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Revista musical chilena

Print version ISSN 0716-2790


PEREZ DE ARCE, José  and  GILI, Francisca. The Sachs-Hornbostel Classification System of Musical Instruments: a Review and Application from an American Perspective. Rev. music. chil. [online]. 2013, vol.67, n.219, pp.42-80. ISSN 0716-2790.

The classification system of musical instruments created by Curt Sachs and Erich Moritz von Hornbostel in 1914 is still the most widely used around the world. In this article the reasons of the permanence of this system are analyzed along with a brief revision of the history of other systems of classifying musical instruments. On the basis of our experience we explain the reasons for considering the Sachs-Hornbostel system as the most appropriate for the study of the American musical instruments, especially those from the pre-Columbian period. The strengths and weaknesses of the system along with its methodological structure are discussed so as to clarify its usefulness as a methodological tool. After thirty years studying the organology of the American instruments we feel in condition to delineate the possibilities of this system in future research studies. The main characteristics of this system are contrasted with the requirements of the organology of the American instruments especially those found in pre Hispanic archaeological sites. Finally an updating of the whole system is proposed in which new organological varieties of the South Andean zone are included. A special care has been taken to maintain the original structure established by the authors, so that the system will remain useful as a universal tool compatible with the wide use that has had around the world.

Keywords : organology; classification of musical instruments; organological methodology; pre Hispanic music; South Andean area.

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