Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Setting up a music room: a few ideas from an old book

These two excepts from old books discuss the basics of having a music room in the house. They may sound outdated, particularly because the world of musical instruments has changed so much, but there are many useful observations. And, certainly, the words of these old authors are inspiring!

The Music-room

The principles of acoustics are so little understood that it is difficult to advance any definite suggestion as to the best size or shape for a music-room. In most houses it is the drawing-room which usually fulfills this function; and, when crowded with furniture and draperies, the result is not usually satisfactory, as the sound becomes muffled and choked. Amongst other advantages of sparse furnishing and uncarpeted floors may be included the appropriateness of such surroundings in a room which is used for music. A room specially designed for music should have few draperies and rugs and no carpet. Paneling is the best covering for its walls, and the best position for the room is probably one where it is surrounded by other rooms. Thus, if it is on the ground floor it would be improved if placed over a cellar. In a large music-room a stage may be introduced with good effect, and this isolated floor for the piano will often improve the sound.

In some cases a gallery to a hall may be used for music, and this traditional feature may meet modern requirements in the most satisfactory way. It will be especially appropriate on festive occasions, and the position of the performers will help to give a quality of mystery to the music, which may add greatly to its effect.

From Houses and gardens by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott

Few families require both a music-room and a library, and in a home where the musical tastes predominate the unused room is most acceptable when made into a music- room. In such a room there should be good light, and nothing to muffle and obstruct the sounds. The floor should be uncarpeted, and the furniture entirely without upholstery. Draperies should be wholly tabooed, for the genuine musician's soul is rapt, listening to divine harmonies, and all outward, discordant things, however decorative, are abhorred. A light, cheerful tint should relieve the walls, one that looks prettily by artificial light being preferred, as the room will be the most sought at this time.

Bamboo or rattan furniture is among the prettiest for this room. Small chairs in rattan cost from $4 to $10, and the arm-chairs cost $5 to $12. A rattan sofa costs from $10 to $20, while bamboo chairs in silver, gilt, or copper are $5 to $8; and stained wood, rush-seated, cost $4. Much cheaper rush or cane bottomed chairs are equally comfortable, and can be substituted for the more showy rattan.

Old-time music-racks were seldom capacious, and were unhandy. The modern ones are really cabinets. They stand about five feet high, and their shelves and drawers are especially convenient for sheet-music, protecting it from being tumbled and torn. Such music-racks, plainly made, cost $10, while elaborate ones cost as high as $50. Tall lamps to stand on the floor beside the piano are made with standards in nickel, brass, and wrought-iron. The cheaper ones cost $10, and others vary in price from that amount up to $100. A lamp with a reflector behind it is more modest, but equally efficient. It should be fastened to the wall so that its light will be focussed on the music-rack of the piano.

Pictures of the masters of harmony, scenes from the various operas, and busts of composers or ideal heads of musical heroes form fitting ornaments to such a room. But when the piano is open, the violin in tune, and flute and banjo mingle their notes in the family orchestra, then is the music-room best fulfilling its destiny and adding to the comfort and pleasure of both players and listeners.

From The house comfortable by Agnes Bailey Ormsbee

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