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Materialising Musical Instruments

Black background of old European Harpsichord from 1500 to 1600.
Materialising Musical Instruments is a multidisciplinary research project that engages with European Instruments from 1500 to 1600 from a material culture perspective focusing on their role as products of complex processes of manufacture, distribution, use and circulation in order to foster a better understanding of them as material objects and their contribution in the making of early modern musical soundscape.

Funded by the British Academy Leverhulme Small Research Grant (2021-2022), this project aims to situate early modern instruments within the larger framework of economic interconnections, cultural history of commodities and their production and dissemination.

The project centres around three sixteenth-century instruments, a Harpsichord by Alessandro Trasuntino, Venice (1531), a Virginal by Giovanni Celestini, Venice (1593) and a Guitar by Belchior Diaz, Lisbon (1581), which serve as case studies. This project engages a new way into looking at musical instruments through seeking to recognise them as fully integrated components of early modern manufacturing processes. Through identifying how the ‘materiality’ of musical instruments was shaped by the broader economic structures of the period, including the global trade in raw materials and patterns of consumption, the project aims to better understand their contribution and interconnection to the globalisation of commodities in the early modern period.

Materialising Musical Instruments is led by Gabriele Rossi Rognoni, Chair of Music and Material Culture and Curator of the RCM Museum and Professor Richard Wistreich, former RCM Director of Research. The project includes Jola Pellumbi, Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Wolfson Centre in Music and Material Culture at the Royal College of Music, who specialises in material culture and economic history in early modern Venice.

There will be a conference on ‘Materialising Music: Perspectives in Music and Material Culture’ held on 8-9 December 2022 online and at the Performance Studio at the Royal College of Music.

Click below for tickets and further information about the event.

In person tickets

Online tickets

Emma Hewett

Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager

+44 (0)20 7591 4734

research@rcm.ac.uk