameter, average among the wooden byrgys. The origins of the byrgy are unknown, but it might have been used since antiquity by Ugric, Turkic, Tungusic, and Mongolian hunters to lure big game (elk, deer, etc.), and might have been brought west from Manchuria mainly by Turkic peoples, eventually reaching the Komis and the Udmurts in Russia. Types found in the Americas could have originated independently. The coiled bark form was used by Canadian Cree hunters. Instruments made of a vascular plant stalk were also used by shamans in central Mexico, by the Chiriguanos of Paraguay, and by the Mapuches of Chile, who added a cow-horn bell to theirs...

Article

Sally Sanford

Technique of body percussion. A one-hand snap is produced when the pad of the middle finger with a stiffened distal interphalangeal joint is pressed firmly against the tip of the thumb and the thumb is then suddenly moved outwards, causing the pressing finger to snap against the ball of the thumb (the thenar eminence). In two-handed snapping, the thumb and third finger of one hand grasp the top and bottom of the tip of an inwardly pressing finger of the other hand and then suddenly pull away, causing the released finger to snap downwards. The loudest finger snap has been measured at 108 dB. Rhythmic finger snapping occurs in many genres including folk, theatrical, rock, jazz, modern, and non-Western musics, often to accompany singing or dancing. Bernstein called for finger snapping in ...

Article

Herbert Heyde

By ‘makers’ marks’ is meant here the practice of identifying the makers of Western instruments by means of marks, labels, brands, inscriptions, and other legible indications on the instruments. Marks of ownership and technical markings (such as serial and batch numbers) are not considered here.

In the 14th century European cities and guilds began requiring craft masters to identify their products with marks, with the objectives of promoting high quality and reducing fraud. In the 15th century this practice was extended to musical instruments when their production came under the aegis of the professional craft system. Some guilds included an article in their ordinances to require marking: the Guild of St Luke (Antwerp, 1557) for harpsichord makers, the ‘Pfeifenmacherzunft’ (fife makers guild) of Berchtesgaden (1581) for their masters, the ‘Handwerk’ of the brass and woodwind instrument makers in Nuremberg (1625, 1667). In 1563 the English Statute of Artificers decreed product marking but prohibited apprentices and assistants from signing work....

Article

Laurence Libin

Vehicle for exploring and expressing musical ideas and feelings through sound. Practically anything that is used to make sound can be employed in music, so the concept of a musical instrument embraces a very broad range of things, including, for purposes of this dictionary, the human body. Conventionally the term refers to implements specially designed for producing sound, but this definition is inadequate because unaltered natural objects as well as utensils meant for other tasks (nowadays including electronic communication devices) have been put to musical use since prehistoric times. It can be difficult to distinguish an ‘instrument’ from a practice of music-making; for example, on some islands in the north of Vanuatu and south of the Solomons, women standing in water hit the surface with their hands in various ways to produce different sounds and rhythms, a practice called seritit (‘water music’). The composer Tan Dun similarly employs large bowls of water whose surfaces are beaten, flicked, and slapped by percussionists in his ...

Article

Laurence Libin

Audible signal indicating an incoming call on a telephone, iPhone, or similar device. Landline telephones formerly included two small hemispherical bells rung rapidly in alternation by a clapper driven by a high-impedance electromagnet at a fixed frequency; such mechanical systems still operate in many fixed (not mobile) telephones, although the ringing current voltage might be transmitted digitally over most of its distance. Other fixed telephones use line voltage to produce a beeping, chirping, warbling, or other ring tone electronically. Mobile devices, being fully digital, communicate with their cell base station through protocols that allow ring tones to be selected from thousands of available options.

Furthermore, digital phones can be made to emit a different pitch or tone when each numerical key or area on a touchscreen is touched. These different notes are a basis for iPhone and iPod orchestras (such as the Stanford University MoPhO, University of Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble, and others in Berlin, Helsinki, and London) in which participants play their parts on their smartphones, which are amplified through loudspeakers worn on the hand or wrist. By means of various ‘apps’, mobile phones can also be made responsive to manipulation in various ways such as breath blown into the microphone, which enables the device to act as a synthesized wind instrument....

