Stearns staff members have identified groups of related items that are particularly interesting. Use any of the links below to view a gallery.
Found 40 result(s)
uli-uli, rattle, time-marker
This Hawaiian time-marker Rattle is comprised of a single gourd topped with a circular disc that is decorated with colorful feathers.
This Rattle is made of painted wood and it approximately 28.5 cm long. It was acquired prior to 1914.
gundu, kudu, arpa
From the 1921 Stearns Catalogue: The long crocodile-shaped body bears a handle at the middle, and is decorated with carved bands. The open end is a captivating representation of the open jaws of a crocodile. It resembles the warup of the West Torres Straits so closely that it might be so designated.
darbukka, darbouka, darabuke, darabuka
This Tunisan goblet-shaped, single-headed drum would have been used for cafe music and classical music. Normally held on the player's lap with the head on the right knee, it was struck with the palm of the right hand in the center of the head with the fingers of the left hand on the top of the head. The Daraboukkehs from Morocco, Tunis, Egypt, Algeria, and Syria are essentially identical, and illustrate the vogue of the type. The body of Stearns #0328 is of terra cotta, #0329 is of earthenware, those of #0330 and #0331 feature beautifully inlaid wood. The body of Stearns #0332 is of etched brass. The heads are all of parchment, with the exception of Stearns #0330 which is crafted from the skin of the Bayard fish.
From the 1921 Stearns Catalogue: The parchment heads are fastened to the body--a very shallow cylinder--by close rows of round-headed nails. The body and heads are elaborately decorated with representations of the three-clawed dragon. The tsuri-daiko is generally suspended in an ornate frame of lacquered wood and is beaten with a pair of leather-padded sticks. This example is a trifle smaller than the usual "hanging drum." See Stearns #0350.
This Tenor Saxophone in C was created by its namesake, Adolphe Sax. It is made silver-plated brass with twenty silver-plated brass keys. It is extremely lightweight. It is signed, "No 20669 Saxophone tenor en ut brevete / Adolphe Sax a Paris / F.teur De la M.son Mil.re de l'Empereur / [monogram:] A S / (in cross-stroke of letter S:) PARIS".
This Japanese sho features an air reservoir of dark wood from which seventeen bamboo pipes protrude. Within each pipe is a free reed made of brass. The conical reservoir is laquered in black, silver and gold. The sho, which is descended from the Chinese sheng, is used in Japanese gagaku (court music). In performance, the sho can be heard playing both single-note melodies as well as clusters of several tones. This instrument was originally owned by Detroit Museum of Art (now Detroit Institute of Arts) prior to being transferred to the Stearns Collection.
buysine, buzine, busine, herald's trumpet, trumpet, trompette, Trompete, tromba
From the inscription on the decorated brass bell, we know that this medieval trumpet was crafted by the Italian maker Petrus A. Longa in 1451. At approximately 4 feet long–and as is typical for the medieval buisine–this long and slender horn carried a banner from the two leaf-shaped mounts visible in the upper photograph. It has five brass ferrules, a decorative pommel, and bell garland. At the time of Frederick Stearns’ acquisition of this early trumpet, the banner was of white satin and featured an animal figure in red applique. The bell garland is signed, "DI PETRUS ASINA LONGA MCDLI".
The kora is a unique harp/lute or bridged harp found particularly amont the Wolof and Mandinka tribes of Senegal and Gambia. It is usually used to accompany praise songs or narratives sung by the same performer (the griot or jali). The remaining original strings which survive in the 19th Century example seen here show that they were originally made of twisted leather. Today, kora players prefer to use nylon strings.
harpe a pedales
The label “Naderman a Paris” has been branded into the wood twice on the left side of the crossbar. Naderman was active from 1772 to 1800; this single action harp is thought to have been crafted in 1790. The round, octagonally fluted pillar of this Pedal Harp rises at ninety degrees from the base and is crowned by a figure of a bird resting on a bed of fruit; the bird is leaning over the side to feed a young chick that is facing upward. The sharply curving maple crossbar contains thirty-eight wrest pins and thirty-eight flag-type hooks. The spruce resonance chamber features elaborate paintings of flowers, a country scene, an old mill with a water wheel, a boy fishing by a brook, and musical instruments. The base has seven metal pedals, each having two positions. All pedals are hinged and fold up. It has thirty gut strings and eight metal-wound strings (lowest).
