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Defining the qualities of a good, bad or indifferent musical instrument is tricky, particularly because its sound/tone is so dependent on the player’s skill – superior breath control, finesse with the bow, accurate, agile fingers and a dexterous embouchure all make a difference.


The interior of a Hopf violin - circa 1880

And while a piece of music might be described as ‘bewitching’, the term covers an awfully broad spectrum. As Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once caustically wrote, “hell is full of musical amateurs.”

But what, exactly, constitutes a well-made, beautifully constructed instrument which – in a master’s hands – produces ‘heavenly’ music? Trying to answer that is fruitless – it’s intangible, an elusive quest. But New Zealand photographer Charles Brooks offers a clue.

Inside a 1995 Low C Prestige Bass Clarinet

Using specialist probe lenses and complex imaging techniques, Brooks’ striking photos reveal the hidden details inside musical instruments. Each photo is a blend of hundreds of frames. The sharpness and detail renders these spaces as vast rooms, exposing the tool marks of the makers, repairs carried out through the centuries, and the hidden architecture within.

The images form part of Brooks’ Architecture in Music series and feature rare instruments with fascinating histories: A cello once hit by a train, a didgeridoo hollowed out by termites, an exquisite Fazioli grand piano hand-made from 11,000 individual parts.

With this unusual photography and perspective, a 240-year-old cello looks like the inside of an ancient ship, a century old saxophone becomes a gaping tunnel of green and gold, the keys of a piano become a monolithic temple.

A cellist since childhood, Brooks has played with some of the world's great orchestras and turned to full time photography in 2016.

 A Fazioli Grand Piano

The Architecture in Music series will have its first major international exhibition in 2024 and will run for six months at the Napa Valley Museum as part of the Napa Valley Festival. Smaller exhibitions will also be held in Budapest and Stockholm.

Visit https://www.charlesbrooks.info/ to view more of the images.

For more information call +64 27 203 2269 or email: Email: photos@charlesbrooks.info