András Varsányi, Curator of Music Soundlab, Munich Soundlab, Stadtmuseum, Munich

Soundlab. 1/2/3 – experiences with ideas and realizations. Making of an “audible museum”

The collection was founded in 1940 as “Städtische Musikinstrumenten-Sammlung“ (municipal collection of musical instruments) on the basis of the private collection of Georg Neuner (1904-1962), a Munich citizen. From his collection of about 1000 objects the “Sammlung Musik“ of the Münchner Stadtmuseum today counts some 6000 musical instruments and sound objects. Since 1958 the collection became part of the Münchner Stadtmuseum; it opened to the public in 1963 and can still be visited on the 4th floor of the museum. The former idea of Neuner was to exhibit mainly instruments from non-european cultures to show the development of western musical instruments from instruments originating in “high cultures from the East“.
The “Soundlab“ idea was born out of the need to give visitors the opportunity to experiment in order to understand some of the principles of how sound is created or manipulated. The most difficult aspect for the public to understand seems to be the “natural sound“ and not the synthetic sound created by keyboards or even high tech sound producing devices. All the questions deriving from the public’s experiences at the Soundlab lead not only to the fundamentals of traditional instrument making but also expose the different concepts underlying different kinds of music. The instruments of the world with their different aesthetics of sound (and appropriate movement) together with their attractive visual forms are placed nearby to help illustrate musical developments. It remains a challenge to attract and communicate with young people—and not only young people—for this reason the learning from the Soundlab is not restricted to the visitors.