Organological Research: a brief introduction (by Wim Raymaekers)
The objective of this introduction is to provide a frame to attach the different aspects of a scholar’s activity when carrying out organological research. This guideline can give a firm structure and a good basis to start. Nevertheless, a number of skills like a healthy open mind, good intuition, logical thinking and common sense are equally important.
Definition and domain:
What is organological research? It can be described as critical research into a certain aspect in the domain of musical instruments. The goal is to learn, and then communicate what has been found out about an instrument or a number of instruments and/or its makers. A researcher needs to be able to formulate the research issue and situate it in a larger context, organize and execute his research, and communicate his results. Writing a synthesis or at least write a report is part of the research.
Different kinds of research: The Flemish government distinguishes 3 kinds of research in high schools of Art: a) Research on arts, not taking its roots in art practices. This is purely theoretical research in art history, or in this case in organology. b) Research embedded in arts. I this case the research converges with the artistic creative process itself. This can also be called "experimentation" or "research by practice". The result of this kind of research is a work of art, with just a brief report to enlighten the whole process. c) Research into arts with artistic results and an extensive written report. So the organological research could also be in the making of a new instrument, a reconstruction or a restoration of an instrument, and a corresponding report on the project.
The larger context is important. A research project is only valuable if it's being well embedded in its environment. Knowledge of the historic and geographic situation, of the evolution and its causes, of the similarities or the differences with similar domains of investigation is crucial. As a consequence a wide range of skills and knowledge is favorable for good research: -general history, art history (iconography, ornaments, style), general musicology, -musical practice, -paleography, museology (CIMCIM), -economics, sociology, psychology (of music), -chemistry, physics, mathematics, mechanics, acoustics, -languages: French (in Belgium anything between 1700 and 1900), German, English (for most contemporary specialist literature), Italian, Spanish, Latin, etc...
In the following chapters the different stages of a research project will be explained. Each time a parallel will be drawn with the actual process of instrument making. 1. Defining the subject. (Parallel with instrument making: choosing a model)
This is the process of choosing the subject, demarcate the area of investigation for yourself, preferably a relevant topic within the field of musical instruments. -What: instrument, maker(s), type, technique, system, catalogue, restoration, conservation etc... This is the subject strictly speaking. -Where: which city, region, country, continent or culture? In other words this is the geographic circumscription. -When: what time, period. This means the chronological definition.
Examples: “The transition from Medieval to Renaissance fiddle in Italy”, “Life and work of John Joseph Merlin (1735–1803).
Musicology divisions in some universities have a rather narrow definition of organology. Here the study is limited to research into musical features of an instrument: classification, music literature, execution practices, composition (strength) of the orchestras, notation, scores, temperament and pitch, etcetera, and sometimes acoustics or technical aspects. There is often -very little interest in aspects of instrument making properly speaking, often because of the lack of practical experience on the side of the teachers. For example at the KULeuven (Belgium), the organology course is described as the ”study of technical and musical properties of the main instruments in western music history". The article "Orchestra" in “The New Grove of Musical Instruments” is recommended for an introduction.
2. Gathering entries, finding the right sources (heuristics) (Parallel with instrument making: buy and choose wood, varnish and varnish ingredients, strings and tools etc.)
Here are the three main ways to classify your sources:
2.1. Primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are original sources, either information that is readily found or that needs to be discovered. Anyway, they are at the basis of a particular fact, or the first testimony of a fact. Secondary sources are testimonies second in line. They can be the result of scientific research, either published or unpublished (theses, dissertations, monographs, syntheses…), but not necessarily so.