chitarra, guitare, Gitarre, violao, guitarra
This six-string guitar was crafted in 1659 by Andreas Ott, a luthier in Prague—yet, Ott would not identify it as identical to the one he created. The modifications to this instrument reflect the evolution of the guitar type itself. A careful investigation reveals the presence of four addition pegholes leading to the conclusion that the original guitar featured ten strings in five double courses. This fine example—which includes inlaid ivory with paintings of cityscapes and a heavily decorated soundhole—is the oldest European guitar in the Stearns Collection. The Prague National Museum has a small violin, a fine guitar, and several cut-down violas made by Ott.
The Lyre-shaped Guitar (Lira-Chitarra) was the very first instrument that Frederick Stearns ever purchased (in 1881, Prague). It is considered to the foundation of the Stearns Collection. It has a printed label that reads, “Gio. Battista Fabricatore, fecit Neapoli 1807 in S.M. dell’Ajuto, Num. 32”. The lyre-shaped body has a spruce table and an ebony, lace-like flower design on the lower table. It has two circular sound holes, one in each arm. The sides and back are made of flamed maple. The fingerboard has an ebony nut and nineteen inlaid nickel-silver frets. The neck and peg board have an ebony veneer; there are six ebony pegs that enter the peg board from the back. The instrument has six strings that attach to a pin bridge on the lower table.
trompette marine, Trumscheit, Nonnengeige, Marien Trompet, Trompetengeige, tromba marina
This instrument's name, Trumpet Marine, is as exotic as its history and the music it produces. The Trumpet Marine is a bowed monochord with a vibrating bridge; it is not a brass instrument. Found as early as the 12th Century in both single or double string forms, the tromba marina became popular by the late 17th and early 18th Centuries and was still in use into the early 19th Century. There are many theories concerning the origin of its name: Its German title, trumscheit, might relate to its strong, drum-like (trummel) sound. The term "marina" may also have come from "maria", since 35 of the 70 surviving instruments in Central Europe were found in convents (thus the instrument's other titles, such as "marien trompet" and "nonnegeige).
organistrum, vielle, Leier
The vielle (originally vielle a roué, or “wheel viol” ) is one of the earliest European instruments. It appears in literature beginning in the tenth century. The vielle, or hurdy gurdy, is in fact a bowed stringed instrument. A rosin-coated wheel is turned by means of a crank and is thus constantly rubbing across the strings. There may be one or two melody strings, and two or more drone strings. The vielle is strapped to the waist of the player, who may be seated or standing. While the right hand turns the crank, the player’s left hand presses sliding keys which shorten or lengthen the melody strings and produce the necessary variety of pitches. Prior to the fifteenth century, the vielle was known as the “organistrum” and was much favored as a church instrument until it was replaced by the organ and banished into secular society.
spinetta, spinetto, spinettina, virginal
This Virginal has three octaves plus a fourth that likely date from the 16th Century; the inner case has cypress walls and sound board. The pentagonal, outer decorative case is likely from the late 19th Century. This instrument was restored in 1950 by John Challis at which point the balance bar for the keyboard was moved forward during restoration and lead weights added to the back of the keys to offset the shift. Challis also installed three additional beams under the sound board. An evaluation of key overall dimensions confirms the use of the Venetian inch in the construction of the instrument.
