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MMD > Archives > December 2001 > 2001.12.30 > 04Prev  Next


Should a Restoration Look Like New?
By Eliyahu Shahar

Jonathan  Holmes asked the recurring question of how much to restore
and complained that many restorations look too good in his eyes.  He
has quite a valid opinion as much of the charm in an antique musical
instrument comes from the knowledge that it's eighty to 100 years old
(or more for musical boxes).  I don't quite know where he wants to
draw the line, however.

The idea of restoration of a piece is different from preservation.
When one is talking about an antique piece of art or furniture, the
goal is usually preservation or to arrest the changes of time.  The
nature of our beast is quite different, however as inherent to the
design of pneumatics is the fact that rubber deteriorates and needs
to be replaced.  The intrinsic value of our instruments is not the case
or piano mechanism (and here again, these require periodic maintenance
such as replacing the strings, recovering the felts, etc.) rather the
automatic instruments themselves.  If one is going to concede and
restore the mechanics, they are restoring the heart of the piece
itself.

Where should one stop?  Should one stop at refinishing the mechanism
but not replace the gold-leafing on the harp?  Why does this make a
difference?  Or should the slides and nickel plated ears of the tracker
bar be left alone?  It's quite tricky to draw a line if you're going
to try.

For my instruments, if the case has a bump or a scratch, I do not
remove it, and up to now, I haven't had anything replated, so I would
comply with Mr. Holmes apparent requests, but it's a matter of my
personal preference and I am not object to making these changes if
ever I should feel the need or desire in the future.

It has been generally accepted that in mechanical music, a complete
makeover of an instrument cosmetically does not degrade rather it
improves the value and collections are not degraded by a cosmetic
restoration (as is true for artwork or furniture).

I take exception to the comparison of revoicing pipes to change
their sound to a complete restoration to return an instrument to as
new.  Returning an instrument to its new condition is a far cry from
changing the original to a new sound/or adding modern technology to
play the instrument (although I must note here that I fully approve of
the methodology of the PowerRoll which does not modify the instrument
in any way, I do not approve of adding MIDI to a pneumatic band organ).

In short, the goal of restoration in my opinion is to bring a piece
to look and sound as new, even if it's 100 years old.  I personally
believe that the goal should not be to oppose restoration but redesign.

Eliyahu Shahar


(Message sent Sun 30 Dec 2001, 06:12:08 GMT, from time zone GMT+0200.)

Key Words in Subject:  Like, Look, New, Restoration, Should

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