A monochord is any instrument with only one string stretched across a sound box or resonator table. Single-stringed instruments are archaic, the Ancient Greeks having used them for tuning purposes. In medieval Europe, these tuning monochords developed moving bridges, allowing for a more vivid depiction of the relationship between different pitches.
In the modern day, the term monochord often refers to “laboratory instruments”, so-called because they continue to be used to illustrate the mathematical and acoustical properties of musical pitch. The one displayed here bears a mysterious history, having one day been discovered in the music department’s staff room. Its original owner remains unknown.
The sculpted bust atop the body of the instrument is an example of in what ways musical instruments can constitute visual as well as auditory works of art in their own right.
The Music Department at King’s College London boasts a world-renowned, varied and pioneering team of researchers and composers exploring musical traditions from myriad places and periods. The instruments on display here illustrate this variety.
To find out more about the Cabinet and other objects on display, click here.