Our institute works in research and documentation of historical musical instruments.

Cultural techniques of production and design are newly researched and repeated by reenacting of handicraft. Our instrument facsimiles offer an experience of lost and bygone dimensions of sounds.

The ideas of the beauty of sound is embedded in the complex artisanal and technical structure of an instrument. The formation of sound relies on the abilities of the instrument maker rather than the player with instruments like the organ, the harpsichord or the piano. A well trained instrument maker tries to achieve an optimum of sound ideas of his age with the means of his art within the limits of the laws of physics determining the framework of potentials. The tools to produce those instruments have been the same for centuries up to the age of industrialisation. The results depended of the craftsmanship of the maker and the esthetics of the ages. Composing music and imagining sound are of course closely linked. The diversity and multitude of sound options achieved in an instrument of specific construction in those times before industrialisation and standardisation open a space of new musical insight and experience today.

Our scientific methods are resembling the present standards of documentation of historical artefacts. For the special requirements of dealing with musical instruments the institute adapts existing or develops new appliances in cooperation with other institutions. An example of this may be the first successful use of a coordinate measuring arm for application with historical organs. 

CAD-drawings and archive research permit a thorough consideration of the present substance and its history. A sufficiently dense database  allows a virtual reconstruction of parts or the complete technical construction. With these methods analysis and reconstruction are possible without any disturbance of the original instrument. It also forms a basis for reconstruction of the instrument or relevant parts by methods of experimental archeology, reverse engineering and exploring functional and production contexts.

This offers numerous benefits for protection of precious cultural artefacts and their preservation. Planning and proceeding of required measures are permanently transparent and allow any conservation or restoring measures to be decided on an objective fundament of date even before any disturbance of the historical object. The importance and technical construction of a musical instrument is understandable, even if it is kept in a mere conservation status. Facsimile replicas based on the recorded data can be counterchecked by the same measuring methods and achieve a quality of scientific and musical value. Thus a vivid approach for investigating precious artefacts is enabled without devaluating and destroying access to informations and experiences for future generations.

"Was Du ererbt von deinen Vätern, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen"

All that you have, bequeathed you by your father,
Earn it in order to possess it.

(J. W. von Goethe, Faust. Part one)

Modern digital documentations reveal the previously obstructed and unknown and form a fundament to understand the artists' impulse and the traces of the artisanal creative process engraved within an instrument before disturbing historical substance. Past events teach us that for sake of a renewed usability of an instrument the historical substance as a source of valuable information has been ignored and done away with too often, without any effort to properly understand and learn from the historical heritage. 

Helmut Balk


Views of measuring room and workshop

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