Article

Laurence Libin

Trademarked name for a novel tangent piano, introduced in 2009, that allows microtonal tuning before and during performance. It was conceived and patented by the British composer and hammer dulcimer player Geoff Smith and developed and built by Christopher J. Barlow in Somerset, England. The prototype resembles structurally an early 19th-century Viennese wood-framed grand piano with straight bichord stringing and a conventional keyboard encompassing five octaves and a 3rd (F′–a‴). Essentially the innovation is a separate movable plastic nut (coloured white or black corresponding to the keys) for each bichord; by sliding a nut manually forwards or backwards in a groove on the wrestplank, those strings’ sounding length, strike-point ratio and pitch are changed. Adjustment of as much as a half-step above and below ordinary pitch is possible (the instrument is normally tuned in equal temperament at a′ = 440Hz) during performance, as are glissandos. Treble and bass dampers can be operated separately or together and a moderator provides additional tonal variety. Two additional pedals for a second player standing at the curve of the bentside control dampers for a separate three-octave set of sympathetic strings (which can also be microtonally tuned and directly struck or plucked) and operate the regular treble dampers. Touted as ‘multicultural’ because it accommodates intervals and pitch inflections used in non-Western musics, the Fluid Piano also has inspired new composition. The University of Surrey as an educational partner of the Fluid Tuning Organization has commissioned works for the instrument and promotes its use. The Fluid Piano was preceded by a Fluid Dulcimer. See ...

Article

Laurence Libin

Term used loosely for a sound-producing or sound-modifying implement made of something either occurring in nature or originally fashioned for another purpose. For a primate example, orangutans in Borneo hold bunches of leaves before their lips to lower the pitch of warning calls. Tool-using hominids no doubt deliberately made or altered sounds with natural objects such as hollow tree trunks, canes and bones, empty shells and sonorous stones, either in their as-found state or minimally crafted. Echoic caves might have been exploited as resonators just as modern street musicians select acoustically advantageous locations. Motivated by curiosity or poverty, human adults and children have always made ingenious instruments from discarded containers, cooking utensils, cracked bones, and other refuse as well as from handy animal and plant materials such as conches, turtle shells, dry gourds, horns, and bamboo and woody tubes; thus local environments influence artificial sound production at a basic level. For example, the Spanish ...

Article

Laurence Libin

Imitation or representation of animal forms in instrument design. Included under this heading is anthropomorphism, referring to human body forms. Zoomorphism appears in all areas of material culture, but sound adds an important dimension to the practice. Musical instruments of many kinds can be made to resemble animals or humans, or parts of them. These forms serve decorative, symbolic, magical, acoustical, structural, and other purposes. Worldwide since prehistory, many instruments, especially those used in rituals, have been constructed of animal parts or whole animals, or made in the shapes of animals, deities, or monsters whose ‘voices’ and powers the instruments evoke. Animal components such as hollowed horns, bones, and shells lend themselves readily to instrument fabrication, so it is not surprising that recognizable cattle and goat horns (the latter for the shofar), sea-shells (in the sankh), armadillo bodies (in the charango), turtle and tortoise carapaces (in Iroquois rattles, some North African lutes, and the ancient ...

Article

The systematic study of bells (Lat. campana), especially large hanging bells. The field embraces bell design, manufacture and tuning, hanging and methods of sounding, performance and repertoire, and the history and traditions of bells in their many functions as signal and apotropaic devices, ritual implements, musical instruments (individually and grouped as chimes, carillons, etc.), symbols, and other aspects. In a more limited sense, campanology denotes the study of bell ringing....

Article

Status  

Laurence Libin

Class ranking of instruments, high to low, in a society’s estimation. The relative position of a type of instrument must be distinguished from the status accorded a singular example. An ordinary guitar once owned by Elvis Presley would be elevated among his fans for its provenance alone. Usually an instrument’s social status seems inseparable from the status of its players and music. For example, the 18th-century hurdy-gurdy was held in low repute by the elite as a clumsy device for grinding out folk tunes by itinerant beggars, but refined models created for Arcadian ladies were considered fashionable and engendered a charming repertory. Baroque bagpipes display the same dichotomy; brash-sounding folk types with naked bags were portrayed as vulgar, even phallic, while elegant musettes taken up by aristocrats were esteemed accordingly. On the other hand, Baroque trumpets and kettledrums used in the service of persons and institutions of high estate as sounding symbols of their eminence were played by subordinates who were often hardly more than servants. Similarly, the church organ, regarded by Mozart as the ‘king of all instruments’ and often a symbol of civic pride, was commonly played by a humble schoolmaster. Thus, an instrument type does not automatically confer its status on its player and vice versa....

