The Chinese guqin is a “philosopher’s instrument,” meaning that it is intended as a tool for the player’s meditation rather than for a listening audience. Aside from being difficult to master, the instrument itself has a deceptively complex construction based on Confucian principles.

According to tradition, the qin originally had five strings, representing […]

Lira Organizzata

“Lira organizzata” is a real hybrid instrument that had a brief popularity from the late 18th-early 19th centuries. It was a combined hurdy-gurdy (aka “lira”, “vielle a roue”, etc.) and a small organ similar to the early portativ (thus an “organized lira”). The organ and lira could be played independently or in combination. Music for […]

Schiedmayer Celesta

I sometimes wonder about how people make a living in the arts. When it comes to musical instrument making, there is a fairly constant demand for guitars and so on, but what about very rare, high end instruments that are only occasionally used, are difficult and expensive to manufacture, and almost never actually need to […]

More piano hyperbole

While I am all for imagination and progress in the design and construction of musical instruments, I’m always skeptical when articles use epithets like”unique,” “never before seen,” or “redefining.”

The world of pianos has experienced continual development since Bartolomeo Cristofori invented his cimbalo di piano e forte around 1700. The 20th and 21st centuries have […]

Pointless Glamour

In what I can only describe as an exercise in pointless ostentaion, Gibson has partnered with high-fashion Hong Kong jeweler Aaron Shum to create what is touted as the “world’s most valuable guitar.” And apparently that is its raison d’etre as it was certified by Guiness for a world record at the Baselworld jewelry show. […]

The Artiphon

I came across this intriguing gadget on Kickstarter. They have already surpassed their goal by 10 times. The instrument is currently available only through their Kickstarter campaign, which expires 13 April. They have announced no plans to distribute the product through some other retail scheme, but it seems likely that their success here will change […]

Is smaller better?

As a counter to the previous article profiling the “world’s largest piano,” this time we highlight its opposite. You have to admire the skill and craftsmanship and dedication of someone who takes 16 years to build an exact functioning 1:7 scale replica of a Steinway art case piano. Note that when I say “functioning” I […]

Is bigger better? Maybe.

I just learned of this New Zealand teenager named Adrian Mann, who built what is described as “the world’s longest piano” (I’m not convinced of that claim) from scratch. The thing is 18 feet 9 inches long. It has only 85 keys, for some reason, instead of the canonical 88, apparently choosing to cut off […]

National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking

In February, President Obama released the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. This is primarily aimed the so-called “iconic species,” especially elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.

There is no question that endangered species of animals and plants and their habitats should be protected from extinction. Threatened species of wood and animal products, especially, have historically […]

Elody Electric Recorder

As one of humanity’s most ancient types of musical instrument, the recorder has undergone few fundamental changes over the centuries. The 18th century Baroque style plan seems to have found few contenders for improved designs. It’s partly a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But its longevity is also due in part […]