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87/886 Alemba, bass, musical instrument, Moya Henderson & Alan Forester, Australia, 1983. Click to enlarge.

Alemba, bass, musical instrument, Moya Henderson & Alan Forester, Australia, 1983

Made in Australia, Oceania, 1983.

This unique instrument, the Alemba, is one of only two complete instruments invented, designed and made by Australian composer Moya Henderson. The instrument is significant both for its association with a leading Australian composer and for its innovative approach in creating a keyboard percussion instrument. As an alternative to other tuned percussion, that could be used in both orchestral and ensemble settings, it also complements other more established examples such as tubular bells, xylophon...


Object No.


Object Statement

Alemba, bass, musical instrument, Moya Henderson & Alan Forester, Australia, 1983

Physical Description

The alemba is a tuned percussion instrument consisting of a row of 13 metal triangles of graduated size made from a metal rod bent to shape. Triangles are hung by a cord from a wooden frame and held in place with various sizes of rubber O-rings. Each triangle is connected to a diaphragm via a length of taut blind cord, which transmits the vibration of a triangle (when struck) to a diaphragm. Each diaphragm is situated at the top of a bent plastic pipe which helps to amplify and direct the sound. The wooden frame is set on wheels for easy movement.


No marks.



1790 mm


1375 mm


75 mm



Made in 1983 as a prototype of a tuned bell-like instrument able to be used by orchestras for a variety of works. Developed from an initial idea by Moya Henderson based on a sculpture by Helfried Hagenburg.

The bass alemba was built with the support of the Myer Foundation, APRA and the AS White Trust. The instrument was built by Alan Forrester of Forrester Engineering (previously of Neilsen Design Associates).

One of two kinds of instruments produced - the treble alemba and the bass alemba.

Continued development was done by the composer in conjunction with the CSIRO after being awarded a CSIRO Artist In Residence grant in November 1983 and a further residency in 1986.

Moya Henderson has gone on to develop the Tosca Bell with the assistance of Professor Neville Fletcher and the CSIRO. This bell draws on the idea of a bent iron rod forming a pentangle shape to produce tuned frequencies when struck.


Australia, Oceania 1983



This bass alemba was used by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a 1983 performance of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, who was a keen supporter of the development of the instrument.

Moya Henderson presented a talk about the design and development of the Alemba and Tosca Bell and demonstrated the Museum's bass alemba at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre, Castle Hill on the 22 March 2011 and 9 April 2011.


Credit Line

Purchased 1987

Acquisition Date

23 July 1987

Cite this Object


Alemba, bass, musical instrument, Moya Henderson & Alan Forester, Australia, 1983 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 March 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Alemba, bass, musical instrument, Moya Henderson & Alan Forester, Australia, 1983 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=20 March 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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