clavecin, cembalo, clavicembalo, Flugel
Represented by Leopoldo Franciolini in 1900 as being a Three Manual Harpsichord crafted by none other than Bartolomeo Cristofori–the inventor of the piano–this instrument is actually comprised of several instruments that have been cobbled together. Other than the obvious problems associated with a muliplicity of origins: we now also know that Cristofori never made a triple harpsichord. An evaluation of the construction of this instrument confirms that, of the several instruments that comprise this harpsichord--some details do indeed point back to the 18th Century Cristofori shop; but, not for the entire instrument. With this story in mind, it should not come as a surprise that Franciolini–as a less than scrupulous businessman–during this period sold many forged and other questionable instruments to unwary collectors. In 1910, Franciolini was found guilty of commercial fraud for having sold forged instruments, but not before hundreds of instruments had been sold with doubtful pedigrees. So widespread was his influence that many of the major collections of musical instruments in the world has or has had instruments altered by him.
This bird-shaped, guitar-like musical instrument is probably from Madeira, Portugal. Played with a plectrum, the instrument features ten pairs of wire strings. It is said that Portuguese sailors took the machete to Hawaii, where it was developed into the ukelele. This instrument was made by Augusto M. da Costa who crafted numerous other instruments in the Stearns Collection holdings. The spruce table is oval-shaped like the body portion of a bird. It has a large circular sound hole that is partially filled with a “man-in-the-moon” figure and rimmed with elaborate purfling. The form is made of one large piece of wood that is rounded, thick, and heavy. The mahogany fingerboard has inlaid wood frets that are flush with the neck surface to mark the position of tied frets (or finger positions if tied frets are not used). The peg boards utilize the same tuning system as Stearns #1082 and #1083. It has twenty-four strings arranged in eight courses; all attach to pegs, cross a flat, fixed, prism-shaped rosewood bridge and then attach to a pin bridge held to the lower table by nine brass screws. Just below the sound hole on the table is a crescent-shaped piece of wood with eleven curved, nickel-silver string shields.
serinette-pionne, bird organ
Presented in the form of a 7-inch tall hardcover book, the serinette was used in 18th Century Europe (this is a German example) to teach finches and other songbirds the popular tunes of the day. Resting on its spine during avian singing lessons, a horizontal wooden cylinder actuates the nine-note organ–which sounds like a piccolo–in the same manner as a simple music box. This tiny barrel organ utilizes the leather bellows that can be seen looking between the pipes at the bottom of the serinette.
mandoline, mandolino, bandolim, bandolino, bandolin, banjolin, mandolina
New York, USA
This is an exquisite Mandolin; it has a printed label reading, “A. Stathopoulo, Manufacturer and repairer of all kinds of Musical Instruments. Patentee of Orpheum Lyra (Liouto). New York, 1912, USA.” It has a spruce table edged in a 1 cm band of pearl inlay. This is rimmed by alternating parallelogram-shaped pearl and tortoise-shell. The oval-shaped sound hole is rimmed with ivory. The bowl-shaped back is made of forty-one ribs of rosewood separated by thin maple strips. The ebony fingerboard has twenty-four frets of inlaid nickel-silver. The maple peg board has four machine pegs with ivory handles (back). The eight strings cross a delicate, bar-shaped, movable, unvarnished rosewood bridge placed above the bend in the table and then fasten to the lower side with hooks (covered with chrome plate).
Toledo, Ohio, USA
This instrument, patented by Allen Loomis of Toledo, Ohio, in 1920, was intended to serve as a prototype for the production of a new type of alto saxophone by the Conn musical instrument company. Of the several designers employed by the Conn design laboratory, Allen Loomis was known for his innovative, often outrageous instrument design. While his models often did incorporate many mechanical and acoustical improvements, they were frequently dismissed as too impractical to be put into production. It is speculated that Loomis never played a musical instrument in his life. Loomis was born in Jackson, Michigan; as an inventor, he received an 1899 patent for an automobile transmission, again, without any experience in the field.
