Concerning Systematics

1) Classification and Systematics

Since ancient times people have made various attempts at classification of musical instruments, which number as many as one-hundred. Dictionary definitions for the word “classification” read: “to sort according to kinds,” or “a thorough division in order to organize and systematize facts or perceptions of them.” (Izuru Niimura ed., Kôjien. Tokyo : Iwanami Shoten, 1979) As is widely acknowledged, the idea of classification first appeared in the field of biology. However great the number of creatures that may inhabit the earth, they all exist within and according to the consistent principles of the cosmos, which in turn makes it possible to classify and systematize them following those governing principles.

Musical instruments, on the other hand, are simply tools subordinate to the human act of producing sounds. This means that anything can be a musical instrument so long as it meets the singly requirement that one can perform music using it. In other words, we can consider musical instruments as a set of miscellaneous objects which share no other common features than this very basic condition.

Here we must be at the same time aware of the fact that classification as such is to be conducted on existent objects.

Since olden times musical instruments have been born and grown in terms of the ideal of man toward sound. A glance at the musical instruments all over the world would suggest to us that the means for man to develop further ideal sounds are inexhaustible, and there remains every possible likelihood that instruments will incessantly make new appearances as long as man persists in his desire for sound.

Although the present age has witnessed an expansion in a variety of academic fields, most notably the discipline of ethnology, we can hardly say that all the instruments in the world have been dealt with exhaustively. As a result of this, it is clear that “a thorough division and systematization,” i.e. classification by means of form and material can hardly be attained.

On the other hand it is not altogether impossible to observe and classify musical instruments from the perspective of various phenomena of sound, which is itself one of the physical phenomena of the cosmos. Among the classifications so far made, those which employed this type of methodology have obtained certain results ; one such example can be seen in the classification system of Hornbostel and Sachs.

2) Systematics employed in this catalogue

This catalogue employs the following methodology : firstly, seven important items have been selected from the factors which serve to generate the sound of an instrument ; then by attaching theoretically acceptable instances to each of the seven items, a systematic framework has been established within which each instrument has been alloted a place. It is hoped that this methodology of systematics will not only be applicable to existing instruments, but also to any instrument yet to emerge.

