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IMAGINARY
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

The joys and wonders of “fictophones.”

Words | Jonathan Poh Translation | Jas Tse
What exactly is a musical instrument? Can we value ideas that never fully make the journey from imagination into reality? These are just some of the intriguing questions posed by the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments, a small digital gallery composed of objects and artifacts loosely related by their association with “music,” and by their ability to engage with musical sound.

Curated by academics and musical enthusiasts, Deirdre Loughridge and Thomas Patteson, the online collection proposes the concept of “fictophones,” or a seventh category with which to classify musical instruments. These imaginary devices, according to Loughridge and Patteson, sometimes never make a sound -- or exist outside of one’s imagination -- and yet, are no less a part of musical culture. The “fictophones” found in the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments include objects like diagrams, drawings or written descriptions, along with “true thought experiments” and little-known variations of historical instruments, and are sourced from a wide variety of mediums, including speculative literature and science fiction, avant-garde manifestoes, journalistic criticism, scholarly treatises, radio, television and motion pictures.

For more information on the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments and a list of its current exhibitions, visit the collection’s website here.