Musical Instruments

Lizzo plays President James Madison’s flute at the Library of Congress

Lizzo Played a 200-Year-Old Glass Flute Given to James Madison

The Library of Congress invited the musician, a classically trained flutist, to play the instrument at her concert this week

The Appalshop building during the floods

Kentucky Floods Damage Irreplaceable Appalachian Archives

Appalshop, a cultural center in Whitesburg, Kentucky, is still assessing damage from the historic floods

One reader wonders: Since purple dye was scarce, why didn’t people just combine blue and red?

Why Was Purple the Color of Royalty? And More Questions From Our Readers

You've got questions. We've got experts.

The violin has been called the ‘da Vinci’ for some time, but is called ‘da Vinci, Ex-Seidel’ since Toscha Seidel parted ways with it.

This 308-Year-Old Violin Could Become the Most Expensive Ever Sold

The “da Vinci, ex-Seidel” instrument's estimated worth is $20 Million

Residents of Billionaire's Row's newest building enjoy stunning views of Central Park.

The World's Skinniest Skyscraper Has a Storied Musical Past

At 1,428 feet tall and just 60 feet wide, Steinway Tower is so slender that its top floors may sway in the wind

Left, luthier Reuben Forsland gazes out his studio window. Right, a close-up of the “Legacy” guitar, custom-built by Forsland, commissioned by a son to honor his father.   

Each Guitar Reuben Forsland Makes Tells a Story

The Canadian luthier builds custom instruments from unique materials that deliver impeccable sound

Left, the Chiquibul Forest in Belize, near the spot where the fabled Tree once grew. Right, a custom guitar crafted from the Tree’s distinctive mahogany.

The Legend of the Music Tree

Exotic lumber salvaged from a remote forest in Belize is the world’s most coveted tonewood

Laurie Anderson’s singular artistic path has included books and movies, and an influential performance style whose loops, tapes and style has informed generations. 

The Multiple Arts and Artistries of the Inimitable Laurie Anderson

A Hirshhorn retrospective opens with ten new works from the pioneering artist, composer, poet and musician

The 39-foot-long violin is made out of around 12 different kinds of wood.

Why a String Quartet Set Sail on a Giant Violin in Venice's Grand Canal

Local artist Livio De Marchi views the wooden replica as a symbol of the Italian city's rebirth following Covid-19

The worn hands and nubby fingernails of Bentonia, Mississippi, bluesman Jimmy "Duck" Holmes reflect his years of experience. Holmes is one of the last bluesmen who play a style known as Bentonia blues.

At an Old Juke Joint in Mississippi, the Blues Are Alive

Jimmy Holmes is the last in a line of music legends as he seeks to keep a singular American art form thriving

The Ifesowapo dùndún ensemble performing in Igbo Ora, southwest Nigeria

How Does the West African Talking Drum Accurately Mimic Human Speech?

A new study explores how the dùndún replicates tones and patterns of the Yorùbá language

Researchers took cross sectional scans of a spider web with a laser to make this 3D image of its structure that they eventually translated into music.

Art Meets Science

Researchers Turn Spider Webs Into Music

The eerie compositions offer humans an approximation of how spiders experience their surroundings through vibrations

The yazh's design is based on detailed descriptions of the ancient instrument.

Listen to the First Song Ever Recorded on This Ancient, Harp-Like Instrument

Tharun Sekar, a luthier based in southern India, has painstakingly recreated the long-lost yazh

One of the most versatile harmonica players in pop history is Stevie Wonder, shown here in Paris in 1963 at age 13.

A Brief History of the Harmonica

How the world’s handiest instrument took over American music

Black Banjo Reclamation Project founders Hannah Mayree and Carlton “Seemore Love” Dorsey, with banjos made by Brooks Masten of Brooks Banjos in Portland, Oregon.

Smithsonian Voices

A Quest to Return the Banjo to Its African Roots

The Black Banjo Reclamation Project aims to put banjos into the hands of everyday people

Artist's rendering of a prehistoric human playing the ancient conch instrument

Cool Finds

Hear the Musical Sounds of an 18,000-Year-Old Giant Conch

The shell was played for the first time in millennia after being rediscovered in the collections of a French museum

Ory in November 1945, during his comeback after working as a janitor.

Kid Ory Finally Gets the Encore He Deserves

The childhood home of the musician who put New Orleans jazz on the map will soon open to the public

Cotton coverlet quilted in Texas, 19th century.

Artisan America

The State of American Craft Has Never Been Stronger

Today’s craft renaissance is more than just an antidote to our over-automated world. It renews a way of life that made us who we are

A portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven by August Klober, circa 1818

How Young America Came to Love Beethoven

On the 250th anniversary of the famous composer’s birth, the story of how his music first took hold across the Atlantic

Notre-Dame's Grand Organ, as seen before the April 2019 fire

Inside the Monumental Effort to Restore Notre-Dame's Grand Organ

Workers spent four months painstakingly dismantling the musical instrument, which is only set to sound again in 2024

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