Montagu - Instrument Origins

Origins and Development of Musical Instruments by Jeremy Montagu. Published by Scarecrow Press, 2007.
ISBN 13: 978-0-8108-5657-8. Cloth 280 pages $75.

Jeremy Montagu has been remarkably productive since his retirement as the curator of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments in Oxford. He has written four books, three of which are of immediate interest to members of the Historic Brass Society and have been reviewed in these pages; Timpani & Percussion, Musical Instruments of the Bible, and this present publication. He has also written a recent book on reed instruments of the Montagu Collection. The book under discussion here describes the creation, use, and development of musical instruments from the Stone Age to our present day. Montagu presents a fascinating way of telling the tale of instruments that is quite different from many other studies on this topic. He presents ways in which many different cultures use instruments and uses those examinations as a spring-board for discussion on how and why various instruments developed. Performance practice, social and cultural traditions as well as detailed descriptions of instrument design are all given full attention by Montagu.

The chapter on brass instruments is extremely detailed and repleat with photos and illustrations. The chapters "The Medieval Renaissance," "The First Industrial Revolution," and "The Second Industrial Revolution" are particularly interesting. Montagu not only examines many technological and industrial developments and how they had an impact on instrument design and manufacture but weaves in a myriad of other factors such as pitch standards, the rise of guilds and trade unions, development of the modern orchestra, and patronage. In addition to brass instruments, the chapters on drums, flutes, reeds, strings, organs, and electronic instruments are given full attention. Each instrumental family not only provides an examination of Western instruments, but also a wide range of non-Western instruments are given a detailed assessment. Jeremy Montagu has given the music community an invaluable resource with this publication.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum