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International Symposium and Workshop
"Sharp Touch"

Quilling Techniques in Plucked Keyboard Instruments:  Interdisciplinary Approaches

Bologna / Online, May 5-7, 2023

San Colombano Museum –Tagliavini Collection, Genus Bononiae

University of Bologna - Department of Industrial Engineering

Musicology and Cultural Heritage Department - University of Pavia

HipER Musical Heritage

Call for papers

Submission deadline:

5. April, 2023

The symposium will be held in hybrid format (in presence and online) 5-6 May.

Workshops (limited availability) will be held on May 7th.

The plectrum, as the final component in the construction process of a plucked keyboard instrument, has indelibly shaped our perception and comprehension of the harpsichord's unique sonic identity. As a pivotal interface point between the performer and the sound production body, the quill, and thus, voicing techniques, play a critical role in controlling and shaping the sound of these instruments.


We are pleased to announce a symposium and workshop dedicated to exploring the theoretical and practical dimensions of quilling techniques. The event aims to bring together instrument builders, technicians, musicologists, and performers to advance the state of knowledge on the following topics: 


  • Experience-based techniques for quilling, voicing, and maintenance.

  • Materials and tools employed in quilling

  • Acoustical properties of quills

  • Musician-keyboard-plectrum interface

  • Sound/touch aesthetic from historical and modern perspectives

  • Quilling antique instruments

  • Differences between the quilling of harpsichord and virginals or spinets. 

  • Knives techniques on other media (e.g., reed voicing, calligraphy)


We invite submissions of original papers related to the above topics that present experience-based insights and new findings on quilling techniques. 

Quilling with Mimi Waitzman (Horniman Museum) & Ben Marks

The workshop will focus on quilling techniques for harpsichords, virginals, and spinets, and will provide participants with practical information and tips on how to achieve high-quality results. 

Participants will then be taught the basic techniques of quilling, including how to select, prepare and cut quills. They will also learn about the different types of materials, and quills used for different parts of the instrument, the different types of keyboards, and how they affect the quilling process. They will also learn how to identify and fix common problems.

Mimi Waitzman is Senior Curator of Musical Collections and Cultures and Deputy Keeper of Musical Instruments at the Horniman Museum, UK. She studied Music History and the Harpsichord at McGill University in Montreal. She later completed her graduate work at the University of Michigan where she became research assistant at the extensive Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments. In 1981, Mimi helped found a partnership in the UK, making, repairing and supplying early keyboard instruments. Having gained experience in their restoration, maintenance and conservation, she took on the curatorship of a National Trust collection of early keyboard instruments at Fenton House in North London, a part-time post held for 28 years. Mimi is the UK editor of book reviews for the Galpin Society Journal; Chairman, Musical Instrument Subject Specialist Network (MISSN); CIMCIM, member of musical instrument conservation working group and a member of the British Clavichord Society.

Programme (subject to changes)

Lectures are held in English unless noted.

Italian, German, and French will be admitted in the Q&A and discussions.


Friday 5th May   Time Zone: Italy, CET




(On-site, Museo San Colombano)


Institutional greetings

Filippo Sassoli de Bianchi

(President, Genus Bononiae)



Introduction and welcome

Catalina Vicens

(Curator and Artistic Director, San Colombano Museum - Tagliavini Collection, Bologna)



Quilling Techniques: Bridging Practice and Theory, Past and Present

Chair, Catalina Vicens (Museo di San Colombano, Bologna)



Keynote lecture          

Mimi Waitzman

(Senior Curator of Musical Collections and Cultures Horniman Museum, London)

The Art of Doing as Little as Possible: Quilling and Aesthetic Ideals



John Koster

(Professor of Music and Conservator Emeritus National Music Museum,

University of South Dakota)

Four Centuries of Harpsichord Quilling: an overview from 1397 to 1798.



Frédérick Haas

(Professor of Harpsichord Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles)        

Choices in Harpsichord Voicing: what are the needs of the performer?




Guided tour of Museo of San Colombano led by Catalina Vicens (on-site participants only)



Conference dinner (on-site participants only)



Saturday 6th May   Time Zone: Italy, CET

Open papers






Massimiliano Guido

(Università di Pavia)

A New Approach to Organology? Sound from Materiality to Cognition

Structure - Keyboard System and Material Analysis on Antique Instruments

Chair, Massimiliano Guido (Università di Pavia)



Graziano Bandini

(Museo di San Colombano, Bologna)

The Inclination of Plectra in Instruments of the Tagliavini Collection (Italian)



Jared Clous and Kamiel Dockx

(Musical Instrument Making KASK, HoGhent)

A Study of the G. B. Giusti 1679 Jacks at the Tagliavini Collection        



Antonella Pensabene

(Università di Bologna)

Acoustical Properties of Quilling Materials: an Analysis of the Harpsichord by Mattia de Gand, 1685 (Tagliavini Collection)      (Italian)



Roberto Livi

(Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali, Roma)

Resonare Fibris: Antique Harpsichords Quilling at the National Musical Instruments Museum, Rome (Italian)


Virtual Discussion 

The Use of Quilling Materials in Italy (Italian)

12:00-12:20     SHORT BREAK

Speech - Voicing on Related Media

Chair, Michele Ducceschi (Università di Bologna)


Marcel Ponseele and Stefaan Verdegem

(Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel)

The Making of a Historical Double Reed for the Brussels MIM 0971 I.H. Eichentopf Oboe d'Amore                                                


Tetsu Isaji       

(Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles)                      

How Slow/Fast Can You Go?



13:10-14:30     BREAK

Touch - Performer’s Perspectives

Chair, Eleanor Smith (Göteborg International Organ Academy)



Catalina Vicens

(Museo di San Colombano, Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel)

Touching Sound: Optimization of Musical and Physical Resources



Alexander Gergelyfi

(University of Music and Performing Arts Graz)

Quilling me Softly: Preparing and Playing. Bird Feather Quills from the View of a Performer



Aleksander Mocek

(Krzysztof Penderecki Academy of Music in Kraków)

Sound Length and the Idea of “Historically-Appropriate Articulation”: Wishful Thinking or Anachronistic Fallacies?


16:00-16:15     SHORT BREAK

Materials and Techniques - Harpsichord Builder’s Perspectives

Chair, Manu Frederickx (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)



Allan Winkler

(Allan Winkler Harpsichords, Boston)

Voicing with Quill in New England: Sourcing and Working with Quill in Northeast America



John Phillips

(John Phillips Harpsichords and Restoration, Berkeley)

Living with Quill



Virtual Roundtable

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