Music has always been an important part of history, so it’s no surprise that many rooms in the KSB Miniatures Collection feature scenes with instruments. In London during the 18th century social season, entertainment often included going to the opera and theaters, as well as to private manors where dinner party discussions revolved around the arts and politics. Guests were often treated to intimate concerts by some of the most prominent musicians of the time. In fact, music was such a huge part of this city’s history, it’s been said the concept of Muzak originated here with musicians playing in underground tunnels beneath the streets—their music wafting to the passers-by above.
The scene at the top depicts an evening in England spent at Spencer House. Society’s elite would have congregated in the Great Room for the gala and the miniature features functional instruments that would have been used during this period. The violin, viola and cello are by W. Foster Tracy and the Naderman harp was created by Pierre Mourey. I remember the makers of Spencer House, Susie Rogers, Kevin Mulvany and I marveling at this room, all of our eyes lighting up at the mere thought of an 18th century concert in miniature!
My own personal 20th century history is filled with music. I spent my early years living next door to a church. My bedroom window was right by the church window where the organ was located and in summer, without air-conditioning, I would awake to the inspirational sound of hymns. I also took piano lessons for 17 years and in high school I played B♭ clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet in the symphonic band. The picture to your left portrays the room where I spent hours of my youth practicing.
I love all instruments to this day—woodwind, percussion and brass alike—and many are featured in the fine arts rotunda such as the beautiful French horn, trumpet, and trombone by Jens Torp and the clarinet, flute, and oboe by Barbara Anderson. The string instruments are Ken Manning creations. The idiophone was made by an unknown maker and functions quite like a piano. To see these instruments in such perfect detail in miniature is magic. Not only can I hear them in my mind, I also can remember the fingering used to play each note.
I was lucky to grow up with music as part of my life and the artisans who masterfully create these tiny instruments share my love for music and for the instruments themselves. Canadian miniaturist Ken Manning was a maestro at creating stringed instruments. He would spend more than a workweek creating just one tiny lute, and used historically accurate materials for each instrument: For guitars he used fine-grain spruce and rosewood; an exotic ukulele includes Hawaiian koa wood and most violins were crafted of maple. When not possible he improvised. For ivory tuning pegs, he polished bits of beef bone and fine fish line was used for delicate 1/12-scale strings.
Art and music have always been entwined in history and I believe they are also entwined in my life and collection thanks to the miniaturists who create these amazing works. Music to my eyes and to my ears.