I recently discovered Yale University’s Cross Collection Discovery service, and it’s really exciting. It lets you search for documents and artefacts across a number of collections and institutions at Yale. The digital images of the objects are open access. I browsed the scientific instruments for a while and also searched for pianos, as I always do. I love the fact that items related to what you are presently viewing pop up on the left side of the page—enormously fun and helpful.

Here’s my favorite thing I found:

The Reflection

Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), The Reflection, or, The Music Lesson

From here.

Johann Joachim Quantz, for his Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (1752). Most of all for the entry:

  • Musicians, old, their mistakes. –young, their mistakes. –great, their mistakes.

But here are some honorable mentions:

  • Flute-makers, the mistakes made by most of them.
  • Instrument makers, their mistakes.
  • Music-lovers, their mistakes in judgment.

Oh come now, Mr. Quantz, tell us how you really feel.

No, seriously, in fact the index is actually really not that crotchety, and that’s not really why I love it (even if those headings are the ones that make me laugh the hardest). Really what I admire is the freewheeling style. Some more favorites:

  • Acclaim, of listeners, what it is good for.
  • Cadence, its origin. –Misuse. –Intention. –Errors. –Conclusion. –What accompanists should watch out for in regards to it.
  • Natural gifts, often replace the lack of good instruction. –Must be well tested. –Are not enough in themselves to make a good musician.

Why can’t we do it like that today? (Or can we?)

I’ve been invited to attend GOArt’s Research Faculty meetings this spring, and I’m really looking forward to it. The first meeting is tomorrow and will focus on a few texts about conservation: two articles by John Watson as well as the “Crafts and Conservation: Synthesis Report” from 2001 for ICCROM, the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (the report can be accessed here).

The ICCROM report caught my attention in particular, because it deals with not the conservation of craft objects but with the conservation of the crafts themselves. One point made in the report is that crafts are historically situated: the production of a certain kind of object is not the only thing that determines how crafts are practiced; there are social and cultural conditions that play a role as well. I’m used to thinking about how artefacts and technologies are socially constructed (if you will) but, of course, the work processes and structures behind them are socially shaped as well. So if we want to be precise, we should recognize that social or cultural parameters don’t shape objects directly; they shape the people and the work that produce them, and through that process, the objects themselves. I’ve thought about this issue in my dissertation, but not quite in those terms, so this will be a useful thought for my own work.

I’ll be interested to hear what the other GOArt folk have to say about the ICCROM report and the other articles from a less theoretical and more practical, restoration- and documentation-oriented perspective (I’ve been in my dissertation bubble for a long time). I’ll post a brief report after the meeting.

Just for fun

This blog has been on hiatus for a long while, but I would like to pick it up again and post more regularly in the future.

Just to start things off on a light note, here’s something funny I came across the other day in C. F. D. Schubart’s Deutsche Chronik (yes, I mean funny if you’re kind of an organ geek, which I of course am):


In — sucht man einen Organisten, der zwey Präludia kann, eins für Sonn- und Feyertage, das zweyte für die Festtage; der ein paar Murki spielt, im Ton: Ey jagt mir doch die Käfer weg u.a. und den Choral ohne Vorspiel und ohne Manieren nach einem vom Stadtthurner geschriebenen Choralbuch, schlägt; der Kühnheit genug hat, sich über Quinten und Oktaven und andere solche Kleinigkeiten hinwegzusetzen, und zu Verhütung des Podagra im Pedal keinen andern Ton zu treffen weiß, als das teife c. Die Liebhaber können sich bey Herrn — in — melden; man hofft, es werden derer sehr viel seyn, weil sie mit der Matthesonischen Organisten- oder Feuerprobe verschont werden.

(November, 14, 1774)

I tried to translate it but it was beyond me. (But Podagra, I learned, means gout.)

Here’s another useful link: the Goethezeitportal, a excellent umbrella site linking to all kinds of online resources for the study of German art, literature and music in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The “Weblinks” page is extensive, and they also provide a large number of articles for download as PDF files directly on the site (go to the “Bibliothek”). There’s no focus on technology per se, although I did find an interesting article about automata in the library.