Expertiseportaal van de Hogeschool Gent


The sound of Brussels anno 1760 - Exploring the sonic and playing characteristics of a reconstructed bowed string trio after mid-18th-century examples

Project: Onderzoeksproject

  • Verberkmoes, Geerten (Projectcoördinator)
  • Cnop, Ann (Projectmedewerker)
  • Dhondt, Geert (Copromotor)
  • Forment, Bruno (Copromotor)
  • Maes, Francis , Universiteit Gent, België (Copromotor)
  • Anne-Emmanuelle Ceulemans, Muziekinstrumentenmuseum, Brussel, België (Copromotor)
  • Strijkkwartet "a4", België (Projectpartner)

Since January 2015, Geerten Verberkmoes has been undertaking a PhD in the Arts project at the School of Arts Ghent / Ghent University as guest researcher. The aim of the project is to investigate the life, instruments and working methods of the stringed instrument maker Benoit Joseph Boussu, who was active in Brussels in the middle of 18th century. The PhD project was initiated to obtain further biographical information on Boussu, but more importantly, because the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels preserves a violin and cello by this maker which are both still in fully original configuration. Finding bowed stringed instruments of this age in such untouched state, with a transitional configuration between late Baroque and early Classical, is extremely rare, since the vast majority of antique violins, violas and cellos has been modernized, mainly during the course of the 19th century.

Unfortunately, the two original instruments of the MIM are not allowed to be tuned to pitch nor to be played, which makes assessment of their playability and sound characteristics impossible. Making reconstructions, closely based on the original violin and cello, could overcome these restrictions, and that is exactly what is currently been done as part of the PhD project. During earlier stages of the doctorate project, the original instruments have already been thoroughly investigated, by means of CT scanning and digital endoscopy, and the resulting visualisations allow us to understand the internal construction of the original instruments. A set of three instruments, two violin reconstructions and one cello reconstruction, is currently being built, and is going to be finished by the end of 2017. Subsequently, these reconstructions will be set up and adjusted together with experienced performers of 18th century music, and the musical possibilities of the instruments will be studied with the performance of suitable repertoire. The current research proposal focuses on this last-mentioned research aspect. 

Thus, the aim of the currently proposed two-year research project (2018-2019) is to examine and document the musical and acoustical possibilities of the trio of reconstructions built during the PhD project. Therefore, musicians need to be engaged to play and explore the instruments and associated repertoire. Preferably, one or more of these musicians has a link to the School of Arts Ghent (as a researcher in performance practice).

Since the reconstructions are closely based on the original, non-modified examples, they will allow the musicians to investigate the playing characteristics of bowed stringed instruments with a mid-18th-century configuration. Also, the sonic properties of the instruments, played alone or in combination, can be assessed and evaluated by the players.

At first, the instruments will be set up and adjusted in close cooperation with the musicians. After the initial set up has been completed, suitable repertoire (from Brussels composers from around 1750-1760) is going to be rehearsed, explored and performed. Experiments with various forms of basso continuo accompaniment – also omitting the harpsichord, as may have been a common practice during the 18th century – are foreseen. The experiences of the musicians, gained from playing and exploring the instrument reconstructions, will be documented by doing interviews and surveys at various stages during the project. Public performances are also planned, and the opinions of the audience are documented by surveys. Audio and/or video recordings will be made as well.

In addition, acoustical measurements are envisioned on both the two original instruments by Boussu (from the MIM collection), as well as the reconstructions, to objectively compare their acoustical properties.

By performing Brussels instrumental court repertoire, this nowadays seldom-heard music can be enjoyed again while being played on the – chronologically and geographically – most adequate instruments. The use of thoughtfully and scientifically produced reconstructions will revive the voices of otherwise silent original instruments from the MIM collection.

StatusIn uitvoering


Verwante onderzoeksoutput