Erich Moritz von Hornbostel

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Erich Moritz von Hornbostel (born February 25, 1877 in Vienna , † November 28, 1935 in Cambridge , England ) was an Austrian music ethnologist and director of the Berlin Phonogram Archive from 1906 to 1933 .


He was the descendant of a family originally from Lower Saxony , with Heinrich Hornbostel mentioned in a document from 1534-1545, and the son of Erich Otto von Hornbostel (1846-1910) and Helene Magnus (1840-1914). His grandfather was Theodor Hornbostel (1815–1888), who was raised to the Austrian knighthood in November 1860 .

Hornbostel married Susanne Apolant on August 21, 1903 in Berlin (* July 22, 1881 in Berlin; † September 29, 1956 in Holtsville , Suffolk County (New York) ), the daughter of the medical council Dr. med. Eduard Apolant (* 1847) and the NN. Cohn (* around 1859) in Berlin-Wilmersdorf .


Hornbostel first studied chemistry in Vienna . In Berlin he became assistant to the psychologist Carl Stumpf at the Berlin Psychological Institute , who did research in the field of tone psychology . During the First World War he and Max Wertheimer developed the directional receiver for military use. Hornbostel helped set up the Berlin phonogram archive , which he headed until 1933. Together with the musicologist Curt Sachs , he developed a system for classifying musical instruments known as the Hornbostel-Sachs system . Hornbostel is one of the most well-known representatives of gestalt theory in the field of musicology . In 1925 he became ao. Professor for Systematic and Comparative Musicology at the University of Berlin.

Relieved of his offices as a “ half-Jew ” in 1933, von Hornbostel emigrated to Switzerland and later to the USA, where he was employed at the “ New School for Social Research ” at the same time as Max Wertheimer . For health reasons he soon had to leave New York and finally settled in Cambridge, UK, in 1934. He pioneered the study of African and Asian music and designed a system for the written recording of this music. The later criticized wind quint theory goes back to Hornbostel . His students and staff included Fritz Bose , Henry Cowell , George Herzog , Hans Hickmann , Heinrich Husmann , Mieczyslaw Kolinski , Jaap Kunst , Robert Lachmann , Curt Sachs and Marius Schneider .

Publications (selection)

  • The Problems of Comparative Musicology. In: Christian Kaden, Erich Stockmann (Ed.): Tonart und Ethos. Essays on ethnomusicology and music psychology. 1905 (Reclam, Leipzig 1986)
  • with Curt Sachs: Systematics of Musical Instruments. An attempt . In: Journal of Ethnology . Volume 46, 1914, pp. 553-590 ( digitized version ).
  • Observations on one- and two-eared hearing. In: Journal for Psychology and its Frontier Sciences . Volume 4, 1923, pp. 64-114.
  • The Unity of the Senses . In: Psyche, 7, No. 28, 1927, pp. 83-89.
  • Klaus Wachsmann, Dieter Christensen, Hans-Peter Reinecke (eds.): Hornbostel Opera Omnia. Springer, Berlin 1975


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 100 years of the Institute for Psychology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Berlin 2000, p. 8 ( digitized version ).
  2. D. Brett King, Michael Wertheimer: Max Wertheimer and Gestalt Theory . Transaction Publishers, 2007, p. 216.