Article

Haptics  

Anne Beetem Acker, Laurence Libin and Alan G. Woolley

Scientific study of perception and manipulation of objects through touch and proprioception, usually for control purposes. As it relates to musical instruments, haptics considers the sensory and mechanical interaction between performers and acoustic, digital, or virtual instruments. Skilled instrumentalists demonstrate significantly greater tactile sensitivity and faster response time than members of the general population. Vibrations, acoustic response, and feedback forces inform players about an instrument’s state, speeding learning and improving control. Researchers try to measure feedback forces and determine which can be perceived and which are important to a player’s sense of control and expressivity. Haptics considers the complete circuit from the moment a player engages an activating component of an instrument until the interaction ceases. This consideration extends to a sequence of such events as the instrument’s mechanisms and player repeatedly respond to each other. These interactions can be termed ‘gestures’ and the input device (such as a keyboard) the ‘gesture controller.’...

Article

Laurence Libin and Jessica L. Wood

Term introduced in the 20th century for instruments that had become obsolete but later were reintroduced as copies based on historical models. Some 19th-century antiquarians essayed earlier music on harpsichords, lutes, viols, recorders, and other types that had fallen out of production, for example in concerts organized by François-Joseph Fétis at the Paris Conservatoire from the mid-1830s, by Prince Albert at the court of Queen Victoria in 1845, and later by Edward John Payne and A.J. Hipkins in London, Paul de Wit in Leipzig, and the Mozart Symphony Club in New York. Better to serve such practical needs and to meet demand from collectors, replicas and modernized versions of old instruments were occasionally made at that time. Obsolete instruments also reappeared in new guises in the course of 19th-century nationalistic folk revivals, as in the case of German lute-guitars and the decorative, French Baroque-inspired ivory cornemuses produced by the obscure P. Gaillard. Despite the general inaccuracy of their portrayals of instruments, Pre-Raphaelite artists were influential in heightening awareness of rebecs, psalteries, portative organs, and other obsolete instruments. Newly designed harpsichords by Érard and Pleyel were showcased at the ...

Article

Buzzers  

Jeremy Montagu

Vibrating elements added to instruments to ‘sweeten’, distort, amplify, enrich, or extend their sound. These accessories take many forms. For example, a buzzing membrane, usually made of the internal skin of a bamboo stem, covers an extra hole between the embouchure and the fingerholes of many Chinese and southeast Asian flutes. Some Chinese notched flutes have holes covered by a vibrating membrane in the almost-closed upper end. A vibrating membrane covers a hole in the side of resonators of many African and Latin American xylophones. Some drums, especially in Central Africa, have a hole in the side of the body in which is inserted a short section of gourd with a membrane covering the outer end. A vibrating membrane over one end or over a hole in the side of a tube that is sung into is widely used to disguise a singer’s voice, in some cultures turning it into the voice of a spirit or a god. Artificial membrane materials used nowadays include cigarette papers and scraps of plastic bags....

Article

Laurence Libin

Apart from the dangers (cuts, burns, eye and muscle injury, dust inhalation, chemical toxicity, etc.) inherent in making instruments, playing and maintaining them also pose risks that belie the benign associations of music-making. When these risks are ignored, users and instrument technicians can suffer serious consequences. Musicians’ unions have drawn attention to health problems arising from performance conditions, and some medical doctors specialize in issues of concern to musicians; the Performing Arts Medical Association represents their interests in the USA. Physical therapists employ Alexander and Feldenkrais techniques among other corrective exercises aimed at improving performance functions. This article cites some typical occupational hazards, which range in severity from minor muscle strain to tooth displacement to permanently disabling accidents. For example, crushing injuries can result from unsafe moving of pianos, and a piano technician can lose an eye if a string breaks during restringing or tuning. Pipe organ technicians often work high within an organ’s case where, in old organs particularly, ladders, access boards, and pipe racks can give way, causing falls....

Article

Sally Sanford

Unvoiced vocalization technique involving a slight adduction of the vocal folds but not enough to create pitch, while still using the articulation of normal speech. Activity in the abductor muscles (the posterior cricoarytenoid) is increased in order to prevent vocal fold vibration. There is a smaller supralaryngeal aperture than in speech, creating constriction in the larynx.

Stage whispering is a louder form of whispering that has been a part of theatrical technique at least since the mid-19th century. Quiet whispering uses about twice the airflow rate of normal speech and loud whispering uses about three times the airflow. The activity in the thryopharyngeous muscles is two times greater in stage whispering than in quiet whispering, with even greater constriction in the supralaryngeal aperture. For many actors and singers, stage whispering, which is intended to be heard by the audience, can also involve some soft phonation.

