— Taking wonderful music journey in the Hamamatsu Museum
While traveling to Hamamatsu City of Shizuoka Prefecture, I had a chance to visit the “Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments” The Museum is famed for the collection of treasury historical music instruments. The facility exhibits more than 1500 instruments from all over the world from Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Oceania with giving a good description on the history and features. It’s fun to be able to look into these world instruments, including various traditional folk instruments, not only Western modern instruments all together. The exhibition puts particularly highlight on the beautiful instruments of Asian characters, treasury European instruments, unique form instruments of Africa and Oceania. They seem to be reflected their significant cultural diversity, tradition and their own history. The collection of Japanese instruments is also impressive. Additionally, the piano collection is quite significant as Hamamatsu, where the museum located, is renowned for a major production site of piano in the world. A number of characteristic pianos produced by Japanese makers are on display, along with the famous historical pianos in Europe. It was really good chance being familiar with variety of music instrument around the globe.
♣ Overview of the museum exhibition
The exhibition is categorically divided into several regional zones. Asian zone displays 420 pieces of characteristic instruments, like Indonesian Gamelan and other traditional instruments. In the European zone, about 360 pieces of historical pianos, flutes and violins, and others are exhibited. In the Africa and Oceania zones, roughly 190 pieces of traditional percussion and stringed instruments are on display, and in the South and North America about 150 instruments, like marimba are placed. Also, in the Japan zone, we can see 200 pieces of legendary music tools, such as “Gagaku” instruments and other popular folk instruments like “Taiko” (Japanese drum), “Shamisen” (strings), “Koto” and others. Various organs and pianos instruments that manufactured by Hamamatsu since the Meiji era are also appeared in the special corner, including electronic musical instrument like synthesizers and electronic organs.
It would be quite precious that such a big number of instruments are intensively collected all together in a music museum. The collection of each zone are roughly as follows.
♣ Stringed instruments and regional features seen in the exhibition
First, we’d like looking into the feature and history of stringed instruments, Violins and cellos that born and developed in Europe would be the most popular stringed sound instruments now. But the origin of this string instrument is actually very old and diverse in history. For example, a kind of old “harp” is appeared 3,000 years ago in Egypt. Finger plucked string instruments were also found in the ancient oriental world from thousand years ago. For example, rubbing sound string instruments of Arab people called “Rebec” became popular in the middle ages. The bowed instruments such as Chinese “Erhus” and Mongolian “Morin khuur”, and unique guitar “Sitars” in India were brother and sisters of the same origin of ancient origin of instruments. It is said that these instruments were brought into Japan through the continental Silk Road route in the long time ago. They were seemingly transformed into traditional instruments like “Biwa”, “Koto” and “Shamisen” etc. in the later period in Japan. These instruments were evolved and expanded in the modern Western world too, and they became widely performed in the concerts of the European court music circles in the 18c and 19th. Since then, a quite number of variations of string instruments were produced and loved by worldwide population in modern societies, particularly in Europe.
So we can see a variety of modern string instruments in European zone. such as violin, cello, guitar and others. On the other side, traditional instrument like Sitars,Morin khuur, Chinese Erhu are well found in Asian zone, variety of banjo, binnbau are also shown in South America zone. Japanese folk instruments like Koto, Shamisen and Biwa etc. are orderly displayed in the exhibition too.
♣ Percussion instruments lineage and its features seen in the exhibition
When looking into the origins of percussion instruments, people say that these were originally created for the purpose of festivity and magic practice or for distant communication among people. But the instruments were gradually becoming used for pleasures and music plays. Therefore, initially shape was gongs and drums in the traditional style and they were gradually evolved in shape and sound. In Asia and Africa, the ethnic percussion instruments are pretty popular among people and similar shapes were shared in the many regions.
This is shown in the museum exhibition very well. There are variety of percussion instrument are found in the exhibition in the corner. For example, Indonesian Gamelan, Chinese Gongs, Korean Chango, Indian Tabla, Turkish Darabucca drums, and Xylophone-shaped Anklon made of bamboo in Southeast Asia.
In Africa, there are a variety of ethnic percussion instruments such as Ngoma, Kpanlogo Krin, and others many in exhibition.
Meanwhile, in the European zone, modern percussion instruments, like Timpani and Dum sets, which have performed in orchestra concerts, are shown in the exhibition too.
♣ Wind instruments lineage and its features seen in the exhibition
Wind instruments are a generally quoted the instruments that create sound by breath vibration in a tube. The origin of this instrument is believed to be quite old. It had been widely played by people for long time at religious ceremonies, festivals, entertainment, etc. They were using bones, horns, shells, trees, plants, and many other available materials according their places. The distribution of the wind instruments is geographically pretty broad in the world. When it refers to the modern performing wind instruments, European ones have predominant position and spread to the whole world because they were developed as the performing art in the concerts and theaters in the 19th and 20 century communities and became produced in the manufacturing industries.
<Exhibits of European modern wind instruments >
In the museum, the modern wind instruments of the European Zone account for the largest number of exhibition and boost the most diverse of instruments among the exhibition. First, woodwind instruments since the Renaissance era such as flutes, oboe, bassoon and new type of clarinet are found in the exhibition. For brass instruments, it shows the items, such as some style of trumpets with ancient characters, Trombone, Tuba, and so on which had been produced in the period of the Bourbon dynasty in 18 century.
These instruments have been drastically evolved while changing the shape and quality of sound in previous many years to present. We can clearly observe these changes in the exhibition as well as enjoy the current shape and sound at the museum.
