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One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?

GUEST,Billy 03 Nov 04 - 11:54 PM
Peace 04 Nov 04 - 12:02 AM
Peace 04 Nov 04 - 12:04 AM
Peace 04 Nov 04 - 12:11 AM
NH Dave 04 Nov 04 - 02:49 AM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Nov 04 - 03:11 AM
Wilfried Schaum 04 Nov 04 - 03:54 AM
Wilfried Schaum 04 Nov 04 - 03:57 AM
Steve-o 04 Nov 04 - 12:26 PM
GUEST,Billy 04 Nov 04 - 02:56 PM
fretless 04 Nov 04 - 03:58 PM
GUEST,Barrie Roberts 04 Nov 04 - 04:26 PM
Desert Dancer 04 Nov 04 - 06:18 PM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Nov 04 - 06:46 PM
open mike 04 Nov 04 - 11:09 PM
Desert Dancer 05 Nov 04 - 01:01 AM
Wilfried Schaum 05 Nov 04 - 02:41 AM
GUEST,fiosrach 05 Nov 04 - 04:59 AM
GUEST 05 Nov 04 - 11:26 AM
Nigel Parsons 05 Nov 04 - 01:27 PM
GUEST,Billy 05 Nov 04 - 04:01 PM
Bert 05 Nov 04 - 08:43 PM
Malcolm Douglas 05 Nov 04 - 08:52 PM
John in Brisbane 05 Nov 04 - 09:13 PM
Wilfried Schaum 06 Nov 04 - 03:17 AM
tomasdordevic 06 Aug 08 - 09:55 PM
GUEST,Vesna 21 Feb 11 - 06:03 AM
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Subject: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: GUEST,Billy
Date: 03 Nov 04 - 11:54 PM

Found this in a junk shop. Please help me identify the ethnicity of this one-string fiddle-type instrument. If you can identify
the wood from which it is made, that would be a start. It is 18" long and the bow is 14" long. It is intricately carved from one solid piece of wood. The bowl is covered with some kind of skin to make the soundboard. It is very old as the skin is quite brittle. Here are photos:   
pic1
pic2
pic3
pic4
pic5
pic6
pic7


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Peace
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 12:02 AM

I am thinking it's Chinese. The Chinese use a one-stringed instrument in traditional music. Jei Yin, a teacher I worked with many years back, played one. I could be wrong, however, because I don't doubt that other cultures use similar type stringed instruments.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Peace
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 12:04 AM

Had a look at another view of it and I am wrong.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Peace
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 12:11 AM

Dang. I do not recall whether the instrument Jei played was that or not. The carving doesn't look Chinese. Sorry to mess up your thread here, Billy. I'm sure someone with either a better memory or knowledge of stringed instruments will have an answer to you within 24 hours.

BM


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: NH Dave
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 02:49 AM

The Thai and Vietnamese play very similar instruments, although most of those instruments have two strings, with the bow threads/strings going between the two strings, so it is almost impossible to lose the bow. I'd stick with Chinese for now. If so, the wood probably is teak or some similar wood.

Dave


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 03:11 AM

Looks Eastern European to me. I have a very similar instrument from Jugoslavia (I don't know whether it would be considered Serbian or Croatian nowadays): a gusle or gusla. The carving is more ornate but the wood is not of good quality; mine was probably made for the tourist trade. The instrument is very limited tonally and was, I'm told, typically used to provide a simple accompaniment for the recitation of epic verse.

Most countries in Central and Eastern Europe have, or had, similar instruments. The Asian equivalents are usually more sophisticated. Is the "string" made of gut or horsehair?


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 03:54 AM

The carvings point to South Eastern Weurope, and since I know that the bards of the Balkans use a one stringed instrument to accompany their songs and epics I looked up Gusla (serbocroat. gusle).

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Gusle
   UF Gusla
   BT Musical instruments--Balkan Peninsula
       Stringed instruments, Bowed

The Brockhaus (THE German lexicon publisher) Musical lexicon has a small sketch of the instrument with its typical horsehead. It is described as onestringed, bow operated, with coat covered corpus.
The string is pressed not on the board but from the side, often generating flageolets.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 03:57 AM

Malcolm won writing while I was looking up between the shelves.
The string is made of horsehair.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Steve-o
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 12:26 PM

Saw it played by an old mountain folky guy who referred to it as a "Horse-head Guzzle".


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: GUEST,Billy
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 02:56 PM

Very interesting. Thanks to everyone for the input. It doesn't make a lot of sound and I'm reluctant to tighten up the string too much in case I rupture the skin in another place.
SO... is it worth anything?


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: fretless
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 03:58 PM

If you want to read up on how it is used, get your hands on a copy of Albert Lord: The Singer of Tales. Bards in the Balkans use the gusla/guzla to accompany chanted epics. Think, as did Lord and his mentor Milman Parry, of Homer chanting the Iliad and Odyssey accompanied by a lyre. Dollar value not certain. I recently bought a 3/4 size guzla at a yard sale in Virginia for $5, but the wood on yours looks nicer than mine (although the decoration is similar) and mine didn't come with a bow.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: GUEST,Barrie Roberts
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 04:26 PM

I don't claim to have much expertise in sringed instruments, but I agree with the idea that the item is from the Balkans, not only because it looks as if it might be, but because a lot of World War I soldiers brought home strange items of Balkan instruments as souvenirs and it also looks as if it could be that old. Some of the hammered dulcimers that turn up in Britain were WWI souvenirs.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 06:18 PM

Given the horsey theme (design and horsehair strings), it made me think of a Morin Khuur, the horse-head fiddle, the national instrument of Mongolia. But, that's typically 2-stringed, and all the pictures I've seen of it show a box-shaped body, not the round one. Maybe it's a related instrument from that region.

