Station: [14] Other Instruments

Have you discovered the bone flute from Tibet yet? You’ll find it opposite the middle display case at the end of the Silk Road. It is made from a human thigh bone.

Followers of Buddhism believe in the wheel of life and in reincarnation. But sometimes, a person lives a life that gives reason to believe that he or she may be reborn as a lower entity. In that case, a thigh bone, for example, may be retained after that person has died. That stops the deceased entering the cycle of rebirth. And if, say, a flute is carved from the thigh bone, its pure sound may bring people joy. In that way, the deceased may improve their karma even after death and have the opportunity to be reborn as a higher entity.

Flutes made of human bones are played by monks in Buddhist monasteries, among others. The idea is that any evil will be banished by the bones of an evil being.

On the other hand, the 19th century German peasant hurdy-gurdy in the display case on the wall is decorated with cattle bones. Above it, on the wire mesh, there’s another peasant hurdy-gurdy. This one dates to 1967 and was the first piece Kurt Reichmann ever made.

In the middle display case you can see two square pianos, an early form of pianoforte. The strings of the instrument run diagonally to the keys, hence the rectangular case in the shape of a table. The older square piano dates to 1820 and may have been played by Beethoven. The one below is from 1878 and may has been played by Franz Liszt, who’s known to have composed his works on a square piano.

And now, a foretaste of the keyboard instrument you’ll be discovering at the next stop. It's what’s known as a regal, a small portable organ.

All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch