Museum pays lip service to music

March 31, 2000

Artificial lips playing notes on a real trumpet are one of the attractions at a new interactive sound laboratory in the world's oldest musical instruments museum.

Visitors to the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments can now explore the workings of various instruments using the latest computer technology.

The laboratory offers a hands-on approach, with live sounds, physical models and computer displays. The interactive computer, for example, shows the inside of the trumpet, and the effect of each puff of air from the player's mouth as it enters the trumpet mouthpiece and travels towards the bell of the trumpet as a pressure pulse.

Visitors can also see how the player's lips vibrate inside the mouthpiece, acting as a valve to increase and decrease the flow of air into the trumpet, and can hear the sound produced.

The display also includes a virtual instruments manufacturing workshop, where visitors can investigate what happens to the sound of a cello if its shape is changed or if it is made from a material other than wood.

The sound laboratory has been developed by Edinburgh in partnership with museums in Brussels, Leipzig and Paris, through a substantial European Commission grant and support from the university's graduates.

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