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Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)

GUEST,josepp 01 May 12 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,crazy little woman 02 May 12 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,josepp 02 May 12 - 11:04 AM
GUEST,crazy little woman 02 May 12 - 05:12 PM
GUEST,Mary Katherine 02 May 12 - 05:30 PM
GUEST,Stim 02 May 12 - 05:32 PM
GUEST,josepp 02 May 12 - 09:54 PM
GUEST,josepp 02 May 12 - 10:19 PM
GUEST,josepp 04 May 12 - 09:54 PM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 May 12 - 03:47 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 05 May 12 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,josepp 05 May 12 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,josepp 06 May 12 - 10:20 PM
GUEST,josepp 07 May 12 - 12:52 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 07 May 12 - 04:14 AM
GUEST,josepp 07 May 12 - 01:05 PM
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Subject: Our debt to Central Asia
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 01 May 12 - 03:36 PM

I was looking African musical instruments some time back and was struck by their shape.

http://galenf.com/africa/gambia282.jpg

http://wpcontent.answcdn.com/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2e/MusicalBow.gif/300px-MusicalBow.gif

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_cB2LXaxIvD4/SZoZ-O2F6TI/AAAAAAAAEbs/RfLH3svq_R0/s400/MangbetuHarp01.jpg

In short, they are shaped like hunter's or warrior's bows. And all the archery connections started jumping out:

Violins are played with "bows."

Bass bows are stored in a pouch tied to the tailpiece called a "quiver."

I began searching the internet for more info and came across the work of a British music researcher named Eric Halfpenny that I'm sure some of you here are familiar with. He is of the opinion that stringed instruments--bowed instruments in particular--came from Central Asia. I think at this point that he has to be right.

One of Halfpenny's assertions is that whoever made the first bowed instruments had to have extensive access to horses. That they would, in fact, be hunter-warrior societies that engaged both in hunting and war on horseback. That they would, in fact, be tremendous horsemen.

I found other connections independent of Halfpenny--Kazakhs strung their bows with sheep intestines and the gut strings of double basses are made from sheep intestines (hence the name). Other connections are that the warriors used rosin on their bowstrings to preserve them and mixed it with beeswax which they worked into the bows themselves to protect them from the elements (indicating that they were also competent beekeepers).

Halfpenny mentions that many of the Eurasian words for "bridge" are etymologically related to "horse." And the bridges of the violin family somewhat resemble a horse--whether by design or coincidence, it matters little as the connection is still there regardless. Also the block or ferrule on the violin bow that holds the horse hair spread out in a flat ribbon arrangement looks very similar to the device used on warriors' bows to hold the bowstring taut.

The first true bowed instruments are believed to have come from Eurasia in the 10th century. I read on another website that the oldest bowed instrument currently still used is the kylkobyz of Kazakhstan. By about 1000 CE, bowed instruments could be found from North Africa through Eurasia and into China, Mongolia and even as far as the Korean peninsula.

Morin khuur of Mongolia

They certainly had a wide variety of horses to use, some of which we are only learning about such as the Riwoche horse of Tibet that science had assumed was extinct and only availabe as cave drawings only to realize with a shock in 1995 that they are alive and well deep in the heart of Tibet.

Some say the Islamic cultures invented the bowed instruments. Maybe. I don't know although there is little doubt that Muslims of that region are huge players of bowed instruments. They certainly influenced it if nothing else.

So kudos to these Central Asian nomads for giving us--albeit indirectly--the glorious violin family (it had to pass through the Italians to truly become the violin).

I'm not sure how much the bow-shaped instruments of Central Africa were influenced by horses. Certainly, zebras were hunted and prized but there were also horses of Arabs and Barbs in North Africa. Since those were domesticated, they would have been a better source than zebras. That's something I'll have to research further.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,crazy little woman
Date: 02 May 12 - 10:43 AM

Very intriguing, josepp. I think we can say that for there to be stringed instruments, two big traditions had to come together. One is the keeping of animals (sheep, horses) and the other is woodworking. Herding is nomadic; woodworking implies a settlement.

Maybe new instruments develop along the world's great trade routes, and Central Asia would certainly qualify as being on some of those.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 02 May 12 - 11:04 AM

The bowed instruments traveled along the Silk Road. There's no doubt about that. I think the earliest stringed instruments such as the African ones didn't require a lot of woodworking just a bow and a resonance chamber like a gourd or a tortoise shell.

What evidently happened is that the nomads came into constant contact with agrarian settlements and trade-offs occurred. I think they became similar to Vikings--having farms of their own but also going off on long journeys to trade and raid. But the Silk Road would have brought them in contact with all kinds of cultures with materials they came to need more and more eventually had to learn to produce it themselves.

