The Keyboard in London

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We (Mike Lurie, Greg Dunbar, Lauren Buono, Shawn Riley & Bryn Coveney) are a group of students studying abroad in London for the semester from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. This blog is to document our class experiences in "The Keyboard and it's Role in London Society" course, which is being taught by Diane Birr at the Ithaca College London Center, in South Kensington. Our studies focus on keyboard instruments (the Virginal, Harpsichord, Pianoforte, Piano, Organ, Electronic keyboard) and explore how these instruments are historically interwoven with the personal and social fabric of London society.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum
Forest Hill, London

The class visited the extensive collection of musical instruments in the Horniman Museum.  The museum features over 7,000 musical instruments from all over the world, both familiar and unfamiliar.  The class was lucky enough to have Bradley Strauchen, an Ithaca graduate and handler of the collection, give us a personal tour of the instruments.

Instruments of special interest included a large display of the evolution of the horn and cornet (including 'coach horns', cor de chasse, natural horns, etc), serpents, ophicleides, devices that were a combination of a walking stick/sword/flutes, ancient egyptian "clappers", and many other odd contraptions.  The Horniman Museum owns the Dolmetsch Collection of Early English Keyboards, which unfortunately are not currently on display due to space constrictions.  The collection is housed in Grenwich and contains several virginals by Venetus, a double manual harpsichord be Jacob Kirckman (ca. 1722) and a miniature virginal from Germany (ca. 1575).

"Seeing such a wide array of historic instruments was incredible!"

"It was nice to walk around a museum with such a wide variety of objects without an intimidating size that make your feet ache with just a look at the museum map."


"It was great to hear the difference between the natural horn and the modern horn at the Horniman Museum. The one thing that will stick with me is that it is so important to study the origins of an instrument. When you have a composer that has written for an older instrument it's important to know how an older instrument would have sounded. As a performer you must get an idea what an older instrument's technical capabilities were, for it can tell you so much about what is intended for a piece of music!"

"We were lucky enough to arrive when the museum's special exhibit featured music from India. It was really interesting to see the different instruments they use and even costumes they wear. One of the most interesting was the horn with ball bearings in the tubing. Also drums with thimble-like cups to put your fingers in as you tap drum!"

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