Last Tuesday, we unlocked the doors of the Musical Instruments galleries, which had been closed for an eight-month hiatus while roof work was performed on the American Wing side of our galleries. During that time we refreshed the appearance of the European instrument gallery. A new paint job, better internal case lighting, reframed case doors, and a redefined arrangement of the display now offers our visitors an enhanced experience of the instruments. Associate Curator Herbert Heyde has selected approximately 350 European instruments for display, about a quarter of which are on public view for the first time. After being closed for more than three years, the reopening of the American Wing doors once again allows access to our galleries from three areas of the Museum. New audio examples of the collection's instruments are being created for the Audio Guide, which will bring the number of audio stops to about one hundred. This Saturday, March 13, to celebrate our reinstallation, we have collaborated with the department of Concerts & Lectures and Frederick Renz, director of Early Music New York to present the all-day event Early Music Exposed. The program will feature performances of some of the country's best early music and dance organizations, including performances on instruments from the collection. Jayson Dobney, associate curator and administrator in the department, several volunteers, and I will offer special tours throughout the day.
During the closure of the galleries, our staff worked on many visible projects—three exhibitions, several demonstrations and concerts, symposia, and a special visit by well-known celebrities—as well as many unseen undertakings. Among the less visible projects was the conservation of instruments removed from the European galleries and those used in special exhibitions. Susana Caldeira, assistant conservator and the Museum’s musical instrument specialist, cleaned and prepared objects for the exhibitions Silk and Bamboo: Music and Art of China, Sounding the Pacific: Musical Instruments of Oceania, and Watteau, Music and Theater, as well as the objects being redisplayed in the permanent galleries. She and her colleagues in the Objects Conservation Department have formed an excellent team of specialists that address the various materials that go into making musical instruments. One of our highlights, the Roman Baroque Harpsichord by Michele Todini (pictured above) has been studied, consolidated, and restored by Pascale Patris, Marijn Manuels, and the Objects Conservation team.
Another visible project was our recent participation in the filming of a segment for the television series Live from the Artists Den. The special guest was former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, accompanied by Grammy Award–winner Ben Harper and Relentless7. Ringo was performing a "secret" concert featuring pieces from his recent release, Y Not. After a soundcheck in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, Ringo, Ben and I toured the non-Western instrument gallery (see photos on Flickr), which was also serving as the temporary home for many of the European instruments. Ringo was particularly interested in the Indonesian and South Asian instruments, but couldn’t help himself when invited to play a short riff on the still playable 1720 Cristofori piano, the earliest piano in existence. After an interview in the galleries, Ringo and Ben returned to the stage for a lively performance that ended with a singalong of "A Little Help from My Friends." The program, interview, and a short introduction to some of our instruments by Jayson and me will be aired nationwide on public television this spring.
Ken Moore is the Frederick P. Rose Curator in Charge of Musical Instruments.
Early Music Exposed
Saturday, March 13, 2010
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
Session one: 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Session two: 2:00–5:00 p.m.
Session three: 6:00–8:45 p.m.
Individual session: $20
All-day ticket: $45
This daylong exploration of early music celebrates the reopening of the Musical Instruments galleries. Three two-hour sessions will feature lecture-demonstrations on the use of period instruments, historical performance practices, and readings from original manuscripts. Participants include the New York Historical Dance Company, Parthenia, Lionheart, Asteria, ARTEK, and members of the Grand Tour Orchestra.