Optical And Acoustic: In The World Of Instruments

Deutsches Museum

The term "instrument" comes from the Latin for "device" or "tool," and is a word that can be used in many ways. Optical instruments, for example, are used to survey the sky and explore the universe. Acoustic instruments, on the other hand, produce sounds. This is a short journey through the worlds of astronomy and music.

Observing the universe has fascinated people since the beginning of time, but it was only in the era of Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler that it became possible to see the stars up close with the aid of telescopes. Over the centuries, telescopes became increasingly precise. The Very Large Telescope operated by the European Southern Observatory, for example, can focus so sharply that in theory it could distinguish the 2 headlights of a car on the moon.

There was great interest in exploring the universe in the early 17th century. Scientists such as Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler built large refracting telescopes. Here is a model which the Ansbach court astronomer, Simon Marius, was said to have used to find Jupiter's moons.

Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel (1738–1822) wasn't just a gifted musician but also an important astronomer. In 1781 he discovered the planet Uranus. He built his large reflector telescope with a mirror diameter of 4 feet in Slough, England in 1789.

In the 20th century, telescopes made it possible to keep looking deeper into the vastness of the universe. In 1986 the European Southern Observatory built the world's first telescope mirror with active optics. They can be moved, readjusted, and optimally aligned according to weather conditions.

Without telescopes, we would hardly know anything about our
Solar system and the universe. When Galileo Galilei observed Jupiter moons with a telescope, it was clearly demonstrated that not everything revolves around the earth. This changed the
worldview of many people – and it was the reason why Galileo was ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment. Great inventions such as the telescope can shatter how we see the world. Today people are observing the universe with a whole palette of instruments: radio telescopes and infrared telescopes open up a completely new, fascinating view of the universe.

The ROSAT satellite was in orbit for almost 9 years from 1990 to 1999. 140,000 new stars emitting X-rays were found with its high-resolution detectors and telescope (whose mirrors were long considered to be the smoothest in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records).

Astronomers used heliometers (from the Greek for "sun" and "measure") to calculate minute angular distances between individual stars.The first heliometer was built as early as 1743, England. Shown here is the heliometer of the Remeis Observatory, Bamberg with a focal length of just over 102 inches.

The Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe was one of the most important astronomers in his day. His main patron was King Frederick II, who not only gave him the island of Hven (Sweden) but also assumed all the costs. This allowed for the construction of one of the world's most important observatories by 1580.

Nowadays our music comes from smartphones and MP3 players. But these aren't the first self-playing instruments to produce sound without a musician. Like the legendary Wurlitzer, there were already jukeboxes on paper tape, or on perforated plates, at the turn of the 20th century. Instruments that could actually record and store an artist's live music were major innovations.

The Symphonion was one of the first mechanical music players. It worked with perforated disks whose individual punch holes served as recording media for musical pieces. After a coin was inserted, the discs turned and played the desired song.

Der Musikautomat SymphonionDeutsches Museum

Mechanical music players became more unusual over time. The Phonoliszt Violina was built in Leipzig around 1912. Paper rolls with perforated strips could be inserted into it as recording media. The violins and piano were then operated by the bellows inside the device.

Die Phonoliszt ViolinaDeutsches Museum

This Steinway-Welte piano also uses perforated tape reels as recording media. A bellows then pneumatically moves the keys of the piano. It stands out from other machines as in 1906, the so-called Welte-Mignon system made it possible to store pieces played by pianists directly on perforated tape for the first time.

Das Yamaha DisklavierDeutsches Museum

The "Yamaha Disklavier" performing the Piano Sonata No. 16 KV 545 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Disklavier was developed in 1987. This mechanical piano can be brought to play via computer, a CD or a USB stick. When playing the movement of the hammers is scanned by an LED light barrier. This information is stored as a MIDI file in the computer. During playback the signals are electronically converted and the keys are moved hydraulically.

Music and musical instruments have been around since the dawn of humanity, when our ancestors made flutes, pipes, and drums. Over the millennia, we created not only countless different instruments but also different styles. The victory march of electronic music began in the 20th century. One of the great pioneers in this field was Friedrich Trautwein, the inventor of the Trautonium. Oskar Sala, a composer from Berlin, developed the instrument further and conquered Hollywood with it.

Oskar Sala (1910–2002) was one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Alongside engineer Friedrich Trautwein he developed the Trautonium, which could mimic tones as well as vocals and voices. The soundtrack of Hitchcock's "The Birds" was also created in Sala's recording studio.

At the end of the 1950s, the composer Josef Anton Riedl developed a studio for electronic music for the Siemens Group. Its special feature was that it could be programmed using punched tape. This made it possible for the sounds and their timing to be archived and reused.

TrautoniumDeutsches Museum

The Trautonium was first presented at the "Neue Musik" (New Music) festival in Berlin. Instead of a keyboard it has a metal rail and a string wrapped in resistance wire stretched over it. When the string is pressed onto the metal rail, the current produces a certain sound.

Visitors to the Deutsches Museum will have seen the astronomical instruments in the courtyard in front of the main entrance. The collection includes the solar globe—a sun-shaped sculpture that acts a sundial and marks the beginning of the museum's Inter-planetary Walk—and the large astronomical clock over the eastern exit of the museum courtyard. The courtyard also offers a good view of the 2 observatory domes, which house famous telescopes that can still be used to explore the stars.

Every visitor walks past the sundial on the courtyard floor of the Deutsches Museum. This sun-shaped sculpture is also the start of the 2.8-mile Inter-planetary Walk that leads visitors along the Isar River and through our solar system. One step corresponds to about 620,000 miles.

The Zeiss refractor in the western observatory
The telescope was designed specifically for the Deutsches Museum in 1924 and it has stood in the western observatory since 1925. The refractor was used for observations until the mechanics were damaged in 2008. After its repair in Jena, the telescope was returned to Munich in 2012.

Made by Goerz in Berlin in 1913, this telescope was originally designed to observe the total solar eclipse on August 21, 1914. The Goerz telescope has been the main instrument in the eastern observatory of the Deutsches Museum since 1925. It was renovated and restored in Jena in 2009.

The astronomical clock above the eastern courtyard entrance is as unmissable as it is eye-catching. In addition to the time of day, day of the week, and month, the clock also shows the moon's phases and the position of the sun in the zodiac. The dial has a diameter of about 21 feet.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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