Many of Japan’s greatest artists with works in FreerǀSackler collections depicted the three-stringed shamisen in settings as diverse as kabuki and puppet theater, the pleasure houses of old Edo, and picnic outings among common folk. This exquisite painting from circa 1800 show one of these settings in evocative detail.
Mountain Chief, Chief of Montana Blackfeet, in native dress with bow, arrows, and lance, listening to song being played on phonograph interpreting it in sign language to pioneering ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore, in front of the Smithsonian “Castle” building, March 1916.
This early 20th century Zande harp (kundi) has typical traits of the Zande style: a beautifully carved head with detailed coiffure and earrings, and a carefully stitched animal hide that covers the sound box.
William H. Johnson may have based "Blind Musician" on singers and performers like Blind Boy Fuller or Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who made their way from the South to Chicago and New York City, where their recordings helped make the blues tradition to mainstream audiences.
"Come Josephine in My Flying Machine" sheet music, composed by Fred Fisher and lyrics by Alfred Bryan in 1910, during the early years of aviation, tells of a young man courting his gal by "flying machine" and expresses the technological optimism of the era.
This chair was likely created for a minstrel show, a popular form of entertainment in the late nineteenth century, in which instruments often appeared as decorative furniture, clocks, and wall hangings.
For this poster featuring Bob Dylan, Sharp drew inspiration from the musician’s signature curly hair, which is illustrated with radiating circular motifs that borrow from a famous series of knot patterns from 16th century artist Albrecht Dürer.
This cigar box guitar was made by an unknown maker in North Carolina between 1875 and 1899, and is an example of homemade instruments such as cigar box guitars and fiddles that played an important part in jug bands and blues music in the late 19th century through the Great Depression.
The reed-and-drum band (naqqara-khane)—the world’ s most popular musical ensemble for nearly a thousand years—was a band of timpani drums and double-reeds (with optional long trumpets) invented for military purposes in the Near East and transported with Islam to West Africa and Indonesia and beyond to China and Europe, where it became used for battle, sports, rituals, and parades.
In a letter to artist John Storrs, composer George Antheil included a broadside for the Paris premier of his "Ballet Mécanique"—notable because this concert famously incurred a riot in the streets from dissatisfied audience members who disliked the cacophonous nature of the piece.
First commissioned by Eleanor Roosevelt when Franklin was Governor of New York, this Jazz Age icon was creator Victor Schreckengost’s response for a design with a New York theme; it includes musical bars and instruments in the neon glow of New York night life.
This exquisite mask, based on 19th-century Thai ceremonial headgear, was created by Australian designer Roger Kirk for the 1996 Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1951 musical, The King and I, one of American musical theater’s most enduring works.
Although the artist known as “Mingering Mike” achieved musical stardom only in his handmade body of cardboard records and album covers, his imaginary career powerfully, and often humorously, evokes black American in the 1960s and 1970s.
From inauspicious beginnings, George Gershwin became one of the great American composers of the twentieth century, with such hits as Someone to Watch Over Me, Rhapsody in Blue, and An American in Paris.
The world’s most (mythically) powerful dance music may be that which accompanied the Hindu god Shiva in his cosmic dance of creation, in which he plays the damaru drum in his top right hand, an event captured by a master bronze caster in this 10th-century statue in the Freer collection.
The Voyager Golden Record, Sounds of Earth, contained images, spoken greetings in fifty-five languages, and music selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth that went with the Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 and this duplicate cover illustrates how to play the record if found by another civilization.
Original master acetate recording of one of the most popular tunes in the American songbook, Woody Guthrie’s "This Land Is Your Land", recorded in 1944 for Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Recordings, now Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.