The clavikanon is very special. It’s not a musical instrument, despite the initial impression – but a setting tool with which historical tunings can be recreated. The device, which looks a little like half a harpsichord, has two octaves and sliders. The strings are all tuned to a single note. Additional equipment includes 40 templates – each one showing historical tunings such as Werckmeister, Kirnberger or the meantone temperament. The sliders are used to tune to the appropriate pitches. Then the sound is checked by playing the keys. This allows musicians to vary, compare and work with historical tunings.
The clavikanon was invented by the lutenist Werner von Strauch. He was a lecturer in industrial design at the University of Halle. In his spare time, he did research into ways of improving the historical tunings of the lute. It makes sense that, as an industrial designer, he would develop a tool with which to set tunings and listen to them. It is the only one in the whole world. This is what the chords of a meantone temperament sound like.
The other clavikanon is the prototype. It’s useful for studying the early errors made by the inventor, which were eliminated in the second model.
You wouldn't be able to hear this sound, if Kurt Reichmann hadn't recreated an 8th century saz dulap. The instrument is now extinct. Ours is the only one in existence. Reichmann copied it from a cave painting. That’s why we don’t know whether the sound of this rotary plucked instrument, with strings sitting on the barrel, is anything like that of the original. But we assume that’s the case.
All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch