Opus: The making of musical instruments in Canada

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The Latin word opus means "work." Used by composers to number their musical works (for example, Beethoven's Sonata for Piano, Opus 106), the term is also popular with makers of musical instruments. It not only provides a useful identification system, but also makes it possible to locate a work within a corpus.

"Luthier" refers to a maker of stringed instruments, particularly in the violin family. The term "instrument maker," on the other hand, will designate all other artisans of musical instruments. This study features over one hundred musical instruments produced in Canada by contemporary luthiers and instrument makers. Now part of the permanent collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the instruments were acquired over the past seventeen years, and some were specially commissioned for the Museum's exhibition Opus, which this publication is designed to complement. This study is by no means an exhaustive survey of instrument making in Canada. It depicts an art which, despite a century of very slow development, has experienced a revival in the last two decades. The selection of instruments illustrates this new phenomenon.

As much information as possible is given to satisfy both the specialist and the amateur. Accordingly, there are descriptions of the instruments, biographical notes on the artisans, technical details, photographs taken during visits to workshops, and commentary relevant to the particular section in which each instrument is located.

Lastly, it should be noted that as the exhibition behind this publication highlighted the Museum's treasure of crafts, the selection of objects does not include instruments that would be more suitable in a folk art exhibition.