Posts Tagged ‘antiques’

harpsichords, art worlds and support personnel

June 11, 2011

© Tilman Skowroneck 2011

“Art worlds decline when some groups that knew and used the conventions which inform their characteristic works lose that knowledge, or when new personnel cannot be recruited to maintain the world’s activities.” (Howard S. Becker Art Worlds, 349)

The importance of “support personnel” and “conventions” in art worlds is somewhat easier understood when we look at examples of everyday technology: until a few years ago, for example, it was not problematic in the least to get color films adequately developed, printed, or put on a high-resolution CD. For the past two years or so it has become very difficult to find labs that are still matching this standard: real film is nowadays processed so rarely that it (apparently) has become a major hassle for the labs to keep their chemicals fresh and uncontaminated. As a result, some of my most recent pictures resemble my first photographic efforts when they came back from our corner-store developing service back in the sixties, featuring indistinct colors, embedded particles of dust and debris, specks, and scratches.

But not only the standard of the technology and its maintenance declines. The people who are there for me to talk to about my pictures have no longer any clue about the processes involved in conventional photography. (more…)


how poetic is a gleaming soundboard?

January 24, 2010

I once helped to restore a two-manual Kirkman harpsichord from 1775. The exciting part of the work involved taking off the old and damaged bottom and extricating a total of 5 kg of assorted iron parts from the instrument’s interior. These included, for instance, a T-beam that an earlier restorer had attached between spine and cheek, parallel to the belly rail, in a misguided attempt to stabilize the sagging structure of the instrument.

Less exiting and rather messy was the removal of a thick layer of not original shellac from the soundboard. How do you scoop puddles of temporarily dissolved, but rapidly drying varnish out of a harpsichord? (more…)

fortepiano finding happy end

November 16, 2007

A few weeks ago the piano restorer who bought the fortepiano that I had “found” in Göteborg wrote to tell me that the instrument is now restored.

The early part of the story is recorded somewhere on the yahoo fortepiano list. Some years ago, a friend from Göteborg asked me for advice because he had turned out his attic and stumbled upon a half-forgotten early piano, which he had purchased years earlier and which was in a really not too fantastic state. I sensed that he was genuinely unsure about the value of the instrument. The nameboard read “Hagen 1810”. I could not find any information about a maker in Vienna called Hagen. When I came there, there stood a Schanz-ish six-octave Viennese piano, which made my heart jump. But, while much of the original concept seemed to be preserved or could at least be guessed, the state of the instrument was bad enough to calm me down again. (more…)