This German Zither is likely the finest mid-19th Century zither in the Stearns Collection; it is almost identical to instrument #93-646 held by the Smithsonian Institute. The table has a two-piece rosewood veneer over spruce; the edges and circular sound hole feature maple purfling. The sides are rosewood veneer on maple; the back is made of two pieces of black-stained spruce. Three ivory buttons level the instrument when it is laid on a flat surface. The peg board is black-painted and has two rows of nickel-silver wrest pins entering from the front. Peg handles are ivory and enter from the sides; gears are concealed under a nickel-silver engraved plate. The flat, ebony fingerboard has twenty-nine inlaid nickel-silver frets; pearl dots mark several frets. There are thirty strings of wire and wound-silk-on-wire-core that attach to machine pegs, cross the fingerboard, and attach to nails on the lower side.
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
This bell-over-the-shoulder, military model Tuba in E Flat is made of German silver. It has four string action rotary valves placed at a right angle (three top-mounted, one is side-mounted). It does not have a water key. It is marked, "Made by / E. G. WRIGHT / BOSTON". Assuming that this horn is not a fraud (the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactury warns of this in their 1869 catalog), and because this very horn appears in the 1869 Boston catalog, it very likely dates from the 1860s.
ageng, agong, egong, egung, gong
This Agung is part of a metal gong set that was acquired during the Guthe Expedition to the Philippines in 1922-1925 for the University of Michigan's Museum of Anthropology. It was transferred to the Stearns Collection in 1975. This is a hanging gong that is painted black with a polished bronze boss. In performance it is hit on boss with a padded mallet; it is used with pot gongs and drums in the Philippine basalon ensemble to accompany theater and ritual. See Stearns #1835, #1836, #1837, #1838, & #1839.
New York, USA
The heyday of the Pianola was 1897 to World War I. As a machine that works in tandem with an ordinary piano, the Pianola is a complex design that employs piano rolls, multiple wooden fingers, bellows, and a metal rod for a foot pedal. To operate, the Pianola is wheeled up to an ordinary piano, so that the wooden fingers are aligned with their corresponding piano keys; then as the pedal is pumped, it moves the bellows that spin the piano roll, which in turn activates the wooden fingers to press down the individual piano keys. The result is a self-playing piano that had a sound quality far superior to the phonographs of the day. This Pianola was donated to the collection in 1976 and was restored in 1990. This device only has sixty-five fingers which leaves the extreme ranges on a typical piano unused. The popularity of the Pianola began to decline as piano roll players were incorporated into the pianos themselves, thus eliminating the need for this cumbersome attachment. Yet memories of the Pianola lived on such that the word Pianola has become a generic term for music producing items that may or may not be associated with the original. This Pianola is a "Metro Style" with the serial numbers 839, 23899.
This is one of four Huqin held by the Stearns Collection; it has two strings, a round wooden body with cat? skin, and a calibrated neck with Arabic numerals.
This Erhu is one of nine held by the Stearns Collection. It has two strings, a hexagonal wood body with a snake skin belly, and two tuning pegs.
kaen, khene, khen
The khaen is a mouth organ found in Laos and northeast Thailand. It consists of two rows of bamboo pipes. When the player blows into the instrument, metal reeds in the pipe walls vibrate to produce the sound. Finger holes are burned above the windchest, allowing all the fingers to cover the holes. The khaen can play 15 pitches covering two octaves. It may be used as both a solo instrument or to accompany a singer. Khaen players improvise on one of 6 pentatonic modes. In Thailand, khaen appear together in large khaen ensembles.
The Sheng has been in use for over 2,000 years in China; it is the predecessor of the Western reed organ, harmonica, and accordion. It has seventeen tubes that join at a dark brown metal gourd with mouth extension. The amount of breath used determines the pitches sounded. Fourteen of the pipes have a small circular at the the base of the pipe to control the pitches produced. A piece of bamboo is wrapped around the midpoint of the pipes. This instrument is similar to Stearns #0704 and #0705.
The name for this short-necked, fretted lute comes from the Chinese words for “moon,” yue, and “stringed instrument,” qin. Four silk strings are tuned in two unison courses a fifth apart and plucked with a plectrum. There is a pitched wire snare within the round body. The yueqin is derived from the long-necked ruan of Han dynasty (206 bce–220 ce). The modern yuechin employs wire strings. It is most frequently heard as a member of Beijing opera instrumental ensembles. It is also used as a solo instrument and to accompany regional songs, operas and ballads.