2.2. Formal distinction: unpublished (mostly preserved in archives), published (libraries), or digital (internet). Unpublished can be consulted in: -State archives: some ecclesiastical archives, mostly public authority archives. -County, Province, City archives: birth, marriage, death certificates; population registers, etc. -Church archives: parisch registers (before 1794), accounts, with a.o. payments to instrument makers, etc. -Conservatories, music academies -Museums -Libraries: general and specialists' -Private organizations and private persons
2. 3. Morphological distinction. How is the information carried: written or spoken, archaeological or iconographic. Written sources come to us in two forms: archival and literary sources. Archival sources are offical documents, like death inventories, birth-, marriage-, death certificates, contracts, notarial deeds etcetera. Sometimes the source has been edited, so you don’t need to consult it in an archive. Literary sources on the other hand are non official documents like letters, recipes, treatises, manuals, catalogs, unofficial inventories, and music scores. They are either kept as originals or edited.
Archaeological, or, in other words, material sources like instruments, parts, tools, sound records, accessories, casts… can be found in museums, private collections, in the homes or through the connections of musicians, makers, collectors …or through published or unpublished old or new catalogues, through photo-archives or through internet. Here are some examples of online sources: - mimo, carmentis -datbases of various museums, e.g. (often also through MIMO): BERLIJN Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preussischer Kulturbesitz BOSTON Museum of Fine Arts BRUSSELS MIM EDINBURGH University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments LEIPZIG Museum der Universität MIRECOURT Musée de la Lutherie et de l'Archèterie NÜRNBERG GNM OXFORD UNIVERSITY ashmolean PARIS Cité de la Musique STOCKHOLM Musik § Teatermuseet
What is the difference between a catalogue, an inventory and a checklist: a) Catalogues contain extensive descriptions and numerous data. The elements of a descriptions in catalogues: -catalogue number -denomination: e.g. "Milanese mandolin", "square pianoforte" -construction -lutherie style -ornamentation: inlay, rosettes, sculpture, etc. -inscriptions, labels etc. -some information on the maker(s) -state of preservation -inventory number and, at exhibitions: where is it kept? -provenance, time and place of acquisition -dimensions: length, width, thickness, stop length, neck length, string length, height of ribs (on string instruments with arched top and back), headstocks, etc... -material: woods, metal (see course bachelors materialenleer) -finishing: varnish, paintings, gold foil ... -number of strings, keys, finger holes etc -tuning and pitch -literature: short list of primary and secondary sources relevant to this instrument. -pictures, sound recordings, x-ray photographs, CT scans and other scientific investigation results. The objects are being examined in many ways, gathering detailed entries: -taking measurements. A list of measurements is exhaustive: length and weight (more than in most catalogues) -taking photographs -retracing the contours, using profile calipers, making a plan (cad cam) -making casts: silicones, plaster etc. -using profile calipers -writing a description -using easy examination tools: thickness gauge, endoscope, UV light. During restoration some parts are more easily accessible. And external researchers can be asked to communicate their data in exchange for permission to investigate b) Inventories are briefly describing the instruments. Every item in a museum gets an inventory number, often containing the year of acquisition. c) A checklist is merely summing up the items.
Iconographic sources can give additional information, or, if archaeological and written sources are scarce, they become the main type of source for research. They can serve as starting points for reconstructions, either material, digital or on paper. They can provide important information on dimensions (relative), playing techniques, social context, materials, construction methods, accessories, fittings,... They can either be two dimensional (drawings, paintings, photo's...) or three dimensional (sculptures, reliefs). Of course iconographic sources are to be used with caution. They need to be checked on authenticity, and the amount of realism needs to be estimated. Fantasy, symbolic meaning, superficiality ...can influence the photographic or documentary value.
3. Critical processing of source material= historic (or scientific) analysis. (Parallel with instrument making: make a mould or a pattern, shape the parts ...)
Firstly the entries need to be tested for their origin and originality. You need to ask yourself what came first, to what extend were the data based on something else, has anything been altered, rebuilt, rewritten or reshaped, have any restorations, deceptions, “antiquisations” taken place? There are numerous techniques at our disposal. Every research technique used in archaeology, history, art history, (forensic) medicine, can be applied when objects are to be examined. Dendrochronology (for the terminus post quem), X-rays, CT scans (cross sections giving a 3D vision), endoscope (for surfaces), spectroscopic methods en UV-photography… are just a few out of many scientific investigation techniques.