Items and their definitions
  1. Form of vibrating body
    1. Solid (massa)
      Three-dimensional object ; produces mainly longitudinal vibrations.
    2. Hollow solid (cupa)
      A solid with a cavity inside ; produces mainly transverse vibrations.
    3. Stick (clava)
      One-dimensional object with either a circular or a equilateral polygonal section ; the movement which brings about vibration works at right angles to the length of the object, producing mainly transverse vibrations.
    4. Board (tabula)
      Object extending conspicuously in two dimensions ; the movement which brings about vibration works at right angles to the face of the object, producing mainly transverse vibrations.
    5. String (chorda)
      Object long in one dimension, the sectional diameter of which is much smaller than the length. Without the addition of tension it neither takes a straight form nor possesses elasticity. The movement which brings about the vibration works at right angles to the length of the object, producing mainly transverse vibrations.
    6. Membrane (membrana)
      Object extending conspicuously in two dimensions, the thickness of which is, in proportion to its area, extremely small. Without the addition of tension it neither takes the form of a plane nor possesses elasticity. The movement which brings about vibration works at right angles to the face of the object, producing mainly transverse vibrations.
  2. Material of vibrating body
    1. Part of the human body
    2. Plants : wood, bamboo, hemp, gourd, nut, etc.
    3. Animals : skin, bone, cocoon, silk, carapace, etc.
    4. Minerals : metal, stone, clay, etc.
    5. Gas : air, other gas
    6. Liquid : water, oil, etc.
    7. Synthetic materials : resin, etc.
  3. Source of vibration
    1. Percussion
      Percussion occurs when two objects collide with each other, producing vibration after moving into opposite directions as a result of the elasticity of both of them.
    2. Friction
      Friction designates vibration that occurs as a result of rubbing with emerges when two objects touch with pressure and then move relatively.
    3. Plucking
      When a directional force is exerted to a part of a vibrating body, causing distortion to it, and is then released, the internal stress accumulated by the distortion functions as generative force causing vibration.
    4. Air current
      Air current vibration occurs in a vibrating body when it undergoes changes of air density and pressure caused by air currents.
    5. Electronic oscillation
      In this case vibration of the vibrating body is caused electronically.
  4. Application of vibration
    1. Direct application
      A part of the performer’s body directly touches the vibrating body.
    2. Indirect application
      The performer and the vibrating body do not touch directly ; instead, an object functioning as a part of the performer’s body intervenes between the performer and the vibrating body.
    3. Mechanical application
      The performance action of the performer is transmuted into another action by means of mechanical equipment.
  5. Conversion of vibration
    1. The vibration of the vibrating body is not converted.
    2. The vibration of the vibrating body is converted by resonance.
    3. The vibration of the vibrating body is converted by forced vibration.
    4. The vibration of the vibrating body is converted into electric vibration.
  6. Form of converting part
    1. Solid (massa)
    2. Hollow solid (cupa)
    3. Board (tabula)
    4. Membrane (membrana)
    5. String (chorda)
    6. Stick (clava)
  7. Material of converting part
    1. Part of the human body
    2. Plants
    3. Animals
    4. Minerals
    5. Gas
    6. Liquid
    7. Synthetic materials
I
Form of Vibrating body
II
Material of Vibrating body
III
Source of Vibration
IV
Application of Vibration
V
Conversion of Vibration
VI
Form of Converting part
VII
Material of Converting part
1
Solid
1
Part of the human body
1
Percussion
1
Direct application
1
Without conversion
1
Solid
1
Part of the human body
2 Hollow solid 2
Plants
2
Friction
2
Indirect application
2
Converted by resonance
2
Hollow solid
2
Plants
3 Stick 3
Animals
3
Plucking
3
Mechanical application
3
Converted by forced vibration
3
Board
3
Animals
4 Board 4
Minerals
4
Air current
4
Converted in to electric conversion
4
Membrane
4
Minerals
5 String 5
Gas
5
Electronic oscillation
5
String
5
Gas
6 Membrane 6
Liquid
6
Stick
6
Liquid
7
Synthetic materials
7
Synthetic materials
[ GUNJI Sumi ]

Major references for regional names and systematics

  • Atanassov, Vergilij 1977 Systematik der Bulgarischen Volksmusikinstrumente. Sofia : Bulgarische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  • Chang, Sa-hun 1969 Han’guk akki taegwan. (Korean Musical Instruments). Seoul.
  • Dhanit, Yupho 1971 Thai Musical Instruments. Thailand : The Department of Fine Arts.
  • Stanislaw Oledzki 1978 Polskie Instrumenty Ludowe. Polskie Wyadawnictwo Muzycz ne Krakow. ······1975 Tradicijska Narodna Glazbala Jugoslavije.
  • Zagreb Vertkov, K. & others 1975 Atlas of musical instruments of the peoples inhabiting the USSR. Moscow : State Publishers Music.
  • Zhongguo yishu yanjiuyuan yinyue yanjiusuo (Research Institute for Music of the Chinese Academy of Arts) 1985 Zhongguo yueqi shaojie. Beijing : renmin Yinyue Chubanshe.
  • GUNJI Sumi 1979 “Eine Betrachtung über sichtbare und unsichtbare Eigenschaften der Volksmusikinstrumente(II)”, Memoire of Kunitachi College of Music. No.14.
  • GUNJI Sumi 1981 “Eine Betrachtung über sichtbare und unsichtbare Eigenschaften der Volksmusikinstrumente (III)”, Memoire of Kunitachi College of Music. No.16.
[ Translated from Japanese by KATSUMURA Jinko ]