Mechanical musical instruments have existed since at least the 16th century. Humanity has always been fascinated by instruments that play by themselves. In the late 18th century, the so-called ”flute clock” was developed, which is a floor clock with a built-in self-playing organ. This instrument has approximately two octaves of pipes and is played by a rotating pin cylinder made of wood with brass pins and pegs that lift keys, opening valves. A crankshaft system pumps bellows to supply the organ with air. Everything is driven by a weight via a clockwork mechanism.
This flute clock was manufactured by the organ builder Pehr Strand in Stockholm (1756-1826). The technology has been refined here so that the pin cylinder can be replaced, allowing different pieces to be played. There are 13 pin cylinders available for this instrument. Furthermore, they are programmed in a spiral pattern, so that each pin cylinder plays a piece lasting a little over three minutes.
Much of the music is sourced from ”Musikaliskt Tidsfördrif,” which was published by the composer and music engraver Olof Åhlström in Stockholm. This instrument can be considered an advanced piece of 18th-century technology, albeit mechanical. A disc containing all the music for the pin cylinders can be purchased in the museum’s shop or through the website (Flute Clocks in the Nydahl Collection).
The flute clock falls into the category of mechanical instruments and is of great interest to contemporary instrument researchers. Through their music, valuable information about repertoire and performance practices from earlier times can be extracted. In the Nydahl Collection, several examples can be found, along with a number of music boxes, in addition to this functional Gustavian-era Strand clock from 1795.