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The Ethnology of African Sound-Instruments. Comments on Geist und Werden der Musikinstrumente by C. Sachs

  • E. M. Von Hornbostel


Musical instruments are in so far of importance for cultural research as they partake, in an almost unparalleled degree, of the nature of both material and mental culture. They can be seen and handled and, in addition to this advantage, possess many qualities unconnected with their immediate purpose; purity, copiousness, and beauty of sound are historically the latest properties sought after, and aimed at technically. (For purposes of research everything must count as a musical instrument with which sound can be produced intentionally and, for this reason, it is advisable to use the term ‘sound-producing instruments’.) The fact of their giving forth sound classes them at once among ‘live’ objects and lends them an effect akin to that of speech and song. That their sounds are not those of the human voice invests them with a mysterious and superhuman potency. It would be hard to find a sound-instrument which had not originally a ritual or magical significance, and which had not served for an indefinite period as a secular amusement for adults before being finally passed on to the children. Ritual use is always therefore an indication of great antiquity. On the other hand, objects which are indiscriminately used at any time and by any person may be suspected of dating from a later period, or of having been imported from without.



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page 130 note 1 This is dearly demonstrated in W. Kaudern's Musical Instruments of Celebes, Göteborg, 1927, pp. 313 et seq.

page 130 note 2 Although there is a visible improvement as to the accuracy of the statements made in recent ethnological literature, there still occur the most regrettable superficialities and misunderstandings. Photographs of the instruments, if possible while being played, as well as sketches, should take the place of long descriptions, but sectional drawings are also required in cases where essentials of the mechanism cannot be viewed from the outside, as is the case with blocked flutes. As an example of the best kind of illustration and description we may cite the monograph by Kaudern, cf. also Hornbostel and Sachs, Z.f. Ethn. 46, 1924, as well as the Appendix to the present article.

page 131 note 1 Ellis, A. J., Journal Soc. of Arts, 33 (1885); Sammelbde. f. vergl. Musikwiss., i, 1922.

page 131 note 2 Hornbostel, E. M. von, Z.f. Ethnol., 43 (1911), pp. 601et seq.; Anthropos, 22 (1927), pp. 657et seq.; Festschr. P. W. Schmidt (1928), pp. 303et seq.

page 131 note 3 Geist und Werden der Musikinstrumente, Berlin (Dietrich Reimer), 1929.

page 134 note 1 Ursprung der afrikanischen Kulturen, 1898.

page 140 note 1 Gräbner, Fritz, Methods der Ethnologic, Heidelberg, 1911, p. 81.

page 143 note 1 Heger, T., Mitth. Anthrop. Ges. Wien, 23 , and Festsdr. P. W. Schmidt, 1928, p. 275.

page 143 note 2 Steinen, K. v. d., ‘Obituary notice of Ad. Bastian’, Z.f. Ethn. 37 (1905), 246.

page 144 note 1 Steinen, K. v. d., ‘Obituary notice of Ad. Bastian’, Z.f. Ethn. 37 (1905), 244.

page 144 note 2 Ibid. 246.

page 146 note 1 Ankermann, , Z.f. Ethnol. 58, 229 1926.

page 149 note 1 The contrary view is expressed by Wallis, W. D., Amer. Anthropologist (n.s.), 27, 91, 1925.

page 149 note 2 Ankermann, B., Deutsche Literatur-Ztg., 1930, 461.

page 150 note 1 Zeitschr.f. Ethnol., 37 (1905), p. 54.

page 150 note 1 Ibid., p. 28.

page 153 note 1 Cf. p. 145.

page 156 note 1 Die Indianer Nordostperus, Hamburg, 1930.

page 157 note 1 Christian, V., in P. W. Schmidt-Festschrift, 1928, p. 193.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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