Architecture of Music series explores interiors of musical instruments


A new stunning series of photos has shone a light on the remarkable interiors of a range of musical instruments.

Images captured by Auckland-based photographer Charles Brooks show the hidden ‘architecture’ that goes in to creating some of the world’s most uniquely crafted cellos, flutes, pianos and saxophones.

The astonishing array of shots, each compiled from hundreds of separate images, show in brilliant detail the ‘vast and cavernous’ spaces inside the instruments, appearing to replicate cathedrals and grand palatial hallways.

A cellist since childhood, Brooks spent twenty years performing with orchestras around the world, an experience that incited curiosity about the inner workings of the instruments surrounding him.

He has now released a number of the images he has captured in a series called Architecture in Music, seeking to unveil the hidden anatomies of these instruments.

Brooks said he became fascinated with the interiors of instrument as he ‘never really knew what was going on inside’, but would be thrilled by the experience of seeing the inner working of a cello or a grand piano while it was being repaired.

A new stunning series of photos captured by Auckland-based cellist-turned-photographer Charles Brooks has shone a light on the remarkable interiors of a range of musical instruments. Pictured: The inner workings of a Fazioli Grand Piano captured at Sly’s Pianos, Auckland.

Inside the F-holes: This photo shows the inside of a rare Lockey Hill cello which dates to around 1780. It was photographed whilst under restoration at the Stringed Instrument Company in Auckland, New Zealand

Inside the F-holes: This photo shows the inside of a rare Lockey Hill cello which dates to around 1780. It was photographed whilst under restoration at the Stringed Instrument Company in Auckland, New Zealand

The astonishing array of shots, each compiled from hundreds of separate images, show in brilliant detail the 'vast and cavernous' spaces inside the instruments, appearing to replicate cathedrals and grand palatial hallways. Pictured: The interior of a Burkart Elite 14k Rose Gold Flute at Neige Music Atelier in New Zealand.

The astonishing array of shots, each compiled from hundreds of separate images, show in brilliant detail the ‘vast and cavernous’ spaces inside the instruments, appearing to replicate cathedrals and grand palatial hallways. Pictured: The interior of a Burkart Elite 14k Rose Gold Flute at Neige Music Atelier in New Zealand.

Brooks said he became fascinated with the interiors of instrument as he 'never really knew what was going on inside', but would be thrilled by the experience of seeing the inner working of a cello or a grand piano while it was being repaired. Pictured: A Fazioli Grand Piano

Brooks said he became fascinated with the interiors of instrument as he ‘never really knew what was going on inside’, but would be thrilled by the experience of seeing the inner working of a cello or a grand piano while it was being repaired. Pictured: A Fazioli Grand Piano

Speaking about the project, Brooks said: 'Concert Halls often reflect the shapes and curves of instruments. I wanted to turn that on its head by making the inside of the instruments themselves appear vast and cavernous.' Pictured: The keys of a Steinway Model D Grand Piano captured at Lewis Eady¿s in Auckland

Speaking about the project, Brooks said: ‘Concert Halls often reflect the shapes and curves of instruments. I wanted to turn that on its head by making the inside of the instruments themselves appear vast and cavernous.’ Pictured: The keys of a Steinway Model D Grand Piano captured at Lewis Eady’s in Auckland

His photos however have attempts to take an inside glimpse to the next level, by bringing the whole interior of each instrument in the sharp focus, rather than allow a ’tilt-shift’ blurring effect to allow the mind to make a flute’s insides look small and cramped.

Speaking about the project, Brooks said: ‘Concert Halls often reflect the shapes and curves of instruments. I wanted to turn that on its head by making the inside of the instruments themselves appear vast and cavernous.’

To do this Brooks used specialist techniques and equipment. 

Using a probe lens with a low aperture of just f/14 ‘which means you need a tremendous amount of light’, he could capture terrific amounts of detail inside each instrument. 

‘Shooting with Lumix cameras and an exotic Laowa Probe lens, I took hundreds of shots, slowly shifting the focus from front to back, and combined them with a technique called focus stacking,’ he added.

‘The result is an image which is sharp and in-focus from front to back, and that is what created this wonderful illusion.

Pictured: Inside a 1980s Yanagisawa T4 Saxophone which was photographed whilst under restoration at Neige Music Atelier in New Zealand

Pictured: Inside a 1980s Yanagisawa T4 Saxophone which was photographed whilst under restoration at Neige Music Atelier in New Zealand

Pictured: The action of a Steinway Model D Grand Piano. Photographed at Lewis Eady¿s in Auckland

Pictured: The action of a Steinway Model D Grand Piano. Photographed at Lewis Eady’s in Auckland

Pictured: The strings of a Steinway Model D Grand Piano. Photographed at Lewis Eady¿s in Auckland.

Pictured: The strings of a Steinway Model D Grand Piano. Photographed at Lewis Eady’s in Auckland.

Pictured: The interior of a 1940s Selmer Balanced Action Saxophone, owned by renowned New Zealand Saxophonist Dr. Roger Manins. Photographed whilst under restoration at Neige Music Atelier

Pictured: The interior of a 1940s Selmer Balanced Action Saxophone, owned by renowned New Zealand Saxophonist Dr. Roger Manins. Photographed whilst under restoration at Neige Music Atelier

Pictured: A unique view inside an Australian Didgeridoo by Trevor Gillespie/Peckham (Bungerroo) of New South Wales

Pictured: A unique view inside an Australian Didgeridoo by Trevor Gillespie/Peckham (Bungerroo) of New South Wales

Pictured: The inside of a 2021 Selmer Saxophone, private collection

Pictured: The inside of a 2021 Selmer Saxophone, private collection

‘Our brains are wired to expect photographs of small spaces to have a narrow depth of field. When everything is clear we automatically assume that the space is large. This is essentially the opposite of the tilt-shift-miniature effect that was all the rage a few years ago.’

In one of his compositions he frames the shadows cast by a cello’s F holes over its wooden back, to give the appearance of a creaking old wooden house as sun shines through the windows.

In another, a grand piano’s uniform row of hammer makes it appear more like a futuristic building project than musical components. 

‘Some instruments really surprised me,’ Brooks added.

‘I’d never thought to look inside a Didgeridoo before and was astonished to find out that it was carved by termites, rather than by hand!’

Of the project he says: ‘This is a work in progress. I’m still finding wonderful new instruments, and technical hurdles along with them. Even with the probe lens some are difficult to access, and lighting them can be a huge struggle.’



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