Please tell us a little bit about the museum and background, and how it has evolved and developed under your stewardship. What does it mean for the museum to be housed in the famous Vilhelm Lauritzen-designed Radio House alongside The Royal Academy of Music?

The Danish Music Museum was founded in 1898 as the Musikhistorisk Museum, inspired by similar museums in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Leipzig, and hence among the earliest of its kind in the world. From 1898 through to 1966, it was housed in the Museum of Decorative Art. In 1966, the Music Museum opened its first permanent exhibition in its own premises – a protected baroque building in the centre of Copenhagen. In 1979, the museum added two more buildings to its facilities in order to accommodate the renowned Carl Claudius’ Collection.

 

In 1998, when I took over, the board of directors had for some years been discussing whether to extend the museum with yet another building, or to move the museum to other premises in order to obtain better spatial conditions in which to present the unique collection of musical instruments in accordance with up-to-date principles for museum presentation.

 

However, it took some years of waiting before the right solution appeared. In the meantime, the Musikhistorisk Museum joined the National Museum of Denmark in 2006, and changed its name to the Danish Music Museum.

 

In 2007, the possibility of joining the Royal Academy of Music in the former Broadcasting House came up. Seven long years have passed since this idea was fostered, but now, we are finally here with our new permanent exhibition, our library and teaching facilities in this fantastic building. I must say, that it has been worth the wait and all the hard work.

Vilhelm Lauritzen’s Broadcasting House is a unique example of the transition between functionalism and modernism in Denmark. It was erected during 1937-1945 and extended with yet another wing in the 1950s. The worked-out interiors and exquisite choice of materials make the building complex the quintessence of quality.

 

Thanks to these inspiring surroundings and the multiple opportunities that come with living alongside the Royal Academy of Music and its students, the museum is now in a position to intensify its work on stimulating the interest in the universe of music among children and young people.

Does the new facility have any bearing on the museum, its exhibitions and its evolution? The museum houses musical instruments from Europe, Asia and Africa dating from the Bronze Age. Please tell us about some of the highlights in the collection.

Whereas in the old locality the exhibition stretched across 29 rather small rooms with 34 doors and numerous staircases, the new exhibition is displayed in one coherent and large gallery.

 

The improved spatial conditions found in the new facilities have allowed us to create an exhibition flow, telling musical history through the presentation and constellation of instruments from the unique collection of musical instruments – Western and non-Western – held by the Danish Music Museum and the National Museum of Denmark.

 

The new permanent exhibition is enhanced by music played from high-quality loudspeakers in the ceilings and by possibilities for the visitors to try out a variety of musical instruments in a unique “play it yourself-room”. Add the museum’s library and archives with rare materials, some of which date back to the 11th century, and the answer to your question is, “Yes!”

 

With all this and free admission, the new museum makes a rich musical surrounding for children and adults, laymen and specialists, music consumers and music performers. This is furthered through rousing curiosity, putting questions and establishing relations between sound and object, musical expression, craftsmanship and technological development.

“Mozart’s heart” is just one of our highlights. It came to Denmark in 1810 with Mozart’s widow Constanze, who had married the Danish diplomat Georg N. Nissen. The couple lived for 10 years in Copenhagen.

 

One of the things Constanze had brought with her was Mozart’s heart-shaped watch chain ornament made of lava and gold. Before she left to go back to Vienna, she gave the heart ornament to her friend Louise Mansa. Louise later passed it on to the Danish composer Niels W. Gade, who in turn donated it to the Music Museum.

 

Another highlight is the orpharion – a fretted lute of a very particular shape – made in 1617 by Francis Palmer in London. In spite of the instrument’s popularity around 1600, only three orpharions have survived until today. The orpharion in our collection is the only one among the three with the maker’s signature.

 

Compared to the orpharion, the Peter Pan Clock is a youngster. It is a portable gramophone and alarm clock, all in one, made in London in the 1930s. You wind up the clock and the gramophone, set the clock to the desired waking up time, place the stylus in the first groove of the 78 rpm record – and you can be woken up by your favourite music anywhere and anytime.

 

In 1844, the Danish composer and conductor of the Tivoli Garden Orchestra, H.C. Lumbye, visited Vienna. While in Vienna, he bought two concert zithers. Back in Copenhagen Lumbye composed an orchestral fantasy, Drømmebilleder [Dream Visions], in which he himself played the zither solo whenever the fantasy was performed in Tivoli.

 

When Lumbye died in 1874, the two zithers remained the property of Tivoli. One was lost during World War II, the second was presented to King Frederik IX in 1949 on the occasion of his 50th anniversary. In 1996, the zither came to the museum as a donation from the Queen Mother, Ingrid.

The museum also houses some unusual pieces, including an “amoeba-shaped violin” and a “giraffe piano”. What are the backgrounds behind such unique pieces? Do you believe that music is a universal language that can serve to bring people from different backgrounds and cultures together?

No, I do not believe in the commonly expressed claim that music is a universal language. However, music is a universal means of expression, whether performed when we are alone or together with others.

The violino arpa was introduced by its maker, Thomas Zach, at the World Exhibition in Vienna in 1873. The violin’s surreal form was the result of an attempt to achieve a greater and more powerful tone. The invention was not as revolutionary as had been hoped. The instrument’s tone was nasal and muddy, and it remained an intellectual experiment.

 

The so-called giraffe pianos were practical, space-saving inventions. These “upright” pianos were produced in two versions – “standing giraffes” and “lying giraffes”. On the “lying giraffe”, the bass strings run diagonally, which meant that they were both floor and wall saving compared to other piano instruments of the time.

What does the museum aim to achieve with its new Sound Room initiative?

The Sound Room is a place for visitors to try out various musical instruments that they may not have access to otherwise. We see that people take the invitation seriously and that once behind the soundproof walls, they let go of themselves.

 

The plan is that the instruments in the room shall be changed regularly, so that you do not know which instruments to expect next time you visit the exhibition and the Sound Room. Several visitors have actually expressed that they were disappointed that we did not have a piano available for them to try. We had not thought of the piano as something inaccessible to many people. Now we know better and therefore visitors will of course find a piano in the Sound Room next time they come.

What was your original desire and ambition for the installation of speakers throughout the latest exhibition space? How does the sound work within the space and support the exhibition? What is the impact of this more immersive experience on visitors?

Visitors get pleasantly surprised when suddenly music fills the space around them, supporting their experience of the instruments they are studying.

Firstly, an exhibition of musical instruments and music history cannot be silent. It must have audible sound that supports and underlines the display and the experience.

 

The ambition for the new exhibition space has been to have sound ceilings with loudspeakers that the visitors hear before they see them. In other words, to have loudspeakers that provide high-quality sound and add extra layers to the objects, the exhibition and its particularly transparent display. Secondly, it is of great importance that the music from one area does not interfere with music from other areas.

The museum is one of the oldest of musical history in the world, and now with more space for educational facilities. How much does modern audio, video and computer technology play a role?

Modern, high-quality audio is of course crucial to the Music Museum. Regarding computer technology, we are for the moment in the process of developing educational programmes as an integral part of the guided tours for children and young people, who, I hope, will give us immediate, unfiltered feedback based on their acquaintance with modern media.

The museum is about the past, but if we look to the future, how do you envisage emerging technologies – such as immersive environments and 3-D digital simulation – playing a role in the educational process? Can you imagine, for instance, in years to come, visitors to the museum slipping on headsets and being transported back to the Danish court of the 17th century?

Yes, why not. The challenge for curators and museum pedagogues now and then, however, remain the same: to keep searching for ways and methods to present the real thing so that it makes sense in a changing world.

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