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Historical and contemporary instruments from South Asia

Digitization of historical and contemporary instruments from South Asia using multi-perspective imaging

The aim of the envisaged project is to digitize historical and contemporary musical instruments from South Asia – the nucleus of the project being the collection of Sourindo Mohan Tagore, amassed in Calcutta around 1900 – using multi-perspective imaging and deep metadata structures, and to use this as the basis for developing research into the historical reconstruction of musical instruments, using music-archaeological methods amongst others.

The first step is the complete digital archiving of the S.M. Tagore collection. CT and 3D photography will play a key role in this. Comparable objects from South Asia held in the collections of the Ethnologisches Museum will also be digitized using these procedures (involving about 430 instruments in all).

Using this virtual data, it will be possible to study the processing of construction materials, cultural practices reflected in the use of the instruments (patina, marks caused by playing), aesthetic principles and craft techniques, for the purpose of dating the instruments, something which would otherwise be impossible without costly on-site research.

A database will be established – with facilities for calling up additional data from other European and Indian collections – which will form the basis for historical reconstructions and, to a limited extent, for the repair/rebuilding of damaged or destroyed instruments. At the same time, it will lay the foundation for the creation, in the medium term, of a Europe-wide database and will serve as a model for further similar projects in the area of musical instrument research.

Project Director: Prof. Dr. Lars-Christian Koch, head of Ethnomusicology, Media Technology and Phonogramm-Archiv at the Ethnologisches Museum
Partners: German Archaeological Institute (DAI)
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Duration: 2012 to 2014