The history of musical etiquette: article from Victoria and Albert Museum.



, ,

Social conventions have applied to both playing and listening to music, but over the years they have operated very differently.

In the 16th century musical ability was seen as an expression of good birth and good education.

This attitude continued into the following century. Roger North, a gentleman architect and amateur musician writing in the 1690s, recommended the viol, violin, organ, harpsichord and double bass for men, and the spinet or harpsichord, lute and guitar for women. However, he thought the harpsichord better for a lady’s posture than the lute.

During the 18th century, members of the nobility continued this tradition. In Hungary Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, a gifted amateur, employed Joseph Haydn to compose pieces on the baryton, his favourite instrument. In Britain, William Wellesley, 3rd Earl of Mornington was a talented performer and Thomas Erskine, 6th Earl of Kellie a well known composer.

However, many preferred to hire musicians rather than play themselves. The Duke of Chandos, for instance, employed an orchestra of musicians who also functioned as servants at his country seat at Cannons, Middlesex. In 1749 Lord Chesterfield, who regarded himself as an expert on etiquette, instructed his son: ‘If you love music hear it; go to operas, concerts and pay fiddlers to play for you; but I insist upon you neither piping nor fiddling yourself. It puts a gentleman in a very frivolous, contemptible light.’

At home, music continued to be a polite accomplishment, particularly for young ladies in need of a husband. The Victorian age is associated with musical evenings and no house was complete without a piano, whether a grand piano in the drawing room or an upright piano in the parlour. Also, women were now allowed to play the violin. In 1839 the journal Musical World said, ‘we think so highly of ladies and the violin that we rejoice at every opportunity of their being introduced to each other’.

In both private houses and public concerts, the audience was expected to listen in silence, just as it is today. This could be tiresome. Charles William Day, in his Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society (1836), wrote:

‘It is generally the misfortune of musical people to be such enthusiasts, that … they seldom know when to leave off … The listeners get fidgetty [sic] and tired, although they are usually too polite to say so. … A song now and then is very desirable, as it is a relief to conversation, but half a dozen consecutively … would become a bore.’

Day also reminded his readers that the job of the accompanist was to accompany and not to drown out the singer. Fortunately, he wrote, ‘when highly gifted musicians are found in private society we have generally observed their delicacy to be in proportion to their excellence.’ One such performer was Frédéric Chopin, who captivated an audience and delighted in meeting Queen Victoria at Stafford House in 1849. He had a less rewarding evening with the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, particularly when one of the visitors contributed with ‘the most dreadful tunes’ on a concertina and left him with the impression that they were all mad.

( Full article here: )

Poor Mr. Chopin! Sounds like the concertina player was not very accomplished!

Inspired by the theme of music evenings in the Victorian era I give you The Gentleman Ghost.




A strange Victorian gentleman, restless in his grave returns to haunt his old upright piano, missing the time when he was alive and played the music of Chopin, Brahms, Debussy and Mozart at gatherings in his house.

Who knows if he was a good pianist or not! 




I’ve used some texts from a vintage old novel to create a bit of a narrative for this creepy diorama of an abandoned house. 

There is an old Grandfather clock stopped just before midnight with a book text above it that hints at the time of his death—




This spooky Victorian inspired shadow box was handmade by myself.   It hangs on the wall from the wire on the back.  Currently available  in my Etsy shop:




Johannes Brahms – Wiegenlied Op. 49 No. 4 (Lullaby)


, ,

My favourite piano rendition of Brahms’ Lullaby on you tube:

It has that old time charm.

I placed a hand crank musical movement that plays the Lullaby into a couple of wooden boxes, glued them together, added acrylic paints and decorations to make a music box pianola player piano:


Here is the back:


This Pianola music box has gone to a new home, but I am going to make more in 2019.  Each one will have a theme and be a one of a kind. I can accept custom orders, so please contact me if you would like one.

THE LONELY GHOST: A visual story.


, , ,

The wind blew bitterly cold. It tore round the desolate old mansion and scattered dead leaves round the crumbling walls. A single candle flickered at one of the upstairs windows. A white figure appeared as it had done each night for the past 150 years. Waiting—




“I am leaving you. I do not feel guilty in doing this. I have known for some time that it must happen- for both our sakes.”

Memories haunt both the living and the dead.




“The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.” *

Alone in life-
alone in death.
Haunted by memories
the lonely ghost 
waits at the window
for love to return.



*The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, Francis William Bourdillon (1852- 1921)


Music for The Lonely Ghost:



The Lonely Ghost was made with vintage novel pages and white tissue paper.  A cardboard box has been collaged with more of the book pages and text carefully chosen to bring to life its story.  I’ve used some of this text to create the above story. 

Some pink flocked design art papers have been torn and distressed with pencils and paint to create peeling old wallpaper. 

Pieces of voile have been glued to the window for tattered old curtains.

I made a clock using a metal craft frame with a clock print  to the right of the ghost. Time stands still for the ghost, and it waits for time to begin again—

I was inspired by abandoned old houses, and hauntings to create this roombox.  

Here is a Victorian Ghost curio box I made:

Victorian Ghost Curio Box.

On the left I made old letters with a woman’s portrait. On the right is a ghost made out of tissue paper.






Taking lessons from old pianos — The Cross-Eyed Pianist



Why play or listen to an early or “period” piano? An instrument which may have significant limitations compared to a precisely made and carefully calibrated modern instrument, and surely “better” and infinitely more sturdy and reliable than an old piano? Aside from the visual aesthetic of period pianos (many are very attractively designed, with fretwork […]

via Taking lessons from old pianos — The Cross-Eyed Pianist

Clementi: Sonata in A, Op. 25 No. 4, on a restored 1807 Clementi square piano


, ,

                 This lovely piano has a delicate, sweet sound!


            I saw a Broadwood Square piano at Castle Howard recently:






Isn’t it lovely? It plays well I think as the guide pressed a few keys and it sounded nice. It looks well cared for. It sits in a beautiful little music room.

I’ve a fondness for square pianos, and so I had to make one for my next piano roombox. Here is a Regency era square piano in a roombox I completed yesterday. 


I made the Piano out of cardboard boxes, vintage sheet music, and matches for legs. It has been decorated with craft gems and pretty trimmings. The sheet music was painted with sienna and gold acrylic paints.

The stool is also made out of a cardboard box, matches for legs and covered with a hand sewn cushion and various pretty ribbons and trimmings.

The wall candles are birthday cake candles covered with painted vintage book pages and glued onto metal craft fans for sconces. 

I had bought a new design pad and loved this turquoise paper that has a period wallpaper design with some lettering on it- I think it makes the roombox have a charming Regency look.




  You can see more photos of the Regency Piano Roombox here in my Etsy shop:







Beethoven’s “Broken” Metronome: Solving the Hammerklavier’s Mysterious 138 by Wim Winters


, ,

The most complicated fairy tales can easily be found on Beethoven’s so-called ‘broken’ metronome. In all the discussions you’ll find on Beethoven’s metronome, one general agreement among all layers of musical society is easily agreed upon: By definition it is Beethoven who was wrong. Not we. 

Stay tuned for what I believe is an extremely important element in the interpretation of Beethoven’s music. I might even give you a few bars of my…yes… Hammerklavier sonata.