The cultural history of keyboard instruments as field of research

Aurelius Belz (Mainz 1959), trained in harpsichord and piano making, passed the Masters Exam in 1987, degree in Fine Arts from the Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg, dissertation in 1998 entitled: “The instrument of the lady. Painted harpsichords of three centuries” Internship at the Russell Collection for early keyboard instruments in Edinburg, as well as at the Musée Instrumental du Conservatoire National supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris. Executive degree in Business Administration in Zurich. Since January 2017 active member of the International Society for Musical Theological Bach Research / University of Music, Würzburg.

In crafts as in science, only the processing object determines what tools properly have to be used

Following this principle while exploring historical keyboard instruments, I'm conducted solely by the given information content. The construction as such requires the tools of an instrument maker, the coat of arms of the owner the tools of an historian and heraldist and the painting and all decorative elements the perspective of an art historian. Needless to say, what background to all this a representation of Trinity demands.

Already in my dissertation, I trod interdisciplinary terrain, occupying myself with paintings on keyboard instruments. My study is entitled: "The instrument of the lady. Painted harpsichords of three centuries", was released in 1996 in Bamberg and gives information about the gender-specific allocation of the instruments - not only of the virginal - about the influence of religion and the church, about the special position of the instruments in the cultural history of furniture and establishes a connection between the dresses of musicians and the instrument decors. In this way, I found the reason why the classical grand piano is of black color. The stage does not only call for the acoustic- but also for the optical synergy-perception of pianist and instrument, and the traditional dress of the pianist is the tailcoat, in analogy to the harpsichord and the robes of the Lady.

For a scientist it is not at all common to present research results also in the form of poems (Tastengedichte) and a narration (Die Geschichte des Keyboards). It is simply a requirement of our time to leave the much-maligned ivory tower to reach the people. In particular in the world of museums, the term customer orientation was a foreign word for decades.

Cultural heritage requires networked thinking and access receives, who is also interested in the mindset and customs of the relevant era. The number-symbolism of the Middle Ages is for me an important key for understanding.

An unexpected discovery

The discovery of the numerical symbolism of the Western tonal system required a mode, how science has to deal with a creed of such a magnitude. That the thinking of the Church father Aurelius Augustinus is mirrored in the western tonal system is the real treasure - the generally applicable ethical content in addition to the beauty of harmony. Universal and non-denominational is the simple finding that love of enemies leads to peace. Since then, music has exemplary character for a harmonious coexistence, as Daniel Barenboim presents vividly with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra – with Arab and Israeli musicians using a sound system full of Christian symbolism.