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RCM Museum Embarks on Recording Project

Tuesday 29 November 2016


The Royal College of Music Museum has embarked on a major new project to record playable historical instruments in the RCM’s collection. The new recordings will include around 50 videos and 300 audio recordings, allowing audiences around the globe to see and hear the instruments in action via the RCM website and other platforms such as Google Arts & Culture. The recordings will also become a valuable teaching tool for RCM students and a fantastic resource for researchers.

The project is being carried out in partnership with . It will take two years to complete and features the performing talents of world-renowned RCM professors.

The first recording session took place in November 2016, featuring a harpsichord by Jacob Kirkman, 1773, and a copy of the clavicytherium, made by Adlam Burnett in 1971. The original clavicytherium, made in c1480, is believed to be the earliest surviving stringed keyboard instrument in the world. The recordings were made by RCM Professor and Chair of Historical Keyboard Instruments, Terence Charlston, who is one of the UK’s leading historical keyboard players, and an important advocate of historical keyboard performance within the educational sphere.

Original clavicytherium and Burnett's copy

Terence, who will be recording a number of other historical keyboards from the collection in the coming weeks, said: 'for a specialist in historical keyboard performance, there can be no more enticing a project than the opportunity to play and record instruments from a world-class collection such as we have here at the RCM Museum. After a decade of teaching, research and performing at the RCM, and centred around these instruments in particular, it feels very appropriate to be documenting their sound in this way.'

This project forms part of a substantial programme of conservation and digitisation. The historical instruments are being recorded before relocation to temporary storage, which will allow for redevelopment of the RCM Museum. In addition, the Museum’s conservators are hoping to take the opportunity to strengthen some of the currently unplayable instruments so that, in time, these may be played and heard again too.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has recently awarded a grant of £3,634,418 to fund the redevelopment of the RCM Museum. Find out more about their plans.