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Title: Organology  
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Collection: Musicology, Organology
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Organology (from ethnomusicology (being subsets of musicology) and the branch of the acoustics devoted to musical instruments.

A number of ancient cultures left documents detailing the musical instruments used and their role in society; these documents sometimes included a classification system. The first major documents on the subjects from the west, however, date from the 16th century, with works such as Sebastian Virdung's Musica getuscht und ausgezogen (1511), and Martin Agricola's Musica instrumentalis deudsch (1529).

One of the most important organologists of the 17th century is Michael Praetorius. His Syntagma musicum (1618) is one of the most quoted works from that time on the subject, and is the source of much of what we know about renaissance musical instruments. Praetorius's Theatrum instrumentorium (1620) contains possibly the first pictures of African instruments in a European publication.

For much of the 18th and 19th centuries, little work was done on organology. Explorers returned to Europe with instruments from different cultures, however, so that by the end of the 19th century, some musical instrument collections were quite large. This led to a renewed interest in the subject.

One of the most important organologists of the 20th century was Galpin Society, based in the United Kingdom; and the American Musical Instrument Society, based in the United States.


  • Elementary organology 1
  • Prominent Organologists 2
    • Ethno-organologists 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Elementary organology

Elementary organology (also known as physical organology) is a classification scheme based on the Elements (i.e. state-of-matter), in which sound production takes place[3]

The Elementary Organology map can be traced to Kartomi, Schaeffner, Yamaguchi, and others,[4] as well as to the Greek and Roman concepts of Elementary classification of all objects, not just musical instruments.[4] Thus "elementary" refers to "element" (i.e. state-of-matter) as well as to something that is fundamental or innate (physical).[4][5]

Elementary organology (physical organology) categorizes musical instruments by their Classical Element, i.e.

  Element State Category
1 Earth solids Gaiaphones the first category proposed by Andre Schaeffner;[6]
2 Water liquids hydraulophones
3 Air gases aerophones the second category proposed by Andre Schaeffner;[6]
4 Fire plasmas plasmaphones
5 Quintessence/Idea informatics quintephones
Musical instrument classification by physics-based organology.

Prominent Organologists


See also


  1. ^ Organology
  2. ^ Kartomi (1990) On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, xix + 329 pp
  3. ^ Computer Music Journal Fall 2008, Vol. 32, No. 3, Pages 25-41 Posted Online August 15, 2008. doi:10.1162/comj.2008.32.3.25
  4. ^ a b c Physiphones, NIME 2007, New York, pp118-123
  5. ^ Computer Music Journal Fall 2008, Vol. 32, No. 3, Pages 25-41
  6. ^ a b Kartomi, page 176, "On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments", by Margaret J. Kartomi, University of Chicago Press, Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology (CSE), 1990

External links

  • The Galpin Society
  • The American Musical Instrument Society
  • Experimental Musical Instruments
  • Department of Musical Instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art home to a large collection of historic musical instruments
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