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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