New York, New York, USA
This Theramin, built in New York in the early 20th Century, served on the early radio show “The Green Hornet” from 1938 to 1952. It was owned and played by Vera Richardson Simpson (1927-1977). As one of the very first electronic instruments, it was invented in 1920 by Lev Termen, a Russian inventor. Termen had originally called it the "aetherphon". It has a three-and-a-half octave range and inspired Robert A. Moog--of the Moog synthesizer--to create his own five octave theramins for sale in the middle 1950s.
Trumansburg, New York, USA
This is the first commercially produced Moog Synthesizer (Opus 1), constructed by Robert Moog (1934-2005) in 1964 using pear tree wood from his own back yard in New York. It has three control panels, a five-octave keyboard with fifteen knobs, a wood stand, and pedals. Originally commissioned and owned by New York-based dance choreographer Alwin Nikolais, it came with Bob Moog's hand written notes regarding its operation.
This Alphorn has two long wood sections with a separate mouthpiece.
Mittenwald, Bavaria, Germany
This is an extremely rare example of an 18th Century large Viola in original condition.
violon, Violine, Geige, violino
This is rare and unusually well preserved example of an original Baroque Violin; only the fittings and fingerboard are reproductions. It bears its original handwritten inscription on the table adjacent to the top-block that reads, "Joseph Rösch geigen M. / in Mittenwald 1759 / an Der Iser". The violin retains all original features including the neck, bass-bar saddle, interior linings, and blocks. The original plain maple neck terminates in a peg-box and closed scroll with two volutes. The varnish is of a dark reddish-brown color.
Popularized in the 1960s by the Beatles, each key of the Mellotron is associated with one of 35 magnetic-tape recorded samples. Musicians can switch between three standard sounds such as strings, cello, and an eight-voice choir. Flexibility and creativity is made possible by swapping out the tape rack with additional libraries of pre-recorded samples that the musician can program.
trompette, Trompete, tromba
Elkhorn, Wisconsin, USA
This lacquered brass trumpet made by Getzen can be heard on the Armando Ghitalla recording of Albrechtsberger Trumpet Concerto, ca. 1959. It has three pistons and carries the serial number: G 5277. This instrument was donated by U of M Professor and First Trumpet for the Boston Pops, Armando Ghitalla.
trompette, Trompete, tromba
This is a Martin Custom Trumpet in C that was played on Armando Ghitalla's recording of the Hummel Trumpet Concerto, ca. 1959 . This gold-plated instrument has three piston valves; its original valve section was replaced. The serial number is 207518. This instrument was donated by U of M Professor and First Trumpet for the Boston Pops, Armando Ghitalla.
Leo Sarkisian first went to Pakistan in the 1950s as part of his job with Tempo International where traveled with the Radio Pakistan Director, Mr. Salim Gilani. Mr. Gilani gave this Vina to Leo during his first visit in 1953. It used to have a baseball-sized oval glass to slide over the strings. Leo Sarkisian is Voice of America (VOA) Broadcaster and Writer in Washington, D.C. and former Director for Ethnic Recordings, Tempo International, Hollywood, CA. In Africa, Leo is known as VOA's Music Man.
This 19-note Balafon (xylophone) was presented to Leo in 1960 by Guinea’s finest Xylophonist in the National Ensemble, a descendant of the musically renowned Diabate Griot tribe. Diabate can be heard playing this instrument on a U of M digitized recording available as part of the Voice of America radio archives. Leo Sarkisian is Voice of America (VOA) Broadcaster and Writer in Washington, D.C. and former Director for Ethnic Recordings, Tempo International, Hollywood, CA. In Africa, Leo is known as VOA's Music Man.
Van Nuys, California
This Style 16 Robert Morton Pipe Organ was originally installed in Kansas. This small theater organ has divided chambers. The Stearns Collection is currently seeking a location to house this gem.
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