Musical instruments are sophisticated pieces of technology. Each is the result of countless generations of work, involving leaps of imagination, years of testing and refinement, struggles and failures. Some are played for centuries, some for years, some only for days. But there is another, altogether stranger category.

This class of instruments may result from a deep consideration and a lifetime of work. They may have strange names, such as ‘The Panharmonicon’ (illustratrated on the left) or ‘The Daguerreotype of Sound and Instrumentum Nostrum Magnum’. They may be of gargantuan size, of staggering strangeness or of utopian scope. They may have been written about in dozens of books, mulled over by generations of scholars. And yet, these instruments have never existed. They are imaginary.

The Panharmonicon, craziest imaginary musical instruments The Panharmonicon

Often their creators were possessed of a wide range of backgrounds and skills. They had many and varied reasons for dreaming up inventions of such fantastical strangeness. Their vision was perhaps greater than their abilities as builders, than societal boundaries, than the physical laws of the universe. This is an ode to these strange thinkers and to their non-existent creations.

The Museum...