Music Boxes

I love listening to music. Anything from opera to punk, I love almost all of it. With the exception of a small vinyl collection my wife has, all this music is on my mobile phone. I find that absolutely amazing and incredibly convenient. I wonder if 18th century man found the music box just as amazing.

Musical mechanisms were first fitted in Swiss clocks and automata in the 17th century. However, the musical box, which was either powered by clockwork or operated by a handle, came into being in its own right in the 18th century. It comprised of a rotating cylinder that produced sound when raised pins plucked a row of fine steel teeth on a comb-like metal plate.

By the 19th century the musical box was firmly established as an affordable form of entertainment and was produced in large numbers. As techniques improved, seven or eight tunes could be set on one cylinder. The cylinders were housed in wooden boxes, often with plain sides and decoratively inlaid tops. The better the box, usually the better the mechanism was with more special effects like butterfly bells, cymbals and drums. Specialist makers like Nicole Freres also add value to a musical box sold in today’s mechanical market place.

The problem with the music box was that the cylinder could only hold so many pins and thus the number and complexity of the tunes, or “airs”, was limited. A simple, often rather basic model
( like a car without satellite navigation) would have less pins in the cylinder and so play fewer and simpler tunes. These are today the lower value models which can be purchased for much less.

A more complicated model with many multiple pin tunes together with bells, drums and cymbals by a maker like Nicole Freres will be at the other end of the money scale.

As a final thought, if contemplating the purchase of one of these beautiful boxes, always view with your ears.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering in auction, or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website.

Chamber Music

We have just returned from a holiday on the Emerald Isle. A wonderful place which over the years has produced many wonderful things including Guinness and my gorgeous Irish wife, not necessarily in that order.

Like many families the world over we always had a ‘best bits’ session after the holiday and on our own my wife and I continue this tradition. So, in the queue for the return ferry we mulled over meals, hotels, Irish roadworks and a chamber music concert in Killaloe.

In the past chamber music was a private affair in which the privileged few were entertained with sonatas and string quartets. The very wealthy sometimes employed their own composer to write music just for them, but the general public had no access to this wonderful world.

Gradually however, over many years the piano became a more affordable instrument for the middle class family, which in turn encouraged the market for chamber music. Soon the music for piano duets and simple songs was being purchased everywhere. Opera goers could now buy simple arrangements of their favourite operatic arias and perform them at home.

Less popular were the violin sonatas and string quartets as they demanded a high level of musical training. But as the standard of tuition improved, so the demand for instrumental chamber music increased.

In the saleroom today there is always a very good demand for musical instruments and in fact it would be fair to say that in a way the tables have turned since the very early days of chamber music and the piano’s popularity. Stringed instruments are generally speaking much the better seller in the auction room today.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website