Odds and quads

September 9, 2010

Many cultures have created aeolian instruments - bells, strings and pipes - which produce sounds using the power of passing winds.

These Chinese aeolian flutes, made of bamboo or wood, were light enough to be attached to the backs of pigeons.

When the birds took off, the wind would blow across the carefully shaped fipples, which work like the mouthpiece of a recorder.

The flutes form part of the collection of more than 800 instruments and accessories owned by London's Royal College of Music. Among the more unusual is a clavicytherium, the world's oldest strung keyboard instrument.

The college also owns more than 600,000 programmes, documenting concert life from 1730 to the present; 300 original portraits of composers and musicians; and autographed scores of works such as Mozart's Piano Concerto K491 and Elgar's Cello Concerto.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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