Volume 37, Number 3, December 2010

Margaret Downie Banks, Editor

NMM Newsletter (PDF version)

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   News and Notes

The King Henry IV violin on display at the NMM

“Schieffer Unveils The King Henry IV Amati Violin”

The King Henry IV violin by Antonio and Girolamo Amati (Cremona, ca. 1595), presented to the NMM on May 14, 2010, by Kevin Schieffer (Sioux Falls), a member of the NMM Board of Trustees, was unveiled during the Annual Member and Trustee Reception held on September 24, 2010. The timing of the unveiling honored the 400th anniversary of the requiem mass held for Henry IV in the Medici family church of San Lorenzo, in Florence, Italy, on September 16, 1610.   [more]

James Leach, Chair, NEH

“James Leach, NEH Chair, Visits NMM Galleries”

James Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, visited the NMM on September 29, 2010, prior to addressing the campus community at the Al Neuharth Media Center. His lecture, “Civility in a Fractured Society,” was presented as part of a fifty-state “American Civility Tour: Bridging Cultures.” Leach’s visit marked the first time any NEH Chairman has visited South Dakota.   [more]

Catherine Stearns Speaks About Cultural Diplomacy

“Catherine Stearns Speaks about Cultural Diplomacy”  

Catherine Stearns, a Public Affairs Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Washington, DC, was the keynote speaker at the annual fall NMM Member and Trustee Reception held on September 24, 2010. Stearns noted that “the significance of this event became very poignant for me today when I toured this beautiful museum of the very first time. What a befitting home for a precious instrument from afar, built by Amati as a gift for a king and regal court of France.”   [more]

Michael Tsalka

“Michael Tsalka Records Daniel Türk Sonatas on Five Historic Keyboards”

Michael Tsalka, Professor of Harpsichord and Chamber Music at the Escuela Superior de Música (National Center for the Arts) in Mexico City, spent more than a week at the NMM in early August 2010, recording twelve sonatas by Daniel Gottlob Türk on five of the NMM's historic keyboards. The recordings—the first to feature the NMM's instruments by Kraemer, Silbermann, Spath & Schmahl, and Thym--are scheduled to be released by Naxos as a two-CD set. [more]

John Koster

“Koster Receives USD Research Awards”

John Koster, NMM Conservator and Professor of Music, was the recipient of two prestigious research awards presented to him by The University of South Dakota during the 2010 fall semester. [more]

John Koster in Edinburgh

“Koster Completes European Lecture Tour”

John Koster recently completed an extended research trip to Europe, where he participated in several scholarly conferences, met with numerous professional colleagues, and examined instruments in various collections. Koster’s itinerary began in Spain, where he was a co-chair of the Tenth International Symposium on Spanish Keyboard Music “Diego Fernández,” this year focusing on the subject “Keyboard Music and Instruments in the Spanish Empire (16th-17th centuries).”    [more]

Jimena Uribe, Jonathan Bouquet, and Sarah Richardson at conference in Mexico City

“Richardson and Bouquet Present at Conference in Mexico City”  

In early November, Sarah Deters Richardson (Curator of Musical Instruments) joined Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet (Conservation Research Assistant), and former NMM Intern, Jimena Palacios Uribe, in Mexico City, to highlight the important work that the NMM carries out with regard to the cataloging and preservation of musical instruments, at a conference attended by museum specialists, musicologists and conservators.   [more]


   Curatorial Commentary

NMM 14491.  Transverse flute in C by Louis Lot (1807-1896) workshop (during E. Barat's ownership), Paris, 1898

“A ‘Lot’ of Love: A Love Story Forever Preserved at the NMM”

by Deborah Check Reeves
Curator of Education and Woodwind Instruments

In the mid 1950s, shortly after completing a music degree at UCLA, Victor T. Piltch, Jr. (1930-1994) met, fell in love with, and married Edith. After playing his Louis Lot flute throughout college in school and studio orchestras, chamber music groups, recitals, and even in the 1952 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Victor enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He soon found himself assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe Band (USAFE). Together, the young couple left for Germany, where, in late 1955, the USAFE Band’s Woodwind Quintet was formed. [more]

