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Sacred Treasures of the Harp



Haley Rhodeside performs for the Yale Divinity School class “The Bible in Artifacts and Art II.”

Last week the Collection was visited by the Rev. Dr. Julie Faith Parker and her Yale Divinity School Summer Study course The Bible Through Art and Artifact II. 

The class of 12 was first treated to a harp recital with recent Yale School of Music graduate, Haley Rhodeside, MM ’15. Ms. Rhodeside performed a program which was carefully prepared with the Rev. Dr. Parker to focus on biblical and sacred correlations to the harp.



Harp, French, ca. 1850.

Highlights of the program included her explanation and interpretation of Paul Hindemith’s Sonata für Harfe, as well as a comparison of J.S. Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major, BWV 846, from The Well Tempered Clavier, with Charles Gounod’s interpretation of the same piece with a superimposed melody set to the text of Ave Maria.

Following the recital, the class gathered downstairs to examine the Collection’s Gothic Revival ivory harp. Curator Susan Thompson led the students in a multi-dimensional discussion of this unusual artifact. It was an afternoon that spurred curiosity and engendered admiration for the harp, its sacred history, and its modern majesty.

Published June 16, 2016
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Engineering Students Inspired by Visits
to the Collection of Musical Instruments


Student Emil Ernstrom with his “hurdy-gurdy” prototype (left), and his final design of the “Wild Hurd” (right).

This past semester, students from the Center for Engineering Innovation and Creative Design visited the Collection with their professors for the course ENAS344/MUSI371 – Musical Acoustics and Instrument Design. This course combined the concepts of musical acoustics with the design and construction of musical instruments. Theoretical concepts were supplemented with historical and musical perspectives on instrument design, and culminated in the creation of novel musical instruments.


Kaifeng Wu examines the Collection’s Stroh viola (left) and explains his design of a continually resonating string (right).

The students toured the museum in February and were presented with examples of both standard and innovative instrument design. Instruments such as our Stroh viola, walking stick violin, nyckelharpa, and hurdy-gurdy were offered as representatives of uncommon and avant-garde construction, while the backdrop of our permanent collection provided a well-curated sampling of traditional instrument making.

Upstairs in our keyboard gallery, the students encountered the other major element of both their course and music making: the acoustical environment. We’ve collaborated with the engineering department before to help describe the acoustical phenomenon of our keyboard gallery, which doubles as a performance hall for our concert series. The space serves as a prime example that the acoustical properties of the room in which sound is produced is just as important as the resonant qualities of the instrument which creates it. Although many students also explored electronic means of amplification, the study of acoustical science helped to provide the fundamental understanding for musical instrument design.


Professor Larry Wilen explains a design prototype (left). Elias Brown with his final product: “The Hollywood Bowl Live” (right).

Later in the semester, the museum staff was in turn invited to tour through the CEID to observe the students at work during their lab hours. Professor Larry Wilen was on hand to elaborate on the works in progress, while the students were focused on utilizing the resources the CEID had to offer. Our staff encountered innovative elements such as 3D printed mouthpieces, laser-cut instrument bodies, and arcade game-style buttons for keys.

Jack McAllister presents his instrument “Light Fingered.”

The course culminated on May 4th with a live demonstration of each newly created instrument. The students eagerly showcased their designs to an audience of invited guests and performed upon their final products which were simply only ideas less than six weeks before. An article by WNPR journalist Patrick Skahill detailing the evening’s event, along with video and audio example, can be found here.

We enjoyed our collaboration with the students and faculty of the Engineering Department and look forward to seeing and hearing what sights and sounds emerge from the desks of the CEID lab in future.





Published May 8, 2016
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[ in the press ]

YCMI Collaborates with Class in Environmental Studies

Last semester, members of the Collection staff collaborated with Professor Craig Brodersen and his class in Forestry and Environmental Studies, Trees: Environmental Biology (EVST191).

Approximately 140 students visited us for a series of 10 tours throughout the months of October and November. Beginning in our string gallery, Susan Thompson, Curator, introduced students to the importance of tone wood, or a type of wood that possesses tonal properties suitable for instrument construction. Discussion continued on the specific selection of wood types for the creation of viol and violin family instruments. Sam Bobinski, Museum Intern, contributed with an explanation of baroque and modern bow construction, and demonstrated the distinctions on viola da gamda and double bass, respectively.


Students examine the grain pattern in a bowl that was handcrafted from a 35-year-old elm (Ulmus rubra) that had grown on Cross Campus in front of the entrance to Harkness Hall (WLH). Stricken with elm disease, the tree was removed in July 2014.

Upstairs in our keyboard gallery, Ms. Thompson and Kelly Hill, Program Coordinator, led the group in a discussion about the basic components of keyboard construction, highlighting the purposes that multiple types of wood serve when used for foundational strength, tonal resonance, and ornate decoration. Ms. Thompson concluded the tour by challenging the students to listen for the tonal differences among three recorders built to the same model, but constructed out of three different species of wood.


Published January 28, 2016
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