Pathway Through the Collection

Pathway Through the Collection

The permanent collection of the Musée de la musique presents 1,000 exhibits (instruments, paintings, sculptures and furniture items) in a context illustrating their social and aesthetic context.

Virtual Visit

Virtual visit of the Musée de la musique (new window)

The instruments are presented in relation to the repertoire, the composers and the venues in which the music was played. At the same time, display cases dedicated to families of instruments or their makers, retrace their prestigious histories, such as those of the Sellas, Stradivarius or Sax. This historical journey is completed by a presentation of music from around the world, organised around geographic regions.

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The birth of opera

17th century area © Pomme Célarié

While the introductory section illustrates that music is present in all the world’s cultures, the visit then takes you on a chronological voyage through occidental music, beginning with the Baroque period.

Italy first, with the model of the music room in the Palace of Mantua where, in 1607, Monteverdi’s Orpheus, considered the first opera in history, was presented, as well as a collection of instruments, witnesses to the musical practices of the time: keyboards, cornets, citterns and lutes.

The evocation of the Chateau of Versailles illustrates the period of Louis XIV, a mix of tragedies, military parades and hunting scenes. The musical practices in intimate settings are shown in a rich collection of baroque guitars, viola a gamba and Flemish and French harpsichords.

The Music of the Enlightenment

18th century area. At the forefront: Harpsichord of Ioannes Couchet, 1652, Antwerp (Belgium), E.2003.6.1 © Gil Lefauconnier

In France, music began leaving the court progressively. The opera, the principal musical institution became the site of aesthetic quarrels, while the salons of the aristocrats and the cultivated bourgeois citizens facilitated the rise of instrumental music. There one played the clavichord or the harp for example.

But the period was equally marked by an idealised vision of nature, giving birth to a vogue for pastoral music, turning to accordions and hurdy-gurdies.

The evolution of musical taste towards greater expression, opened the way to the appearance of a new instrument, the piano, while the practice of giving public concerts spread, including spiritual concerts, which welcomed numerous foreign musicians.

Romantic Europe

19th century area © William Beaucardet

The musical language of the 19th century shows a taste influenced by the expression of sentiments. The role of the soloist, notably through the violins of Stradivarius, and the emergence of the symphonic orchestra, constitute the two principal developments of music in this period.

Liszt and Chopin, of whose the museum has several Erard and Pleyel pianos, personified the figure of the romantic musician, virtuoso and passionate. Driven by the growing needs for orchestral timbre and power, notably those of Berlioz and Wagner, new instruments came into the world, the octobass, the saxophone and the Wagnerian horn among others.

The Acceleration of History…

20th century area. Marshall amplifier, 1969-1970, Milton Keynes (England), E.995.4.1 © William Beaucardet

Edgard Varese Ionisation (1931) illustrates how much percussion opened an unprecedented musical field in the 20th century. But the appearance of electricity also allowed the invention of new instruments, notably by Theremin, Martenot or Hammond.

The technological explosion of analogue and then digital tools is represented in the museum by Frank Zappa’s modular synthesiser, Xenakis’ Upic machine or the 4X computer developed by Ircam. Popular music took full advantage of these technological revolutions, and a small section, which is to be expanded, is dedicated to them. Besides some iconic electric guitars, instruments belonging to great musical figures such as Jacques Brel or Django Reinhardt can also be seen.

Music From Around the World

Piphat mon ensemble : ranat ek xylophone, Unknown, ca. 1935, Thailand, E.2005.7.1 © Pierre-Emmanuel Rastoin

As in the occidental world, the diversity of musical traditions which have developed around the world is the result of long and complex history, built on exchange, convergence and varying traces. Most often transmitted orally, these traditions preserve a musical heritage, which plays a major social and religious role in their communities.

Seperated into five distinct areas (the Arab world, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Amerindian cultures), the collection of instruments is enhanced with audio-visual extracts, allowing the visitor to appreciate the cultural specificities of certain traditions in their context, or to discover extremely rare instruments or repertoires currently threatened with extinction.