Advertisement for Conn's Wonder Double-Wall Clarinets, 1891

“C. G. Conn's Double-Wall Wonder Clarinets”

by Margaret Downie Banks
Senior Curator of Musical Instruments  

C. G. Conn commercially produced double-wall, metal clarinets only during the last dozen years of the 1800s, because, the manufacturer wrote in 1903, “the prejudice against metal for clarinets was difficult to overcome. They were beautiful instruments, had immense volume, were greatly admired and successfully used in Military Bands. They have had their day and have been superseded by the Improved and Perfected System Wonder Ebonite Clarinets which are now so generally in use.” It would not be until the late 1920s that the Conn Company would once again develop and produce another all-metal clarinet. [more]

NMM 14503. Jarana primera by Carlos Escribano, San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico, 2004

“The Grace of Imperfection: Jarana Primera by the Legendary Maker Carlos Escribano”

by Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet
Conservation Research Assistant  

The jarana primera acquired by the NMM in 2010 was made by Carlos Escribano, a native of San Andres Tuxtla, in Veracruz, Mexico, who is one of the last artisans of the old jarana-making tradition. Escribano’s instruments are characteristized by the most basic and traditional techniques of construction. Having no electricity at his disposal, his work tools are limited to a machete, one gouge, a handsaw, and a knife. He uses no rulers, power tools, sandpaper, nor varnish. He cuts the instruments without any tracing, using only his machete, measuring everything by eye. [more]

Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet works on instrument documentation at the NMM

“The Objects of Research: The Documentation of Musical Instruments at the NMM”

by Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet
Conservation Research Assistant  

Museums and public collections are valuable research resources, providing a wide variety of objects, documents, and related items for study. Musical instruments themselves might be considered to be, in effect, three-dimensional “documents.” The information acquired by studying these “documents” will vary according to the cultural background of the researcher and their particular interests. An art historian, for example, will decode certain information that would surely differ from that required by a biologist or an organologist. [more]

Impedance chart for a natural trumpet by Wolf Magnus Ehe, ca. 1720

“Measuring Sound: BIAS Aids Understanding of Brass Instruments”

by Sabine K. Klaus
Joe and Joella Utley Curator of Brass Instruments 

When cataloging brass instruments, some important questions that need to be answered include:  What is the key of this instrument and at what pitch does it play? Do the notes speak easily and are they in tune with each other? How high can one play on this instrument? All these questions could be answered subjectively by a player after some practice, but the results will vary according to his or her skills. Moreover, playing an historic brass instrument is not always desirable in a museum setting, where conservation takes precedence. Therefore, in order to answer such questions, an objective tool is required, such as an artificial device that generates acoustical properties. [more]

Clamps from the Workshop of Antonio Stradivari

“How Did they Do It? Musical Instrument Making Tools at the NMM”

by Arian Sheets
Curator of Stringed Instruments 

The galleries at the NMM are filled with musical instruments made with many kinds of materials, in all sorts of forms, shapes, and sizes, comprising everything from a “cello” made out of a humble barrel to an exquisite, gold-and-silver trumpet constructed in Nuremberg almost three-hundred years ago. For many of us, this begs the question, “How did they do it?” Behind the scenes, the NMM holds wonderful collections of the tools, patterns, forms, plans, and related materials required to make musical instruments. These sometimes odd assortments of objects—remnants of historic instrument making workshops—leave us with a glimpse of the working practices of instrument makers past. [more]

NMM 7147.  The Custom Shop Uncle Sam trumpet  by Andy Taylor, Norwich, England, 1996

“A Visit to Andy Taylor's Trumpet Workshop”

by Sabine K. Klaus
Joe and Joella Utley Curator of Brass Instruments 

The most striking trumpets in the Utley Collection were created by the British trumpet maker Andy Taylor in Norwich (Norfolk), U.K. No tour group, when visiting the Utley Collection, has ever failed to ask questions about these unusual-looking instruments. It was, therefore, a very welcome opportunity on October 18, 2010, to visit Andy’s workshop in an industrial estate on the outskirts of the English cathedral town of Norwich to interview the maker personally. Taylor generously gave of his time and provided fascinating insight into his work. [more]


Previous Newsletter Issues

Vol. 37, No. 1 (March 2010) [PDF] and News and Notes [Website]
Vol. 37, No. 2 (August 2010) [PDF] and News and Notes [Website]

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