Secondly the entries or parts of entries from different sources need to be organized and analyzed: What elements belong together? What do they tell us given the context of the research? How relevant are they for my research project?
Thirdly the structure of the synthesis needs to be fixed: What is the plan, the plot? What order will I give to every part of the story? How can I divide the whole into chapters?
Making a synthesis is like writing out the story. 4.1. Layout, structure of the report: -introduction: here you present your research. The questions are formulated, the problem is posed, the status quaestionis (state of research so far) is given, the sources are mentioned, as are persons and institutions that one has appealed to. -body, corpus: the experiences, findings of the research are ordered and written out. The story is subdivided in chapters (each with a title) and paragraphs. -illustrations (photographs, drawings, plans), charts and diagrams, annexes (archive texts, lists, family trees ...), footnotes, literature, table of contents. -the instrument(s) being made, reconstructed or restored can be part (or even main object) of the synthesis; sound recordings as well. -conclusion: what is this researches contribution to science, what is new, what does one learn from it, what does one experience?
4.2. Language: The language you use needs to be distant, detached (one, it, better not "I", or "we"). A novel is a different type of literature. Also you need to choose a tense, past or present. Avoid mixing tenses throughout the text. Don't make sentences and paragraphs too long or too short. Furthermore you need to specify your sources, put quotes and translations between quotation marks and put passages in foreign languages in italic. Don't use both quotation marks ànd italic for the same quote. It I important to be consequent about names, bibliographical, formats, annexes... The recommended guide for style is R.M.Ritter, The Oxford Guide to Style, Oxford, 2002.
4.3. Literature, bibliography:
When you refer to a source, you need to state who or what it's about, according to fixed rules. A reference preferably contains an author, a title, a date, a place and/or an editor. The Oxford Guide to Style (see 4.2 above), provides detailed guidance about the formatting of reference sources. The system I use has been set up at the University of Louvain (KULeuven) You can use internet of course to access the sources, and refer to webpages, but it's better to mention a supporting source that can be physically consulted in a library, if it exists at all. This means you can use Wikipedia for example, but it's not advisable to refer to it, especially when the information cannot be attributed to an author.
5. Disclosure, promotion (Parallel with instrument making: playing the instrument)
How is your research presented to the rest of the world (or not)? Output may or may not be the main goal of your research. -unpublished: dissertation, paper, portfolio, museum or exhibition dossier, inventory, restoration report, etc... -publications: as a book, an article, a catalogue, on internet, as a contribution to a binder, a magazine or a periodical, … -concerts, collection, exhibition, CD, Youtube, reviews or reports on concerts, collections ... -workshops, master classes, courses.
 This introduction to organological research was originally written in Dutch and later translated to English for the School of Arts, Instrument Making Department in Ghent. It has been slightly reworked for publication as a PDF format.
 “Organology” is also a branch of medical studies, but of course this is not what this introduction is about.
 It is not always easy to make the distinction. For example: Michael PRAETORIUS, Syntagma Musicum, 2, De Organographia, Wolffenbüttel, 1618; is this a primary or a secondary source? In bibliographies it can be found amongst the secondary published sources, or in a separate chapter together with other early written sources and treatises.
 For example Albrecht DÜRER, Underweysung der Messung, mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheyt, in Linien, Ebenen unnd gantzen corporen, Nurenberg, 1525. (Instruction in measurement with compass and ruler, in lines, planes, and whole bodies).
 One example: Wim RAYMAEKERS, How the f-hole arose. Sound hole shapes and bridge position on bowed instruments between 1500 and 1800, in The Galpin Society Journal, LXXI, march 2018, pp. 35-56, pp. 145-147.