Musikinstrumentenbau im interkulturellen Diskurs.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and re-establishment of communication between Western German speaking countries and Eastern Europe has facilitated innovative scholarly collaboration on topics of mutual interest. Musikinstrumentenbau im interkulturellen Diskurs is the first volume in a new monographic series that investigates the problems and issues of the musical cultural exchange between German-speaking areas and Eastern Europe. The book is an outgrowth of a conference on this topic that took place 3-5 December 2004 in Bonn, Germany. As Erik Fischer states in the foreword, the essays discuss the general topic of instrument building "Um der Vielfalt der historischen, geographischen, technologischen, asthetischen, sozio kulturellen sowie (nicht zuletzt) okonomischen Faktoren" (p. 9). [from a variety of vantage points--the historical, geographical, technological, aesthetic, social cultural as well as (not least) economic factors]. The selected bibliographies at the conclusion of each section provide resources for a researcher interested in exploring the topic of each essay in more depth. Short biographies, in both German and English, on each of the authors describe their credentials. The essays are either in German or English. Each entry also includes an abstract in English or German and variously in Czech, Hungarian, Latvian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, or Slovenian.
The first section, subtitled Culture Transfer, largely focuses on instrument building in a specific geographic area. By culling the written record using business directories, newspapers and corporate records, and by examining the extant instruments in local museums, the authors have found information about instrument makers who had German surnames. Each selection focuses on a specific geographic region within Eastern Europe from Slovenia and Latvia to St. Petersburg. The essays recount the migration of craftsmen to Eastern Europe where they began to build and market instruments associated with Western art music. For example: "Isaac Posch (1592-1622/23) was a composer, an organ builder and organist who worked periodically in Ljubljana in the second decade of the 17th century. He came from Klagenfurt in today's Austria to Ljubljana ..." (p. 15). "Organ and piano builder Josef Brandl (1865-1938) moved to Maribor from Eisendorf in Bavaria and became one of the most important organ builders of his time as well as a good piano maker." (p. 22). Essayist Michaela Freemanova uses the collections in the Czech Music Museum in Prague, such as the one acquired by the Squires of Krumlov, as evidence of cultural migration. The materials include both instruments and accompanying documentation of the musical activities and inventory of the items purchased. According to Vok family records, the instruments were purchased between 1556-1610. Freemanova mentions the Schnitzer family from Munich and Jorg Wier from Memmingen as the builders of the instruments in this collection.
In the second subdivision of the book, the selections concentrate on the socio-economic correlations of instrument building in Eastern Europe. Among those, the paper by Eckhard Jirgens describes the evolution of Kohlert & Sohne, a manufacturer of woodwind instruments, founded in 1840 by Vinzenz Ferarius Kohlert. In 1945, when Germans were forcibly repatriated to Germany from the Czech Republic and other locations in Eastern Europe, the owners relocated to Baden-Wurttemberg. Unfortunately, although the fourth generation of Kohlerts re-established the business in Germany, they made some bad business decisions and the firm declared bankruptcy in 1965.
Two of the papers in the subdivision entitled Cultural Topography diverge from the construction of art-music instruments. The first of these discusses the uniquely Eastern European characteristics of bagpipes built in Germany. According to Bernd J. Eichler, there is a great deal of diversity in the structure of bagpipes (Dudelsacke) within the whole of Europe. Most regions seem to have developed instruments that are unique to that area. In Western Europe bagpipes usually have spindle flutes with double reeds. In the east the most common type exhibits spindle flutes with single reeds. The traditions of playing and building bagpipes disappeared in Germany during the 19th century. When interest in bagpipes returned in the 20th century, the musicians chose to revive an instrument associated with the Slavic bagpipe tradition rather than the extinct one of Germany.
The second paper with an ethnomusicological theme, by Vesna Ivkov, depicts the vibrant musical tradition of the accordion in Vojvodina, the northern part of Serbia. Although the author was not able to find any definitive documentation, oral history relates that German inhabitants introduced the accordion to the region in the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the accordion manufacturers to settle in the region was Bela Trupel (1880-1945) in Sombor, who built pianos, both full size grands and small uprights, accordions and tambourines. Photo graphic evidence shows musicians playing button, chromatic and "piano" style instruments. By the later half of the 20th century in Vojvodina, the accordion superseded the bagpipe as the predominate instrument taught in schools and played in ensembles.
The last group of essays falls under the rubric Cultural Memory. Lucian Schiwietz investigates the musical instruments migrants brought with them, "furnishing" their new environments. The pre-eminent instruments that illustrate this process are pianos and organs. The organ is an integral part of the German religious service but had no place in the Russian Orthodox liturgy. Consequently, the Germans initially imported some pipe organs for their churches. With the invention of the reed organ, the German colonials living in Russia had an alternative and began importing or building on site the less expensive reed organs. The paper by Michail Saponov describes the organ built by Prince Vladimir Odoevsky that became the focal point for a meeting with Richard Wagner.
This book seems to break untilled ground, because in a cursory search of the literature, I could find no other books on the cultural impact of musical instrument building within a specific region of the world. Since the essays were derived from conference presentations and merely skim the surface of any given topic, the uniqueness of the topic itself, studying the dispersion and influence of building musical instruments on various locals in Eastern Europe, provides justification for the importance of the volume, rather than the depth of coverage. Hopefully this tome will instigate further interest in topics related to the sociological aspects of musical instrument building and more scholars will step forward with books to fill the void.
Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont
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|Publication:||Fontes Artis Musicae|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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