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Sketch of imaginary steam-powered piano

The Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments


The dream of reason produces monsters, which is also true in the case of music.

It has been said, and justifiably, that the imagination is humans’ most powerful tool. From an evolutionary point of view, imagining allows us to survive as a species by uniting in the mind the resources around us to combine them in our favor.

Imagining, however, is also an uncontainable force. In certain circumstances it is an impulse that comes dangerously close to the limits of reality to almost transcend it, or at least force it to the impossible. Paradoxically, it is possible to imagine something that is impossible.

This is the case of the musical instruments that we present here. Or, rather, the museum that exhibits them. Not a physical space, but one that corresponds to the boundless inventions that it holds, a virtual location: A website that gathers together prototypes that were once sketched but were never built, because, since their origin, they were conceived as impossible.

Illustration of piano with cats inside instead of strings.

The Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments has ordered its collection into diverse categories: Auditive Extensions (apparatus to assist listening), Musica Ex machina (automated music), Technological Chimeras (a crossover of techniques, perceptions, possibilities, etc.), Giganticism (the size of an instrument pushed to its limit), abstract resonators (mathematics and physics at the service of music), Sentient Sounds (impossible combinations between a human and a machine to produce sound), Acousmatic Instruments (generators of never-before-heard sounds) and Keyboard Interfaces (strings, children, cats, demiurges that control the world from behind a keyboard…).

The curators are Deirdre Loughridge, assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley, a specialist in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Thomas Patteson, a writer and member of the Faculty of Music Studies at the Curtis Music Institute in Philadelphia.

Abstract sketch of musical notes and staves.


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