Other types of unvoiced vocalization without pitch include gasping, panting, and sighing. Gasping involves a strong, sudden intake of breath through the mouth with sufficient adduction of the vocal folds so that the inhalation is audible. In panting, both inhalation and exhalation are audible during rapid, shallow, short breaths. Sighing is an audible exhalation with a slow, gentle release of the breath....

Article

(b Antwerp, Belgium, 13 Feb 1928). Belgian organologist and museum curator. She studied at the University of Ghent from 1948 to 1952 and received the PhD (1957) with a dissertation on music at the Burgundian-Habsburg court in the Netherlands. She started her career in 1953 at the Vlees-huis museum (Antwerp), where she cared for a small collection of historical instruments including Ruckers harpsichords in intact condition. Specialist visitors to the museum, including Raymond Russell and Frank Hubbard, encouraged Lambrechts-Douillez to undertake archival research on the Ruckers family, resulting in seminal publications. For guidance in the preservation of historical harpsichords she sought advice from John Henry van der Meer and members of the Galpin Society, with whom she built strong connections that helped bring the Vleeshuis collection to international attention, especially among instrument builders and early-music performers.

Lambrechts-Douillez was a founding member in 1960 of the International Committee of Musical Instrument Museums and Collections (CIMCIM), serving as its president from ...

Article

Susan E. Thompson

[Ruth Isabel]

(b Williamsburgh, MA, 30 April 1866; d Paris, France, 9 April 1928). American humanitarian, philanthropist, and instrument collector. A daughter of the silk manufacturer William Skinner, she attended the Vassar College Preparatory School and Vassar College (Class of 1887), where her interest in music was fostered. In adulthood, she divided her time between homes in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and New York City, becoming a patron of the arts and a benefactor of civic projects. In 1926 she established a fellowship that still enables Vassar College students to study history at a French provincial university. Skinner was awarded the Médaille de la Reconnaissance Française (1919) and the cross of a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (1921) for contributions towards revitalizing war-torn villages in France following World War I. Following her death, her brother William provided the funds to erect a music building on the Vassar campus in her honour....

Article

Edmond T. Johnson

(b Memphis, TN, 17 June 1957). American artist, composer, performer, and instrument inventor best known for inventing the Long String Instrument. Originally interested in visual and performance art, Fullman attended the Kansas City Art Institute where she began to incorporate sound into her works, at first through the manipulation of magnetic tape. Her first major work was the Metal Skirt Sound Sculpture (1980), an assemblage consisting of amplified guitar strings stretched between the artist’s shoes and a pleated metal skirt. Indirectly influenced by Alvin Lucier’s Music on a Long Thin Wire (1977), Fullman began experimenting with extended lengths of wire in 1980 and gave the first public performance on a prototype of the Long String Instrument at the Walker Art Gallery in Minneapolis in November 1981.The design of the Long String Instrument has varied significantly over time and in different installations. It generally consists of several dozen stainless steel, phosphor bronze, or brass wires that are arranged in groups stretched horizontally at about waist height. Depending on the specific installation, the wires span from about 15 to 90 metres. At one end the strings are affixed perpendicularly to the soundboards of securely anchored wooden box resonators (designed in cooperation with the instrument maker Stephen Wise). The strings extend to blocks where they are fastened to tuning pins and tensioned just below their breaking point in order to maximize resonance. A brass capo of unique design (originally a C-clamp) on each string determines its vibrating length. Because the sound arises from longitudinal rather than transverse vibrations, string material (density) and length alone determine pitch, not tension (about 18 kg per string) or thickness. Consequently, the strings sound at a much higher pitch than might be expected from their length. Once tensioned, the strings are tuned by means of the capos in a flexible system of just intonation and typically encompass a range of three octaves down from ...

Article

Hybrid  

Laurence Libin

[duplex]

Instrument that combines in one unit essential features of two or more different instruments. Produced since the Renaissance if not earlier, hybrids can offer unusual performance capabilities, although many have been created only for novelty purposes, for reasons of economy and convenience, or to demonstrate their makers’ ingenuity. Modern examples include the unique Bassoforte (incorporating parts of an electric bass guitar and a piano) and Experibass (assembled from parts of various bowed instruments) built by the composer Diego Stocco for his own use.

Combining unlike instruments can require structural compromises that impair sonority. For example, the 18th-century marriage of violin and post horn (Salzburg) did acoustical justice to neither; the violin’s body encloses narrow, tightly bent tubing blown through a mouthpiece protruding from the back of the violin’s scroll. But the lira organizzata, a hurdy-gurdy containing a tiny pipe organ, was a vehicle for charming compositions by Haydn and Pleyel. Earlier, guitars had been ‘organized’; in ...