Visitor Profile April 2019

For this month's Visitor Profile we speak to John Richter, a tuned percussion expert who has been assisting the Grainger Museum in the lead up to our next exhibition.

Hello John, can you introduce yourself and share with us a little bit about your interest in tuned percussion?

I have an expertise in tuned percussion instruments and have been making marimbas for schools for about twenty five years. Now I am partly retired but I still work, mainly just because I am interested in it. Especially with projects like this, it is very special, as I have always admired Percy, his work, his music, and his life very much.

More recently, I have been interested in keyboard percussion reticulation over the last five or six years. I do a lot tuning around Australia, people send instruments to me because I specialise in that kind of thing.

I also collect vintage instruments. I love it, and is a huge interest of mine. Mainly xylophones and marimbas, but you could say the umbrella term as ‘keyboard percussion”.

What work are you doing at the Grainger Museum today?

I am participating on a special project to help preserve the percussion instruments at the Grainger museum. With instruments in the museum, we don’t know if they were intended to just be looked at or to play. There is always a question of how much to change them to make them playable and for use. It is part of the work of the museum to present them both as an image and an instrument. We are constantly balancing these two factors.

Do you have a favourite percussion instrument, and if so, why?

I like marimbas, but if I find an instrument is particularly beautiful and sounds good, that could become my favourite. Old instruments really are wonderful. It is important to understand that old instruments can work better than the modern instruments today. The reason for that is mainly because the particular wood can’t be found anymore, it is a rare species of wood called Honduras Rosewood, it is only found in a small part of central America.

Thank you very much for your time and for answering our questions.

Our upcoming exhibition How it plays: Innovations in percussion opens 8 May, 2019.