ETHMU 042417

Tambour de bois à fente

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Wooden slit-drum
Cameroon, Douala
Bamileke? Early 20th century
Gift of the painter Émile Chambon in 1981; bought from the art dealer Arthur Speyer in 1923
MEG Inv. ETHMU 042417
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Registres d'inventaires historiques

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Inventaire original MEG. Registres tapuscrits, volumes 19 à 59
Registres_tapuscrits/42417 - 132.pdf


Instrument collections

In a study based on the MEG collection, published in 1919, the anthropologist and doctor Georges Montandon attempted to trace the origins and descent of musical instruments throughout the world. He grouped the instruments in ensembles, presented as plates of photographs and drawings. The study ends with a geographical sketch map showing the distribution of different types of instruments across the world.

As the study was read in scientific circles, the MEG’s instrument collection, classified in this manner, was widely quoted and used by researchers working on rational classification. The diffusionist approach was later abandoned to the benefit of comparative organology and contextual inventories.


This group is harder to name than the others and was long defined by default as the class of instruments that did not belong with the wind or string instruments but were not drums either. More positively, instruments which produce sound when the rigid body of the instrument itself is made to vibrate (by knocking, striking, shaking, etc.) belong in this group. The term “idiophone,” from the Greek and Latin word idios, “by itself”, has replaced the earlier term “autophone” for this family of musical instruments.

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