Views of the institute’s workspaces and of the workshop for
historic keyboard instruments.
Measuring room and workbench room.

The Greifenberger Institute of Organology is a non-profit organisation in the legal form of a limited liability company (Ltd., German: GmbH).

The institute is devoted to research in organology (the study of musical instruments) and to the documentation of historical musical instruments.

The scientific methods applied by the institute correspond to the most recent standards in the documentation of historical monuments. Existing methods are adapted according to the special requirements of cultural heritage preservation of historical musical instruments and new methods are developed in cooperation with other research institutions. For use in documentation of historical organs, for example, the Greifenberger Institute has successfully used for the first time a manual coordinate measuring arm.

A beholder of a complex musical instrument meets in its artisanal and technical structure the notion of euphony in a certain era. More than in many other instruments, instrument builders design a larger part of the soundscape of instruments such as the organ, the harpsichord and the Fortepiano. The artisanally trained craftsman endeavors in his art to achieve an optimum of the aural palette in his time. The craft of musical instrument making, however, has to follow substantial, unchanging principles of construction. Up to the beginning of industrialization the tools used in instrument building remained by and large unchanged. Changes in the sounding result are thus both depending on the skill of the craftsman and the acceptance of the results in the period. During each period musical composition and ideas of euphony are interacting in close connection to each other. The knowledge of the intended sound effect is an essential tool for the interpretation and performance of a composition.

The Greifenberger Institute contributes to a better understanding of the history of ideas connected with the musical instruments and their sound effect as a cultural tradition.

CAD drawings and archival research permit a thorough assessment of the preserved substance and of its place within a time frame. An appropriate density of data facilitates a virtual reconstruction of parts or the entire construction. Instruments can be analyzed and reconstructed using these procedures without intervening the instrument. In addition, methods of experimental archeology may allow to assess original function and production of an instrument or substantial parts of it by way of reconstruction.

The previously described approach has significant advantages for the protection of valuable cultural property, and for the monument preservation. One advantage is the constant transparency in planning of necessary measures and their implementation, which means that the conservational or restorative measures can be worked out on the basis of objective data before intervening into a preserved object of cultural heritage. Based on the same and accessible knowledge a board may decide on measures and may control and support their implementation. Another advantage is, that the cultural significance of the musical instrument becomes visible in the decision for purely preservational measures. Replicas, built on the basis of the data collected, can be evaluated by using the same measuring methods, and may achieve a desirable quality both from the standpoint of science and performance practice.

Using the methods described enables a vivid dealing with a valuable cultural property, without depriving future generations of information and knowledge to be gained from the originals.

The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) put it this way: "What thou hast inherited from thy fathers, acquire it to make it thine." (Was du ererbt von Deinen Vätern hast, erwirb es, um es zu besitzen!). Modern digital documentation makes visible what is concealed and create the condition to understand the artistic impulse, the artisanal creative process on the musical instrument, before one intervenes in the traditional fabric with one’s own understanding. In the past, however, one has all too often disregarded preserved material on the basis of the own artistic impulse with neither understanding the heritage nor getting it across.

Author: Helmut Balk

Mechanik der Poesie II
– Die Orgel im 17. und
18. Jahrhundert
Watch a trailer of the CD-ROM: Quicktime 320x240px 13 MB
more (in german)

Mechanik der Poesie I
– Besaitete Tasteninstrumente des 15.-19. Jahrhunderts
Watch a trailer of the CD-ROM: Quicktime 320x240px 13 MB
more (in german)

© Greifenberger Institut für Musikinstrumentenkunde 2010 |