What can the instruments and acoustic experiments of “sound magician” and organ builder Georges Cloetens (1871–1949) tell us about timbre, music, and technology in the early 20th century? How are musical instrument making and composing related? A creative approach to organology allows us to explore these questions by engaging with both practices. Starting with his orpheal and lutheal and expanding to the other innovative instruments in the series, this research project considers their potential, both then and later, regarding musical expression.
In her explorations of sound and instrumentation as composition, Elisabeth aims to apply hands-on practice just as much as theoretical analysis, using a combination of (reversible) approaches – thinking through sounding, making through listening, and theory through experimentation. Following on from, and inspired by, the work of a significant number of composers who have explicitly foregrounded listening in their practices, she will explore listening as a critical tool, a performative act, and as compositional material in specific relation to musical instrument invention, modification, and use, concepts of inharmonicity and first affordances.
A particular focus will be Ravel's experimental use of sounds in his music, whose embrace of everyday objects in L’Enfant et les Sortilèges was described by critics as a ‘tin pan alley’. Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) composed for both the orpheal and lutheal keyboard instruments by his contemporary organ builder Georges Cloetens. Tracing the development of Cloetens’s acoustic explorations as an inventor in his series of keyboard instruments held at the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) in Brussels, this project aims to consider them as creative sound works in their own right.