The Art of Music

Sept 6 - Oct 19, 2003

The Hearst Art Gallery of Saint Mary's College is pleased to present "The Art of Music," on view from September 6 through October 19, 2003.

The exhibition has been organized to give visitors a glimpse into the remarkable range of musical instruments created by human beings over a period of thousands of years. More than seventy-five rare and unique instruments, from medieval to contemporary, will be on view. Grouped according to the way in which they produce sound, the instruments give witness not only to their beauty and diversity, but to the ingenuity of the people who created them.

Martin Rokeach, composer, musician, and professor of music at Saint Mary’s College and Carrie Brewster, director of the Hearst Art Gallery, are co-curators. To contact curators: for Martin Rokeach and for Carrie Brewster.

Docent "Please Touch" Days

We have our docents trained and ready to welcome visitors to the gallery during the ongoing Art of Music exhibition. Visitors are encouraged to gently touch and even play some of the instruments. In addition to the 105 on view, an interactive computer program also allows visitors to see and hear hundreds more instruments. Docents will be in the Gallery on the following days:


  • 9/11 Thursday 1-2 p.m.
  • 9/12 Friday, 1-4 p.m.
  • 9/14 Sunday, 12:30-4 p.m.
  • 9/17 Wednesday 12 noon-4 p.m.
  • 9/18 Thursday 12:30-3:30 p.m.
  • 9/19 Friday 12 noon-2 p.m.
  • 9/20 Saturday, 2-3 p.m.
  • 9/21 Sunday, 2-4 p.m.
  • 9/24 Wednesday, 1-2 p.m. and 2:30-4 p.m.
  • 9/25 Thursday, 12 noon 4 p.m.
  • 9/26 Friday, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.


  • 10/1 Wednesday, 1:30-3 p.m.
  • 10/2 Thursday, 1-3 p.m.
  • 10/3 Friday, 12 noon-4 p.m.
  • 10/8 Wednesday, 2-3 p.m.
  • 10/9 Thursday, 2-4 p.m.
  • 10/10 Friday, 1-2 p.m. and 3-4 p.m.
  • 10/12 Sunday, 2-4 p.m.
  • 10/15 Wednesday, 12 noon-4 p.m.
  • 10/16 Thursday, 12:30-2 p.m.
  • 10/17 Friday, 1-4 p.m.

NOTE: Docent hours are subject to change. Continue to check the website; additional hours and days may be posted.

Gallery hours: Wed - Sun, 11 - 4:30 p.m. The Hearst Art Gallery is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Suggested admission donation: $2, free parking. For more information, contact: Heidi Ehrman Donner (925) 631-4379, Artwork in .jpg format is available upon request.

Instruments Featured

Here is a partial listing of specific instruments in the exhibition:

  • Mayan Flutes (replicas)
  • Serge Synthesizer
  • Electric Harps
  • 2-person Saxiphone
  • Viol
  • Medieval Sitole (replica, related to the viol, no originals are believed to exist – this example was replicated by studying depictions of sitoles in European stained glass windows)
  • Cittern
  • Hurdy Gurdy
  • Baroque Guitar
  • Spinet
  • Virginal
  • Renaissance reed instruments
  • Hand-painted Harpsichord
  • Clavichord
  • Lutes
  • Irish Pennywhistles
  • Irish Bagpipes
  • Italian Zampogna (an early bagpipe)
  • Aboriginal Rhythm Sticks
  • Tibetan Prayer Bell
  • Chinese Zither
  • Brazilian Gourd Rattles
  • African Thumb Piano
  • Sudanese Harp
  • Djeridoo
  • Mexican Rain Sticks
  • Middle Eastern Drums
  • Norwegian Fiddle
  • Swedish Nyckelharpa
  • American Mandolin (with elaborate wood inlay)
  • Musical bows
  • Lyres
  • Banjos
  • Folk fiddle
  • Dulcimer
  • Serpent Horn
  • Double bell euphonium
  • Accordion
  • Jingles
  • Percussion vessels
  • Friction instruments
  • Scraped instruments

 Exhibition Introduction

(Adapted from The World Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments, Max Wade-Matthews, Anness Publishing Limited, 2000).

People have been making music for a very long time, and for most of that time they have invented ways of making sounds with instruments. Music begins in the mind: melody and timbre can find expression through the voice, and rhythm and tempo through clapping, stamping and dancing. But the inventive mind soon looks for other solutions that will produce more volume, new varieties of sound, new challenges.

Clappers, flutes, and drums have survived from before the last Ice Age, the ancient ancestors of the thousands of musical instruments used in the world today. The musical instruments of previous ages and different cultures have much to say not only about music, but about social patterns, technology and skills, ritual, and religion.

One of the pleasures of music is playing together, and instruments need to sound good in ensembles as well as in solo playing. The modern orchestra has evolved as a flexible group of instruments that can produce a balanced sound, yet offer many contrasts of tone and color. There is a mutually dependent relationship between performers, composers and instrument makers. Each is limited by the abilities of the others, but also inspired by them. The

development of music represents a constant striving to arrest the ear of the audience with sounds that are more beautiful, more interesting or more original than any heard before. In their quest for originality, composers make fresh demands on performers and their instruments. At the same time, performers improve and extend their technique, and call for new music and better instruments to demonstrate their talents. In addition, instrument makers invent new shapes or discover new materials that transform their instruments and offer new potential for musicians. Music develops new sounds because of the interplay between all the different talents needed to produce it.

Even when they are not being played, musical instruments have a strong aesthetic appeal, which stems from their perfect blend of form and function. They are often lovingly made and beautifully decorated, with satisfying, rounded shapes and smooth surfaces that demand to be touched. Those who play them become deeply attached to them as the emotions expressed in music flow through them. There are plenty of folk tales and myths that tell of instruments with supernatural powers: warning drums, magic flutes, diabolical violins and pianos that play themselves. There is no doubting the magic of music, and musical instruments have a share of it.

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Contact: Heidi Donner (925) 631-4069 or