We see the same thing in North America--the Navajo learned to raise livestock, the Hopi were farmers but the the Apache (who are closely related to the Navajo) were nomadic raiders (their name means "enemy") and very skilled horsemen.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,crazy little woman
Date: 02 May 12 - 05:12 PM

That's a good point about using something natural, such as a goard for a resonance chamber. It also puts me in mind of the churango (sp), the instrument of the Andes which used to be made from the shell of an armadillo.

I understand from somewhere that they don't actually use armadillos anymore.

Clearly the trade routes provided plenty of opportunity for cultural exchange.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,Mary Katherine
Date: 02 May 12 - 05:30 PM

My pal Mark Humphrey has an interesting web site on Central Asian music/instruments, specifically those from Kyrgyzstan, at www.kyrgyzmusic.com


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 02 May 12 - 05:32 PM

According to the guy quoted in this article, Alber Lavinik, the oldest bowed instrument was the ravanastron, invented in Sri Lankra in about 5000BC, which meant they'd been around for 6000 years by 1000CE. Hopefully, that makes it old enough that no one can claim that it, and the music it played, was "Celtic".
Kemanche


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 02 May 12 - 09:54 PM

I'm skeptical of the claim that the oldest bowed instruments started in the 10th century but that's what the source said. We will probably never know what the oldest is or how old it really is. I think it would be more proper to say that bowed instruments had a sudden bloom of popularity in Central Asia about that time because such an instrument fit their lifestyles so well and word traveled fast along the Silk Road.

I'm sure someone will still claim it's Celtic. Reminds me of the Asatru people who pronounced Kennewick Man to be Nordic. He's Nordic in the same sense that I'm Thor Hyerdahl.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 02 May 12 - 10:19 PM

////That's a good point about using something natural, such as a goard for a resonance chamber. It also puts me in mind of the churango (sp), the instrument of the Andes which used to be made from the shell of an armadillo////

I first saw that instrument back in the 70s. They probably use synthetic materials to make them now or PETA would have a fit.

But what happened along the line was that the woodworkers simply made the bow and body one piece and the instrument body was born. The bow was straightened so it could be fingered to change pitch and the fingerboard was born. Tuning pegs replaced the ferrule and so on. It gave birth to a whole new craft and industry (even at the time that C.F. Martin left Germany to emigrate to the US, craftsmen in the cabinet-makers' guild made the guitars in Europe much to the displeasure of the violin-makers' guild and Martin himself was a cabinet-maker).


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 04 May 12 - 09:54 PM

Continuing to look for the connection of the bowed instrument to Central Asian horsemen/nomads, I looked at the construction of

The Arabic fiddle called kamanche: silk strings with a horsehair bow.

The Chinese fiddle called er-hu: silk strings, horsehair bow (the name means "two-stringed barbaric instrument" indicating they inherited it from Central Asian nomads/raiders).

The Khazakh fiddle called kylkobyz: Two horsehair strings and a horsehair bow.

The Mongolian fiddle called morin khuur: Two horsehair strings (one from a stallion's tail and one from a mare's tail) and a horsehair bow and name "morin khuur" means "fiddle with a horse's head" and to prove it, have a look at a morin khuur, the official national instrument of Mongolia:

Morin khuur

The Korean bowed instruments all have silk strings played with horsehair bows.

Also the ravanhatta (erroneously called a ravanastron) from India has up to 13 metal sympathetic strings and one playable horsehair string played with a horsehair bow. It's beautiful sounding in the hands of a master:

ravanhatta music

So there you are.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 May 12 - 03:47 AM

Looking at it another way, the BOW as such could well develope from the very long wooden plectra that were used on ancient North African LYRES. With such a thing it is possible to 'bow' a string, much as one may 'bow' a violin using the wood of the bow. The Korean Kyagum was also played with a resined stick rather than a haired 'bow' as such. Certainly the earliest instruments we see being played with a bow in Medieval iconography are lyres rather than lute-types (fiddles) & the Bowed Lyre tradition endured in Northern Europe from the middle-ages into the 19th century with such folk instruments as the Talharp, Jouhikko (horse hair strings bowed with horse hair) and Crwth, all of which have seen significant revival & reinvention in recent years. I might note here that the Karandeniz Kemence has steel strings played with a bow of silk threads. I also note that whilst I customarily shred horse hair bows on my fiddle, not one strand of silk have I snapped in 6 years of Kemence playing.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 05 May 12 - 03:54 AM

