A museology manifesto

While he is well known among organologists and ethnomusicologists for the universal instrument classification system that he established with Erich von Hornbostel in 1914, Curt Sachs (1881–1959) was also a pioneer in music museology. When the Nazi regime dismissed him from his positions in Berlin in 1933 he was invited to collaborate with André Schaeffner at the Musée d’Ethnographie in Paris (now the Musée de l’Homme) on classifying their instrument collection; he worked there until he left for New York in 1937.

During his tenure at the museum Sachs wrote and published “La signification, la tache et la technique museographique des collections d’instruments de musique” (Mouseion xxvii–xxviii [1934], 153–84), a manifesto for instrument museums and restoration deontology that established basic music museological principles. He argued for the primacy of the exhibition over the collection, and built a theory of the musical object that has never required updating. Many of Sachs’s propositions far exceeded the aesthetic concepts of Western music, reflecting the concerns of a universalist musicologist well before the codification of ethnomusicology.

This according to “Curt Sachs as a theorist for music museology” by Florence Gétreau, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.

1 Comment

Filed under Ethnomusicology, Instruments, Musicologists

One response to “A museology manifesto

  1. I believe there’s a good, complementary set of articles by Nazir Jairazbhoy regarding the relationships of Mahillon’s and other musical instrument classification systems to Indic philosophy. That may also be mentioned in his article on Sachs’s system. These appeared in 1990 in the UCLA series Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, see http://www.ethnomusic.ucla.edu/ethno-selected-reports-issues-in-organology-vol-viii

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