From sacred conches to the world’s oldest piano, you can now listen to 2,000 years of music at the Met

Posted On Tue, May 29, 2018 By

Posted On Tue, May 29, 2018 By In Art, Museums

Photo via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Following two years of renovations, the Metropolitan Museum of Art reopened its impressive music collection, which includes roughly 5,000 instruments dating from about 300 B.C. to the present, grouping them by period and type, rather than culture by which they were created. The redesign of the exhibit, called The Art of Music, places “Fanfare” as the first gallery. Drawing visitors into the instrument gallery, Fanfare features 74 brass instruments “spanning two millennia and five continents.” It includes sacred conches, animal horns, a vuvuzela and more. And now, for the first time, the instruments can be heard through dynamic kiosks at the museum, or online.

Some of the instruments in the Met’s collection, like a Venetian Virginal, are still playable, even after hundreds of years. The gallery, the Art of Music through Time, displays related objects and paintings that illustrate the presence of music in art and society.

Roughly set up in chronological order, the exhibit allows guests to travel through time via musical instruments.  One of the most impressive pieces in the Met’s collection is the world’s oldest surviving piano, created by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Italy in 1720. The museum, which acquired the piano nearly 100 years ago, has an audio guide of the instrument that allows visitors to hear what the treasured instrument sounds like.

The Instruments in Focus gallery provides a rotation of instruments from the collection. The first includes the Four Seasons guitars, a quartet of archtop guitars “conceived as a complete musical ensemble.” Each instrument has its own voice, decorated to reflect the mood of one season of the year, but also designed to be used together.

While the Art of Music’s extensive collections will no doubt keep visitors busy, another gallery with an additional 300 instruments will open next year. Listen to the instruments online here.


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