<Exhibits of Asia, Africa and Oceania folk wind instruments >
On the other hand, there are many traditional folk wind instruments being found in Asia and Africa too. This is well reflected in the collection of exhibition items. Especially, among the folk wind instruments, the “Didgeridoo”, an indigenous Australian instrument, is quite famous as “the oldest wind instrument in the world”. This instrument attracts many visitors in the museum for their unique shape and mysterious sound. In addition, Africa’s Skele and South America’s Ocarina and Sambonia are famed collection of wind instruments in the exhibition in the museum.
♣ Lineage of keyboard instrument like piano and harpsichord in the exhibition
The collection of pianos and harpsichord instruments looked quite diverse in the exhibition. They are categorized as keyboard instruments as they create sound by operation of a keyboard for music. Of these, harpsichord that holds similar shape and operation with piano became quite popular in 16th century Europe. Around this period, a mechanical engineer Cristofoli of Italy refined this harpsichord and invented piano in the early 18th century. After that the piano was developed pretty fast and the current shape of piano was born by adding several dynamic sounding systems in the keyboard. Since then, piano has become the most influential instrument in Europe,
In the exhibition, we can see many classical instruments of harpsichords and pianos made in the 18th and 9th centuries. For example, visitors can appreciate the magnificent harpsichord of the Bourbon dynasty in France, the Pleyel Forte piano in the 1830s, and the Graf of Vienna piano in the 1820s. Another highlight is the Steinway’s piano series as the masterpiece products.
On the other hand, when the piano became widespread musical instruments in the 19th century. The piano production technology remarkably progressed responding to these trends and became possible to produce massive scale of quality pianos industrially. In reflecting these trends, vertical upright pianos are born for home-use beside for the theater use.
Meantime, the Museum allocates a large space for the exhibition of various Japanese pianos manufactured by these manufacturers, along with classical foreign pianos. Because the industrial manufacturers, particularly Yamaha and Kawai in Hamamatsu, have been producing a huge volume of piano by their industrial skills. It seems valuable in looking into the development history of piano in world including Japan in the exhibition.
♣ Feature of Japanese music instruments and the world in the exhibition
Nearly most of the distinctive Japanese musical instruments are found in the Japan Zone. For example, “Ohdaiko” drums used in festival, “Kakko” (braces, “Sho” ,and “Shichiriki” used in Gagaku in ancient court music concerts, “Ryu flute”, “Shakuhachi” flute from the Edo period music, “Biwa” from the Nara era, and several style of “Koto” (Japanese harp), like “Yakumo koto”, “Two-stringed koto” and “Suma koto”, “Shamisen” for people’s performing arts, trumpet like “Horagai” for training
mountain monks, Satsuma folk instrument “Gottan” and “Ryukyu sanshin”, and many others. They are really excellent collection to review Japanese performing arts. It’s really significant exhibition that reminds us how such a variety of Japanese musical instruments have been developed and handed down in the historical context with the broader world.
♣ Japanese Western musical instrument zone
Hamamatsu’s development and exhibition of the musical instrument industry-
It seems necessary to touch on the roots of Hamamatsu instrument industry related to the museum exhibition. The Hamamatsu City is advocating the “Town of Music” as mentioned earlier. It might be due much to the concentration of big instrument manufacturers such as Yamaha, Kawai and Roland. The origin could date back to the early Meiji era, when Yamaha’s founder, Torakusu Yamaha, first produced music organs in Hamamatsu region. After winning an award for organ instrument product at the 3rd National Industrial Expo in 1890s Yamaha began to produce piano by establishing the “Yamaha Musical Instrument Factory.” Soon later, in 1897, the company was renamed to “Nippon Gakki Manufacturing Co.” and began producing organ and upright pianos. This was the beginning of Yamaha’s music business operation today. In the meanwhile, Kawai Koichi, who had been working at the Yamaha, retired it and started manufacturing pianos by setting up the “Kawai Musical Instrument Research Institute” independently in 1926. Today, Yamaha and Kawai now boast the world’s largest piano producers.
In the museum exhibition, we can find many music instruments that they have been produced in the companies. For example, a foot-operated reed organ (Nippon Gakki in 1907), an upright piano (Nippon Gakki in 1897), and a grand piano (Kawai Musical Instruments in 1927). There, the history of Yamaha and Kawai is reflected.
<Exhibition of electronic musical instruments>
As for electronic musical instruments, current leading-edge instruments in the world and Japan are broadly collected in the exhibition, including synthesizers, rhythm machines, electronic organs, and electric guitars. For example, Electone D-1 (Nippon Gakki Co., in 1959), Electric Guitar SG-7 (Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. in1965), Synthesizer System 700 (Roland in 1976/), Casio Tone 201 (Casio in 1980 /) etc. The electronic musical instruments which have passed over 100 years’ history showing new musical instrument styles. We observe its development in the exhibition in this corner.
♥ Remarks after visit
Although it was a short time stay in Hamamatsu, I enjoyed very much the visit of “Hamamatsu City Musical Instrument Museum” and could appreciate rich contents of the music world, I have experienced visiting various music performing concerts including orchestra ones several times, but I haven’t had enough knowledge about musical instruments. So, through on this visit, I learned much about the origins and characteristics of various musical instruments and its evolution. In particular, I could have strong impression by observing exhibited instruments how diverse the cultural background of these instruments, their relevant history, in addition to the vast distribution of folk instruments from around the world.
It is really amazing such huge collection of historic music instruments that the Museum have been accumulating from all of the world, particularly focusing on the integrating themes and concepts. I felt the Museum is really a treasure of the Hamamatsu City as the Town of Music”.
- Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments HP: http://www.gakkihaku.jp/en/
- Japan Highlights Travel: https://japan-highlightstravel.com/jp/spot/322/
- 河合楽器製作所HP： https://www.kawai.co.jp/