Musical Instruments as Nexus Points

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The study of organology is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing on methodologies from fields such as material cultural studies, acoustics, and musicology. The siloisation of the field within museums in the past two decades, particularly in the UK, has narrowed the approaches adopted, largely resulting in technical histories of the objects; as Prof Rognoni will argue, organology has indeed resisted methodological change. The interdisciplinary potential of the field reflects the multifaceted nature of musical instruments. Far from being created in a vacuum, musical instruments come into being, evolve, and eventually eclipse as a result of social and technological advances; a process Dr Waters’ paper will expertly illuminate. Like the artist’s signature on a portrait, a maker’s name upon an instrument belies the credit due to the networks and collective expertise which shaped each component. My paper here approaches musical instruments as collaborative nexus points. Taking the premise of co-design as a framework, I explore musical instruments as products of multiple hands, dispelling the myth of the lone luthier. That these contributing parties exist both within and beyond music, reaching across diverse industries, communities and cultures, results in an object imbued with multiple lineages. Through consideration of 18th century examples of collaboration, I will demonstrate that the strict disciplinary compartmentalisation we now observe—enforced on us in part by the structures of Higher Education—differs greatly from the freedoms experienced during the first industrial age. In doing so, my paper invites discussion about the value of musical instruments as complex sources of economic and cultural history.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2023
EventRoyal Musical Association 59th Annual Conference - University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Sept 202316 Sept 2023


ConferenceRoyal Musical Association 59th Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
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