Bad link. Try this:

Karadeniz Kemenche


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 05 May 12 - 12:14 PM

According to one source, a number of the Korean musicians prefer horsehair bows to the sticks. And I believe the silk-stringed instruments were derived from horsehair. It's difficult to think the Chinese inherited the er-hu WITH silk strings already on it. There is simply no way nomads had any methods of producing silk on their own. I doubt the Arabs did either. Silk production is a Chinese art and other peoples traded for it and some may have possibly learned the art from the Chinese. Why the Chinese replaced horsehair with silk is anyone's guess--maybe they thought horsehair strings too barbaric and that silk showed a distinctly Chinese sensibility or maybe the silk sounded better or maybe silk was simply more plentiful or maybe it was all these--who knows.

Silk is actually very strong and probably stronger than horsehair. I have heard that spider silk is stronger than steel of the same gauge and stronger than silkworm silk but far harder to collect. An outfit made of spider silk would be too expensive for most people to afford. I'd like to see a bow made from spider silk.

I should also mention that all those instruments that used silk strings generally use metal strings today. I was referring to how they were originally strung. But it also shows how materials change over time and that it's usually related to what's easier to produce. Today, steel strings are easier to make than silk ones. I don't know which sounds better.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 06 May 12 - 10:20 PM

Ok, Suibhne,

I did some research on the jouhikko and talharpa. Both had their genesis in Scandinavia. You can tell the jouhikko is Finnish right off the bat if you have any familiarity with their language. The "tal-" prefix in talharpa made me wonder if it might be a variation of "tail" and I learned that this instrument is sometimes called a tegelharpa and that "tegel" means "tail hairs."

This is also an unbowed zither in Finland called the kantele. The earliest versions of this instrument had 5 strings made of horsehair (they now have as many as 40 metal strings). The Finnish creation epic called Kalevela where sage/hero Väinämöinen makes the first kantele from the jawbone of a giant pike fish and strung with the tail hairs of a stallion of a spirit-being called Hiisi.

So I wondered what nomads might have introduced these instruments to the Scandinavians. I thought about the Laplanders, of course, and then I ran across this:

http://www.basjkirhastar.se/eng_historia.htm

It refers to a tribe called Sapmi that raise horses and depend on them for everything and even prepare koumiss from mare's milk which is a beverage also very popular among the Central Asian nomads (still widely available in Mongolia).


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 07 May 12 - 12:52 AM

The lady on the right plays a kokyu which has silk strings and is played with a horsehair bow same as the Arabic fiddle--the kemenche. The Japanese inherited the instrument from China but quickly made it a distinctly Japanese instrument. Notice that it even has a spike on the bottom same as the kemenche or "spiked fiddle" indicating a similar genesis. The spike is the forerunner of the end pins used on cellos and double basses.

kokyu


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 07 May 12 - 04:14 AM

All getting a bit didactic around here. For sure, whilst it's fascinating to ponder such lineages and point out possible roots & roots, the nuances are easy over looked - like the relationship between the Karadeniz Kenemce and the Pontian Lyra. Tracing bagpipe lineages can be likewise mind-boggling. Otherwise check out Otto Anderson for more on the North European bowed-lyes; he points out that tal also relates to the pinewood used for their construction.

The spike is the forerunner of the end pins used on cellos and double basses

The cello & bass spikes are floor rests and, in any case, are absent from baroque cellos which are held between the knees much like the viol. Forerunner, is, I think, pushing it a bit as it implies a direct historical lineage.


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Subject: RE: Our debt to Central Asia (musical instruments)
From: GUEST,josepp
Date: 07 May 12 - 01:05 PM

The bagpipe is a pipe organ. Same thing. Air-filled bladder that fills pipes with air. But since the bagpipe is meant to be portable, the pipes have to be fingered to change pitch rather than having a a different pipe for each pitch. And I know about portatives and hydraulis organs and all that. I've studied the origins of pipe organs a bit.

////he points out that tal also relates to the pinewood used for their construction////

I said I thought tal might have stood for tail and that was where I learned it was also called a tegelharp. I never said that tal actually meant tail. I was careful not to word it that way. If we're going to get all didactic, let's read what's written not what we want the other person to be saying.

////The cello & bass spikes are floor rests////

You mean like this:

http://www.simorq.org/uploads/pics/36.jpg

////and, in any case, are absent from baroque cellos which are held between the knees much like the viol. Forerunner, is, I think, pushing it a bit as it implies a direct historical lineage.////

Since Arabic instruments as the rebec became all the rage in Europe during medieval times, there's no reason not to consider it a forerunner.


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