Composing Claims on Musical Instrument Development: A Science and Technology Studies' Contribution

K.T. Bijsterveld*, P.F. Peters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The historiography of musical instrument design has long been dominated by organology: the science of musical instruments and their classification. Recently, however, scholars from Science & Technology Studies (STS) have also taken up the study of musical instrument development. This article reviews the newest organological and STS literature on musical instruments to show which questions and approaches STS has added to the rich work of the organologists. We first address the contribution of theories on innovation to the organologists' discussions of what counts as a genuinely new musical instrument, as well as to their explanations for the rise of such instruments. Second, our argument will show how STS scholars have studied settings of musical instrument design that are beyond the dominant paradigm of the organologists. One example is the recent interest in STS for the use and development of musical instruments in the context of the laboratory. Another example is the study of contemporary practices of 'retro-innovation': the reconstruction of early musical instruments, such as the replica design and restoration of North European baroque organs, and the reinvention of obsolete instruments. This article concludes with a few suggestions for the future study of musical instrument design from the perspective of STS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-121
Number of pages16
JournalInterdisciplinary Science Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • Design
  • Innovation
  • Musical instruments
  • Organology
  • Science and Technology Studies

Cite this