Music and Mechanics – the exhibition goes live!

The phonoliszt violina, by Hupfeld – Rönisch (from the Musée de la Musique Mécanique, CC BY-NC-SA)

We are delighted to announce the launch of the new exhibition, ‘Music and Mechanics’ on Europeana. This has been a fantastic opportunity, not just to look for the different types of musica automata that exist on Europeana, but also to think about the relationships between manually operated or acoustic instruments and the mechanical instruments.

Of course, frequency plays an important part in the exhibition: the faster a wheel goes round, the higher the pitch that’s produced. Or, the faster an insect beats its wings, the higher the sound it’s going to make. But there are many ways in which sounds can be generated for both manual and mechanical instruments – either by friction, or by percussion, or by plucking, or other methods.

How do machines reproduce the same smooth tone as that produced by the violinist’s arm? And how do musicians get to control mechanical instruments, thereby taking their performance skills in a new direction? The exhibition takes just a few examples of the different types of mechanically operated musical instruments, but there are many more on Europeana Music: there are barrel organs, which play short pieces of music, “programmed” onto rotating cylinders or barrels; there are pianolas, which will play longer pieces of music from perforations in paper rolls; and, there are synthesisers – such as the iconic moog synthesiser – which have had so much influence on the last decades of music production.

We hope that you enjoy the exhibition and, also, that it inspires you to explore more of the instruments, recordings, photographs and manuscripts that reside on Europeana Music.

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