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Title: A technical study of the alloy compositions of 'brass' wind musical instruments (1651-1867) utilizing non-destructive X-ray flourescence
Author: Bacon, Alice Louise
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2004
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This thesis represents a new interdisciplinary approach to the conservation, care and curatorial study of 'brass' wind musical instruments. It attempts to combine metallurgical, chronological and historical aspects for a selection of instruments. The research consists of the systematic study of seventy-seven musical instruments, by known makers, using standardised non-destructive energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence (XRF). Such compositional data are virtually non-existent for historical 'brass' instruments in Britain and what few technical data that do exist are sporadic in quantity and quality. The development of brass instruments is interwoven with the history of brass making, but because there are a limited number of appropriate examples such links can be difficult to identify. This thesis describes the development of brass production from the cementation process to the commercial production of zinc and modern brass. Its relationship to the musical instrument industry in Britain is linked with historical evidence. It will be shown that innovation and known historical metallurgical achievements are reflected in the compositional changes of the alloys used for musical instruments. This thesis focuses on specific named brass wind musical instrument makers. This thesis sets out to investigate the extent to which a single analytical technique such as non-destructive analysis utilising XRF could be useful in the curatorial and conservation care of musical instruments. The results of the analyses revealed new aspects to the use of metals for making musical instruments. They give new information on approximate alloy compositions and, in particular, the results have shown that in the seventeenth-century in England, a ternary alloy of copper/tin/zinc was used, and that it was, perhaps, only superseded by brass (copper/zinc alloy) in the eighteenth century. It has been possible to arrange the results into a chronology of alloys particularly reflecting the change from the use of cementation brass to the direct method for making brass. By this means it is possible to postulate a date for the composition of a musical instrument of unknown maker and date. The idea for this thesis originated in the Horniman Museum, London, where the author of this thesis is Head of Collections Conservation and Care. However this study is augmented by instruments from other institutions. In this manner it has been possible to construct a chronology from the earliest inscribed and dated instrument by Augustine Dudley in 1651 to the demise of Charles Pace's small craftsman workshop in 1854 and his death in 1867.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available