Occidental College is home to a collection or rare, unique and unusual instruments.
Occidental is one of the first institutions in North America to possess a halldorophone, an electro-acoustic instrument invented by the Icelandic artist and designer Halldór Úlfarsson. The instrument was featured in Prof. Adam Schoenberg’s Automation (2022) and has also been used in new works composed by Oxy students.
The Music Department has over two dozen pianos located in our performance spaces, classrooms, offices and teaching studios, and practice rooms. Our performance pianos include concert and semi-concert grands by Steinway, Blüthner, and Yamaha.
Steinway Spirio|r Piano
Gift from Katharine M. Kleinke, Class of 1962
In memory of Chris L. Kleinke, Ph.D., Class of 1965
The Music Department's Spirio piano was acquired in the Summer of 2023 and is housed in historic Bird Studio. The Spirio combines a concert-grade Steinway Model B with state of the art MIDI capture and playback, network connectivity, and access to a huge library of current and historical performances. This instrument is the anchor of the Department's piano fleet and will be a remarkable tool for student and faculty performers and composers.
1779 Buntebart Square Piano
Our Gabriel Buntebart and Co. square piano was built in London in 1779 and is one of the oldest pianos in California. Buntebart held the title of harpsichord maker to Queen Charlotte (consort to George III) and was a close friend of Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782). It is one of the oldest pianos currently located in the state of California. Similar instruments produced by Buntebart’s workshop are held in the collections of the Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Museu de la Música in Barcelona.
The piano is representative of the type of instrument that became increasingly popular in England and France from the late 1760s into the 1790s. These compact instruments were primarily intended for domestic use, though in some instances they may have been heard in more intimate public venues. The keyboard compass is five octaves, starting two and a half octaves below middle C (F1-F6). Lacking pedals, the piano has two hand-levers to control the dampers (split between bass and treble), as well as a buff stop lever that modifies the tone by applying a thin strip of leather to the end of the strings.
The piano was donated to Occidental in 1991 by Dr. Mose Firestone (1915-2011) in memory of his wife Ruth Grace Firestone (1909-1989). Due to the piano’s age and the delicate nature of its action, use of the Buntebart piano is limited to brief demonstrations, as well as use in occasional special projects or performances.
Harpsichords and Clavichord
The music department has two harpsichords and one clavichord:
- Zuckerman Flemish-style single-manual harpsichord (2x8’); 4 ½ octaves (G1-D6)
- Neupert “Cristofori” double-manual harpsichord (16’, 8’, 8’, 4’); 4 ½ Octaves (C2-F6)
- Neupert clavichord (unfretted); 5 octaves (F1-F6)
The Mildred Miles Crew Organ
Schlicker Organ Co., 1966
Herrick Chapel and Interfaith Center
The Mildred Miles Crew Organ is located in Occidental’s Margaret Brown Herrick Memorial Chapel and Interfaith Center. The 3-manual organ has 59 ranks and over 3000 pipes. The organ is dedicated to the memory of Mildred Miles Crew (1924-1964), class of 1945. It is heard regularly in both organ recitals and accompanying the Glee Club.
Though built near the height of the neo-baroque movement in organ building, the Crew Organ can convincingly perform a wide variety of repertoire thanks to the versatile design developed by Herman Schlicker in consultation with then college organist Clarence Mader. The organ’s voicing was further refined under the direction of Manuel Rosales in the early 1970s. To mark its 50th anniversary in 2016, the organ underwent a sensitive restoration by Rosales Organ Builders followed by a celebratory recital performed by Nathan Laube.