Since July 13, 2012
SOUNDLAB.1 – The Museum Goes Audible

The Music Collection as a "sound laboratory": In the Soundlab, an array of interactive exhibits encourages visitors to experiment with sound and acoustics: for example, by trying out a slit drum, a "xylonator" or the "stamping tubes." Some of these unusual "stations" have been specially developed by Munich-based music educationalists (Ardhi Engl and Roland Fritsch) and our exhibition architect (Michael Hoffer). Brief written instructions and films demonstrate how to perform experiments illustrating the acoustic phenomena.

No musical skills or knowledge are required to explore the Soundlab's treasure trove of instruments. The Soundlab has been fully integrated into the permanent exhibition, and its hands-on acoustic experience will foster a fresh understanding of traditional instruments from former times and foreign cultures.

During the installation of the new Soundlab stations, parts of the permanent exhibition were also redesigned. The Soundlab is being rolled out in multiple phases; in the already completed first segment, the entire entrance to the Music Collection was reconceived.

We invite you to take a stroll through the new entrance area and explore the first Soundlab stations.

A media station provides information on the history of the Music Collection and the idea behind, and conception of, the Soundlab. It also, if requested, plays sample sounds from the instruments and ensembles in the entrance area.

A unique brass band/wind ensemble – composed of current instruments and their historical ancestors – "marches" around in the redesigned entrance to the Music Collection. Many of the exhibits are produced by instrument makers from Munich. In the 18th/19th century, percussion ensembles from Turkish Janissary music also took root in Bavarian musical culture. A Stubn'musi, Bavarian for parlor music, features several instruments in Alpine folk mode, while a "Fensterl zum Orff," a "Window onto Orff," offers insights into the multifarious percussion instruments used by Carl Orff. The majority of these stem from the composer's own collection and have been kindly provided as permanent loans by the Carl Orff Foundation in Diessen, the Orff Center in Munich and Studio 49 in Gräfelfing. The collection highlight is an original lithophone made from pieces of Solnhofen limestone mounted in chromatic sequence. Used in early productions of Orff’s works, it can now be tried out by visitors to the museum.

A "Bavaria / Munich Cliché Wall" offers several regional sound samples. These include the zither music which once so enchanted Duke Max of Bavaria, rustic “schuhplattler” music (which accompanies a dance where performers slap the soles of their shoes), snatches from Mauricio Kagel’s Exotica (which was performed at the 1972 Olympics using 200 instruments from the Music Collection), and even rock music from the German band Amon Düül II.

The next room starts off with a station bearing the martialistic name "Xylonator" (Soundlab station). It combines a wooden sound board (xylophone) with diverse resonators capable of altering the sound in amazing ways. A large exhibit featuring "weird and wonderful" musical instruments playfully introduces us to the organology, or classification, of music instruments: idiophones (instruments that produce sound on their own), membranophones (instruments whose sound is generated by a stretched membrane), chordophones (string instruments), aerophones (wind instruments) and mechanical instruments. An Edison phonograph is also on display here. By using a laser pointer, visitors can quickly find out whether a “kamanche” is a wind or string instrument and listen to a sample of its "voice."

The exhibition of Musical Instruments from Africa has also been redesigned. Here we encounter a slit drum (Soundlab station) – the former acoustic telephone of indigenous peoples from regions like the Congo delta. It transmits messages not by way of Morse code-type signals, but rather in language form – hence the English name "talking drum." Can we, too, express our messages on the slit drum? And will anybody understand them?

The next station features the cut-away bottom of a gasoline drum which – with its small, finely tuned buckles – has been transformed into the so-called steel pan (Soundlab station). It was invented only 70 years ago, but today no carnival procession in Trinidad is conceivable without a steel drum band. Just a few steps further on is a bronze drum (Soundlab station) from Burma/Myanmar. To this day such archaic instruments, which performed an important function in rituals and ceremonies in the past, are single-cast from lead tin bronze. The drum head produces a muffled sound if struck near the star in the center, and a brighter tone if struck closer to the edges.

Complex, interacting rhythms are familiar to us from Flamenco music in Andalusia, hand-clapping ensembles in the Tyrolean region of Austria, and even rice-threshing by women on the island of Bali. This technique is imitated by the stamping tubes (Soundlab station). The 13 cardboard tubes here are tuned to the western tonal system, generating an entire octave in chromatic gradation – much as on a piano.

When struck on the rim, a large bowl on a colorful cushion produces the sound that traditionally echoes from the temples of eastern Asia: the standing Japanese bowl bell “Kin” (Soundlab station). When rubbed along the rim, it produces a low droning sound – like a baritone wine glass!

Coinciding with the new display of the Museum’s African musical instruments, the catalog of the collection, entitled “Afrikanische Musikinstrumente. Katalog und Nachdokumentation der Musikinstrumente aus Afrika südlich der Sahara in der Sammlung Musik des Münchner Stadtmuseums” [African musical instruments. Catalog and comprehensive documentation on the musical instruments of sub-Saharan Africa in the Music Collection of the Münchner Stadtmuseum], was published by Nicolai Verlag, Berlin, at the end of 2013, and is on sale for € 48 at the Museum’s ticket desk and in our online shop.

Guided tours and gamelan or percussion workshops are regularly available for children, school groups and adults and can be booked
by calling phone: +49-(0)89-233-22367 or by e-mail: musik.stadtmuseum(at)muenchen.de. In addition, a special program for the sightless and visually impaired can be booked in advance.