Curt Sachs

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Curt Sachs 1935
Memorial plaque on the house, Ben-Gurion-Strasse 1, in Berlin-Tiergarten

Curt Sachs (born June 29, 1881 in Berlin , † February 5, 1959 in New York ) was a German ethnomusicologist and the founder of scientific musical instruments .

Live and act

In his youth Curt Sachs received piano lessons from Kurt Johnen , among others , and learned music theory and composition . Later, at the University of Berlin , he included music history in his studies. He wrote his dissertation with Carl Frey on a topic from the art historical field (1904). 1905/06 worked at the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin. From 1905 to 1907 he edited the review organ monthly magazine for art history literature with Ernst Jaffé . From 1908 he turned exclusively to musical subjects. He was in 1909 at the University of Berlin with the "Handbuch der Musikinstrumentenkunde". In December 1919 he was Oskar Fleischer's successor, initially acting on his behalf, and in September 1920 he was finally director of the collection of old musical instruments at the State Academic University of Music in Berlin-Charlottenburg. In 1921 Sachs became ao., In 1928 a full professor at the University of Berlin, and from 1926 he also taught instrument studies at the State Academy for Church and School Music in Berlin. He worked hard to make the extensive collection of musical instruments available to the public and academia. It was here that his institutional career as a musical instrument scientist (organologist) began. In 1930, at the invitation of the Institut de Musique Orientale , Sachs spent several months in Cairo to work out a report on the renewal of Arabic music. In 1933, as a Jew , Sachs was removed from office by the National Socialists . He then emigrated to Paris and later to the United States. There he taught at New York University from 1937 to 1953 and also worked for the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art .

Sachs wrote books on rhythm , dance, and musical instruments . In 1913 his Reallexicon of Musical Instruments appeared , the most influential lexicon on historical and worldwide musical instruments. It is considered to be more reliable than the Dictionnaire des Instruments de Musique published by Rowland Wright in 1941 and served as the basis for the more extensive Lexicon Musical Instruments written by Sibyl Marcuse in 1964 . A Comprehensive Dictionary . In 1914 he published the essay Systematics of Musical Instruments with Erich von Hornbostel . An attempt in the magazine for ethnology for which both became famous. The article contained a sophisticated system for classifying musical instruments based on the catalog of the Brussels Musical Instrument Museum published by Victor-Charles Mahillon in 1880 . This was later supplemented by a bullet point and is now standard as the Hornbostel-Sachs system . In contrast, the spirit and becoming of the musical instruments of 1929, as Sachs' main contribution to the theory of diffusionism that was widespread at the time, is now considered out of date. His book The history of musical instruments (1940) is an important work on the subject. It divides the instruments according to cultures and the European instruments separately according to cultural periods.

In 1956 he became a corresponding member of the Deutsche Akademie der Künste , Music Section, in East Berlin. In the same year he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Free University of Berlin . The concert hall of the State Institute for Music Research in Berlin is named after Curt Sachs. Since 1983 the American Musical Instrument Society has presented The Curt Sachs Award to a person who has made an important contribution to the goals of the society.

Publications (selection)

  • Music history of the city of Berlin up to 1800 . Verlag Gebrüder Paetel, Berlin 1908 ( digitized version ).
  • Reallexicon of musical instruments. Berlin 1913 ( digitized version ).
  • with Erich M. von Hornbostel: Systematics of Musical Instruments. One try. In: Journal of Ethnology. Volume 46, 1914, pp. 553-590 ( digitized version ).
  • The musical instruments of India and Indonesia. At the same time an introduction to instrument science. Berlin 1915, 2nd edition 1923
  • The Jew's Harp. A typological preliminary study. 1917
  • The musical instruments. Wroclaw 1923
  • Ancient music. Wroclaw 1924
  • The music of the ancient world. (= Ernst Bücken (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Musikwissenschaft , Vol. 6). Potsdam 1928 ( digitized version )
  • Spirit and becoming of musical instruments. Berlin 1929
  • Comparative musicology in its basics. Leipzig 1930
  • A world history of dance. Berlin 1933, English: World History of the Dance. New York 1937
  • Les Instruments de musique de Madagascar. Paris 1938
  • The history of musical instruments. New York 1940
  • The rise of music in the Ancient world: East and West. New York 1943
  • Rhythm and Tempo. A Study in Music History. New York 1953
  • The Wellsprings of Music. Published by Jaap Art . The Hague 1962


Web links

Commons : Curt Sachs  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The tabernacle with Andreas del Verrocchio Thomas group at Or San Michele in Florence. A contribution to Florentine art history . Heitz, Strasbourg 1904 ( digitized version ).
  2. ^ Israel Katz: Henry George Farmer and the First International Congress of Arab Music (Cairo 1932). Brill, Leiden 2015, ISBN 978-90-04-28414-2 , p. 117 (on Google Books )
  3. Curt Sachs Hall . State Institute for Music Research, Prussian Cultural Heritage
  4. ^ The Curt Sachs Award . The American Musical Instrument Society.