Music Collection

A "sound museum" is what the Munich collector and founder of the "Städtische Musikinstrumenten-Sammlung" (Municipal Musical Instrument Collection), Georg Neuner (1904-1962), had in mind. Along with the beauty and multiformity of musical instruments, it was their use in diverse cultures that served as the criterion for Neuner’s collecting, which embraced every conceivable kind of sound production.

In our time of "depersonalized" and virtualized sound, this type of approach is more important than ever. Few people know why the sounds of an Indian sitâr or a Ugandan amadina xylophone seem so strange to our ears. Fewer still understand the acoustic secrets of Javanese gongs or a German viola d’amore, or indeed which developments were necessary before today’s elaborate, and often highly mechanical, orchestral instruments could be crafted. Long before the advent of mp3 and record players, our Western world sought numerous ways of mechanizing music, as music boxes and orchestrions testify.

Besides well-known instrument makers from Munich like Michael Saurle (1772-1845, brass instruments), Theobald Böhm (1794-1881, transverse flutes) and Hermann Hauser (1882-1952, strings), the Music Collection also features international masters. These include the brothers Antonius and Hieronymus Amati (1555/56-1640, violin), Adolphe Saxe (1814-1894, an entire set of saxophones) and Georges Cousineau (1733-1800, several harps).

Darabukka, Egypt around 1980
Gamelan teacher from Bali with pupils, Munich, 2009
Serpent, Germany, first half of the 17th century
Viola d'Amore (detail), Paulus Alletsee, Munich, 1724
Orchestrion made by Josef Stern of Villingen around 1878
Machine timpani in G, made by the company Kaltenecker, Munich, 1870
Gamelan “Kyai Dipa”  (gendèr and gongs) from Java, Empu Resowiguno, Wirun, 1986
Fortepiano, Johann Andreas Stein, Augsburg, 1790

The collection also encompasses instruments whose makers, while little known in the West, are revered in their home countries. Among these artists are Empu Resowigno (gamelan, Wirun, Java/Indonesia, 1986), Kanai Lal Das (sitar lute, Calcutta/India, 1940)) and Amin and Sayyed Amin (oud lute, Cairo/Egypt, 1980). However, the makers of the vast majority of instruments are unknown – nameless people whose ingenuity enabled them to create incredibly formed instruments and outstanding sounds with the most basic of materials. Of the 6,000 musical instruments and sound sources in the present collection, more than half are of non-European origin, exemplifying the global vision of the collection’s founder. It is this diversity that renders the Collection Music at the Münchner Stadtmuseum one of the finest of its type.

Of course, the instruments alone give us no insights into the world of sound. Why is it that we dismiss so many kinds of music as "caterwauling"? It is our listening habits that we need to address. The sensation of "beautiful sound" depends on numerous factors: it is neither innate nor absolute. We can train ourselves to listen better. For this reason the Music Collection presents its regular series of selected concerts and Sunday matinees. The matinees also provide opportunities for institutes of music education – music schools, youth orchestras and ensembles – to perform in public.

Complementing these concerts, visually-oriented guided tours highlight the connections between musical instruments and explain their heritage and origins. Trying out a Javanese or Balinese gamelan, or playing with others in an orchestra or ensemble, enable us to experience and appreciate different musical cultures, helping us to relativize basic tenets of musical aesthetics and pedagogy and have fun in the process.

Bildarchiv

Professional-quality digital image files of the exhibits in the various collections can be obtained from our picture gallery. Please refer to the german Bildarchiv for details.

A selection of portraits from the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s total holding is available in our portrait collection.