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A Metallurgical Tour of the Orchestra

Today I thought we’d take a metallurgical tour of the orchestra. The bars, for example, of glockenspiels and celestas are made of steel. So are some of the strings of stringed instruments, and almost all strings are wound with very fine wire made of steel, silver, or aluminum. The bodies of timpani are made of copper, and brass instruments are made of… well, brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc. French horns, though, may also be made of nickel silver, an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel, or nickel brass, an alloy of copper, tin, and nickel. In the flute section you may find flutes of gold, silver, platinum, or some combination of those metals, and back in the string section the players’ bows may have silver winding near the grip and gold or silver at the tip. We’re back to steel for the screws, keys, and fittings on many of the instruments of the orchestra, and heaven knows what metals I’ve left out.

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.