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Of Note

Innovative Middlemen: The Conn-O-Sax and Other Rare Saxophone Voices

Paul M. Cohen, Faculty, Manhattan School of Music

Posted: Monday, January 25, 2016

The Conn-O-Sax was a bold, innovative F alto saxophone made by American instrument manufacturer Conn for a very limited time in 1928. Combining elements of the saxophone and two double-reed instruments, the English horn and heckelphone, Conn attempted to create a new voice for the saxophone. Its innovations were numerous: a straight instrument with a pronounced bulb-shaped bell reminiscent of the English horn, pitched in the key of F (E-flat and B-flat are the typical keys for saxophones), and equipped with an extended range and a custom mouthpiece. The result was a unique timbre, visual appearance, and technical versatility that was visionary for its time. The Conn-O-Sax succeeded brilliantly as a new instrument in America but ultimately failed in the marketplace; we know of only twenty-five to still exist.

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Of Note

Good Vibrations: Free-Reed Instruments at the Met

Ken Moore, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge, Department of Musical Instruments; Jayson Dobney, Associate Curator and Administrator, Department of Musical Instruments; and Bradley Strauchen-Scherer, Associate Curator, Department of Musical Instruments

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Department of Musical Instruments recently published a highlights guide, Musical Instruments: Highlights of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which features approximately one hundred objects from around the world. Representing cultures from the ancient to the present, each object is accompanied by text that chronicles its historical, technological, or musical importance. Throughout the book, themes connect objects across time and place, and in the case of free-reed instruments, illustrate the cultural exchange of musical ideas.

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Of Note

Wanda Landowska and the Met

Rebecca Lindsey, Visiting Committee Member, Department of Musical Instruments and Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Monday, November 16, 2015

Among the many prominent musicians whom curator Emanuel Winternitz attracted to the Met to perform in his free Member Concerts was the distinguished Warsaw-born pianist and harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, who, like Winternitz, fled the Nazis in Europe and found a permanent home in the United States. Landowska is remembered today for having reintroduced the harpsichord to concert halls, beginning in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, after almost a century of being largely displaced by the more powerful piano.

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Of Note

Listening to a Four-Hundred-Year-Old Instrument

Jayson Dobney, Associate Curator and Administrator, Department of Musical Instruments

Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It is always exciting to hear a great instrument from a historic collection used in performance, and it is especially thrilling to hear one made more than four hundred years ago. Recently, the Museum asked the lute player Christopher Morrongiello to perform on a lute in the collection attributed to a member of the Tieffenbrucker family. One of the most important dynasties of Renaissance stringed-instrument makers, the family originated in the town of Tieffenbruck, located in the Füssen region of Bavaria.

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Of Note

From the Ancient to the Present: Musical Instruments at the Met

Jayson Dobney, Associate Curator and Administrator, Department of Musical Instruments

Posted: Monday, October 19, 2015

The Department of Musical Instruments is pleased to announce the publication of a new book, Musical Instruments: Highlights of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This insightful catalogue features more than one hundred extraordinary musical instruments, from ancient cultures to the present, created by gifted artists from across the globe.

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Of Note

The Status and Power of Ivory Trumpets

Ken Moore, Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge, Department of Musical Instruments

Posted: Monday, September 21, 2015

The new exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty, on view through January 3, 2016, displays several musical instruments, including a variety of ivory side-blown trumpets. While many were used as trade items produced for wealthy Europeans, such instruments also served as integral symbols of royal status and power in several sub-Saharan regions. A number of similar trumpets are also on view in The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments.

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Of Note

Finding a Permanent Home for the "King": Laurence Witten, an Ideal Collector

Claire Givens, Trustee, National Music Museum

Posted: Monday, August 31, 2015

The National Music Museum, located on the campus of the University of South Dakota, is home to the Andrea Amati cello known as the "King," on loan to the Metropolitan Museum through September 8. The instrument was acquired in 1984 by the then-director of the museum, Dr. André Larson, as part of the extensive collection of Laurence Witten (1926–1995). The purchase of this collection and its display were made possible by Robert and Marjorie Rawlins, alumni of the university, and as such, this collection is now referred to as "The Witten-Rawlins Collection of Stringed Instruments."

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Of Note

At Home with the "King"

Joshua Koestenbaum, Associate Principal Cello, Ruth and John Huss Chair, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Posted: Monday, August 17, 2015

In July 2005 I was invited to the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, to play Andrea Amati's "King" cello, now on view at the Met through September 8. The demonstration was to be a part of the conference "The Secrets, Lives, and Violins of the Great Cremona Makers, 1505–1744"—a four-day event devoted to the life and work of Andrea Amati, who standardized the form of the modern violin, and the other great Cremonese makers who followed him. I was thrilled and very grateful to be asked to see, touch, and play this original, Platonic Ideal of the cello—future examples being instantiations of this divine form.

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Of Note

Giving Voice to Times Both Past and Future

Kevin Sherwin, Guitarist

Posted: Monday, August 10, 2015

For the June gallery concert at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I had the privilege of performing on a 1953 Ignacio Fleta guitar from the Museum's collection. To me, it was quite a revelation. I realized on my way to the first session with the instrument that I hadn't spent a lot of time playing a guitar made before 1980, so I knew I was in for something really special.

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Of Note

The "King" Is in the Details: Recreating the Lost Decorations

Matthew Zeller, Organologist and Musicologist

Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015

The "King" cello, on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the National Music Museum through September 8, is a rare surviving example from the decorated set of instruments made in the mid-sixteenth century by Andrea Amati and presented to King Charles IX of France. The "King" has been reduced in size from a large basso, or bass violin, to a modern-day cello. Without this reduction in size, the "King" may have been neglected or lost to time as many other fine instruments have been, and we would be at a loss without its incomparable beauty.

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About this Blog

The Museum's collection of musical instruments includes approximately five thousand examples from six continents and the Pacific Islands, dating from about 300 B.C. to the present. It illustrates the development of musical instruments from all cultures and eras. On this blog, curators and guests will share information about this extraordinary collection, its storied history, the department's public activities, and some of the audio and video recordings from our archives.