Annual Alumni Assembly Tours Collection

On Thursday, November 10th the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments hosted two tours for the annual assembly of the Yale Alumni Association. This year’s gathering focused on the arts, stressing the importance of the professional schools of art, drama, architecture, and music as integral parts of Yale’s creative environment –an environment which distinguishes it from other major universities.

The Collection’s curators led the guests through the museum’s three galleries, where discussions ranged from descriptions of treasured objects, to the Collection’s inter-disciplinary collaborations with different departments within the university. Some visitors had strong personal ties to the Collection as they reminisced on classes and tours of the past, while others found themselves in the museum for the first time.

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Published November 18, 2016
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YCMI Student Worker Succeeds
in Major Competition

bixby-web-300x200Clarinetist and YCMI student worker Bixby Kennedy ’16 MM took second prize in the Ima Hogg Competition, winning a silver medal, a cash prize, and the opportunity to perform with the Houston Symphony. During the past year, Bixby has been assisting with the cataloguing of our clarinet holdings. His keen interest in historical performance practice inspired him to borrow a Classical-style clarinet from our collection of historical replicas so that he could learn first-hand about the differences between clarinets at the end of the eighteenth century and now. Read more about Bixby’s participation in the competition by clicking here.

Published June 28, 2015
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Inter-Departmental Collaboration:
YCMI and Engineering’s CEID

Students in ENAS 118 meet with Susan E. Thompson on 26 March 2015 to learn about the acoustics of the museum's gallery of keyboard instruments.

Students in ENAS 118 meet with Susan E. Thompson on 26 March 2015 to learn about the acoustics
of instruments in the museum’s gallery of keyboard instruments.

This spring, Collection staff members Susan E. Thompson, Curator, and Kelly Hill, Museum Intern, had the privilege of working with students and faculty of the Engineering School in their course ENAS 118: Introduction to Engineering, Innovation, and Design. During this six-week collaboration, students were charged with the task of bringing hidden aspects of the museum to the attention of daily visitors. Their projects were carried out in the industrial labs of the department’s newly built Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design (CEID).

Pipers and Narwhals

Led by professors Eric Dufresne and Lawrence Wilen along with graduate assistant Matthew Reagor, the students were divided into two groups of five.

Music Team A (“The Little Pipers”) was instructed to devise a project or model that would address the unusually fine acoustics of our second-floor keyboard gallery and concert hall; whereas Music Team B (“The Narwhals”) was instructed to develop a way of acquainting visitors with instruments hidden away in storage. Each group eagerly embraced the challenge of producing an interactive installation aimed at educating our public, enhancing their visits, and encouraging their return in future.

The Narwhals wasted no time in imagining a game that could be played by both children and adults to discover “behind-the-scenes” instruments. They created “The Music Explorer,” which challenges the participant to select a particular instrument based on the sound it makes. If the player guesses correctly, he is taken to an informational screen where he can learn more about the instrument through gifs, graphics, and brief textual descriptions. The team had the opportunity to explore many modern technologies, including 3D scanners, 3D printers, and the CEID’s laser cutter. Together, they programmed the game completely from scratch and created a keyboard-like console to house the unit’s electrical workings and screen.

Team A & The Little Piper ~ 2015-04-27 14.16.40

The Little Pipers: Ben Rodriquez-Vars, Amelia Holcomb, Doo Lee,
Ariège Besson, and Rodrigo Huyke

Meanwhile, The Little Pipers brainstormed to find a way to feature the invisible instrument of the Collection: the acoustically live gallery upstairs. Musicians are sensitive to the fact that the space you perform in is just as important as the instrument you play on. Our gallery, which doubles as a concert hall, is acoustically well-suited to enhancing the sounds of early musical instruments. The Little Pipers worked to explain this hidden phenomenon by creating a hands-on installation. Two wooden pipes were built to demonstrate maximum resonance frequencies–G and D–when a Bach minuet was played. An 11-foot PVC pipe coiled into a transportable case enables visitors to gain a better understanding of the physics of sound and, in turn, a better appreciation for the construction of our gallery and the music it helps create.