More info (and links) in this thread.

Here's another.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 06:46 PM

I'm still going for the gusle. Value? Not very much in money, I'd think (the skin is damaged and the neck looks warped) but such things are interesting in themselves, and the bow looks better than mine. I tried a cello string rather than the traditional horsehair; that gives a bigger sound, but still with a very limited dynamic range.

Photo, showing playing position: Gusle player

There are plenty more pictures out there. For a recording of the instrument in context, see Udovica Jana (The Widow Jana)


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: open mike
Date: 04 Nov 04 - 11:09 PM

this sounds like something that they might play in Tuva.
http://www.fotuva.org/music/
http://www.huunhuurtu.com/
http://khoomei.com/vids.htm


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 01:01 AM

Open Mike, that's the morin khur, mentioned above.

So, did Genghis Kahn bring his fiddles to the Balkans, or did they take it east? ;-) (Simple fiddles seem to have evolved independently in a number of places, but the horsehead design is an interesting parallel.)

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 02:41 AM

The Mongols fighting on horseback were mostly interested in great plains for grazing their horses, especially in Hungary. Their horses were small, so they had to change horses during combat and had extensive herds. The mountaineous regions of the Balkans they mostly left out as dangerous even to the skilled trooper.
Correction of a false translation in my post of 04 Nov 04 - 03:54 AM: Instead of coat covered read leather covered.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: GUEST,fiosrach
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 04:59 AM

billy, is this instrument for sale?


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 11:26 AM

It is a Yugoslavian Gusle or Gusla. My uncle used to play one. Bloody awful noise. Glad when they took him away. Olaf


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 01:27 PM

All I can add is to identify the quote in the thread title:

"When a man grows old
And his balls grow cold,
And the tip of his prick turns blue.
And it bends in the middle,
Like a one stringed fiddle,
He can tell you a tale or two.
So pull up a stool,
And buy me a drink.
And a tale to you I'll tell.
Of Dead-Eye Dick, and Mexican Pete.
And a harlot named Eskimo Nell"

One version in the DT

CHEERS

Nigel


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: GUEST,Billy
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 04:01 PM

Thanks to everyone for their erudite contributions. I guess the concensus is that it is a Balkans/Yugoslavian Gusle or Gusla.
Malcolm, I might try to put a gut string on it as the horsehair string and horsehair bow don't really do much. I'm inclined to agree with Guest (whose uncle used to play one) - it is a bloody awful noise - atleast in my hands. I don't have a lot of interest in playing it seriously. I bought it because I was intrigued by the intricacy of the carving and the horsehead on the head of it and the seals? on the bow. Someone put a lot of hours into this piece.
Fiosrach, if I decide to put it up on eBay, I'll resurrect this thread to let you know.
Thanks again.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Bert
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 08:43 PM

And as Malcolm also said "made for the tourist trade". When I visited Yugoslavia all the gift shops had them - along with the carved flutes that also made a bloody awful noise.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 08:52 PM

I've got one of those carved flutes as well! That, and the gusle, are about 30 years old (dating from the parents' one-and-only package holiday, which they thoroughly enjoyed); tourist gear, though, for sure. OK on the wall, mind. The Jugoslavian brandy, on the other hand, is best forgotten...


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 05 Nov 04 - 09:13 PM

Thread creep here, but can anyone remember previous threads on fiddles/cellos with one or more strings which were based on resonator guitars c/w addition of a HMV type gramophone horn? I regret not buying a 4 string fiddle in Burma 20 years ago.

Regards, John


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 06 Nov 04 - 03:17 AM

In the Yugoslavian restaurants the walls are covered with handcarved gusles and pipes. There are some excellent carvings sometimes, and I agree that gusles should used for decorative purposes only. To play them you'd have to sing the old epics like a local bard. Forget about using them with average folk music.
Malcolm - I don't now about Yugoslavian brandy, but you should try the slivovic, an excellent brew distilled from plums.


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: tomasdordevic
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 09:55 PM

i don't know if this went through or not. malcolm, do you still have that gusle and would be willing to sell it (or anyone out there). i'm dating a serbian girl and her father absolutley loves these things and i'd like to get him one. please call me at 617.821.2491 or email me at tomas@dordevic.com
thanks


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Subject: RE: One String Fiddle - can anyone identify?
From: GUEST,Vesna
Date: 21 Feb 11 - 06:03 AM

I am proudly an Australia my background is serb/montenegrin both my parents were brought up there. I have had the opportunity to visit my relations in Bosnia and Montenegro and I have been back several times. i absolutely love it ! its an amazing place with a strong sense of heritage and the montenegrin gusle is one of them ! Telling stories of centuries ago i love the sound ! it has heart and soul often lyrics are of sorrow, It will always be my favourite instrument


Vesna


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