Successful Collaboration

Although the goal of the collaboration was to reveal hidden aspects of the museum and its holdings, the creative process involved in realizing the students’ projects served to strengthen the bond between two distinctly different departments at Yale. Because the Collection is housed at 15 Hillhouse Avenue, right next to Mason Laboratory and across the street from Dunham Laboratory (which connects to Becton and the CEID), such interdisciplinary explorations are easily possible, enabling all concerned to investigate dimensions of the arts and sciences that are sometimes overlooked–that is, the creative and artistic sides of the sciences as well as the structural and analytical sides of the arts. This need for collaboration was eloquently expressed by student Cameron Yick, ’17:

“At the risk of over-generalizing, humanities disciplines identify problems in context and the engineering disciplines develop tools for solving problems. However, it’s very possible to get totally stuck in your specialty and forget that you need to work with people from the other space for your work to be meaningful. These collaborations may not necessarily happen in the professional world, so it’s especially important that such teamwork happens in school. Getting people to appreciate the value of interdisciplinary projects early may plant a seed that encourages people to be more curious and open to finding solutions/problems from unexpected sources as they go about daily life.”

We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science in future and hope our public will enjoy interacting with these unusual additions to our galleries for the duration of the period that they are on display.



Published May 31, 2015
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Celebrity harpsichord?

Yale Alumni Magazine
Mar/Apr 2015

harpsichord-blanchet-4876Some time in the late nineteenth century, an unknown antiques dealer decided that this harpsichord wasn’t glamorous enough. It’s a rare 1770 instrument by Pascal Taskin, harpsichord maker to King Louis XV and head of the most admired workshop in the history of French harpsichords. Nevertheless, it got a makeover. Taskin’s name was allowed to remain on it—but “Restored by Taskin” was added, to suggest an earlier maker. Paintings were incorporated to imply that it once belonged to Émilie du Châtelet (1706–49), an important French scholar and Voltaire’s mistress from 1733 to 1740. The woman seen here on the inside of the lid is meant to resemble her, and the chateau to her right is Cirey, where she lived with Voltaire.

When the harpsichord was donated to the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments in 1957, it came with an essay asserting a date in the early 1700s and du Châtelet ownership. But to Richard Rephann ’64MusM (1932–2014), who became director of the collection in 1968, it was an unmistakable Taskin. He unraveled the mystery, exposed the paintings as fakes, and analyzed the instrument’s unique design and bold workmanship—the real reasons for the rarity and historical value of this harpsichord.

Published April 30, 2015
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Yale Collection of Musical Instruments featured in New York Times

New York Times | By Phillip Lutz

In 1640, Andreas Ruckers of Antwerp was producing harpsichords of such clarity and consistency that they were the envy of Northern Europe. Most of those harpsichords, like others of their vintage, have disappeared or been radically altered, sometimes with disastrous results.


One that hasn’t, however, sits among the more than two dozen period keyboards on display at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments in New Haven. Apart from the slight extension of its range in the early 18th century, the floridly adorned, single-manual instrument remains fundamentally untouched, its soundboard yielding a brilliant tone that, on a recent weekday, carried throughout the collection’s quarters, a onetime fraternity house on Hillhouse Avenue.

“It’s like finding a classic car in an old barn,” said Dongsok Shin, a harpsichordist. “Not too much has been done to change it.” MORE

Published March 29, 2015
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[ in the press ]

Music at Yale spotlights the Collection

The most recent issue of Music at Yale, the alumni magazine of the Yale School of Music, included an article about the Collection of Musical Instruments. The article was written by Jane Mitchell ’13MM, an intern at the Collection.

Published July 9, 2014
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[ in the press ]

Yale Collection of Musical Instruments live streams Juilliard Baroque Sunday

purvis-collectionNew Haven Register By Joe Amarante NEW HAVEN » Tickets to the Sunday afternoon concerts at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments museum on Hillhouse Avenue are a tough get. But there is a way to be a part of this series in celebration of the skilled instrument craft and musical artistry that continues Sunday at 3 p.m. with a Juilliard Baroque ensemble concert. The concert will be held in the acoustically strong, second-floor gallery at the Collection on Hillhouse Avenue that only seats about 100 people. You can call the Yale School of Music concert office at 203-432-4158 to see if you can get a reservation, but the other way to experience the concert is by calling up the live stream of it online at “It’s fantastic. It’s so beautiful,” the Yale Collection’s Director William Purvis said of the concert space, which this week will include the Blanchet harpsichord from the 18th century. “The space is wonderful for the harpsichord.” MORE

Published January 28, 2014
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