Tim Boucher

Questionable content, possibly linked

Tag: music

Greek Rhapsodes

“Often, rhapsodes are depicted in Greek art, wearing their signature cloak and carrying a staff. This equipment is also characteristic of travellers in general, implying that rhapsodes were itinerant performers, moving from town to town. […]

The word rhapsōidos was in use as early as Pindar (522–443 BC), who implies two different explanations of it, “singer of stitched verse”, and “singer with the staff”. Of these the first is etymologically correct; the second was suggested by the fact, for which there is early evidence, that the singer was accustomed to hold a staff (ῥάβδος rhabdos) in his hand, perhaps, like the sceptre in the Homeric assembly, as a symbol of the right to a hearing or to “emphasize the rhythm or to give grandeur to their gestures”.

There was, however, certainly a profession of aoidos. Eumaeus, a character in the Odyssey, says that singers (aoidoi), healers, seers and craftsmen are likely to be welcomed as guests, while beggars are not;

Japanese Biwa Hoshi “Lute Priests”

“…also known as “lute priests”, were travelling performers in the era of Japanese history preceding the Meiji period. They earned their income by reciting vocal literature to the accompaniment of biwa music. Often blind, they adopted the shaved heads and robes common to Buddhist monks. […]

Religion in Japan at the time incorporated many native animistic (Shinto) beliefs into its Buddhist theological framework, leading many court nobles and religious leaders to worry about angry Taira spirits disrupting the peace.”

Chinese Imperial Music Bureau

“The earliest mentions of a government office of music or at least an official in charge of music or a department of music is found in Chinese mythology. Huang Di is claimed to have appointed a Governor of Music, named Ling Lun.[1] As Governor of Music, Linglun seems to have been charged with designing and overseeing the production of actual instruments, as well as the development of the musical scale. Emperor Shun is said to have founded a Ministry of Music, to which he appointed a Minister Kui to head. The main purpose of this institution was to teach the heirs apparent proper conduct and harmony (in both sense of the word), and as such it served as a mythological model for both the future Music Bureau and the imperial education system.”

Kobzar Guilds (Ukraine)

“In Ukraine, kobzars organized themselves into regional guilds or brotherhoods, known as tsekhs. They developed a system of rigorous apprenticeships (usually three years in length) before undergoing the first set of open examinations in order to become a kobzar.

These guilds were thought to have been modelled on the Orthodox Church brotherhoods as each guild was associated with a specific church. These guilds then would take care of one church icon or purchase new religious ornaments for their affiliated church (Kononenko, p. 568–9). The Orthodox Church however was often suspicious of and occasionally even hostile to kobzars.”

“Blind itinerant musicians, known as kobzars and lirnyks, organized themselves into guilds along the same lines as professional craftsmen. These professional itinerant musicians would gather at regular meeting spots on particular dates to celebrate religious feasts, administer examinations for the induction of novices and masters, and collect money for placement of votive candles under icons of patron saints and to also discuss the business of the guild. “

“However, the lirnyk played the lira, a kind of crank-driven hurdy-gurdy, while the kobzars played the lute-like banduras. Lirnyky were usually blind or had some major disability. They were active in all areas of Ukraine from (at least) the 17th century on. “

See also:

Jesters & French Chansons des Gestes

“This modern term derives from the older form gestour, or jestour, originally from Anglo-Norman (French) meaning story-teller or minstrel.”

“Another theory (largely discredited today[16]), developed by Joseph Bédier, posited that the early chansons were recent creations, not earlier than the year 1000, developed by singers who, emulating the songs of “saints lives” sung in front of churches (and collaborating with the church clerics[16]), created epic stories based on the heroes whose shrines and tombs dotted the great pilgrimage routes, as a way of drawing pilgrims to these churches.”

[…]

“Similarly, scholars differ greatly on the social condition and literacy of the poets themselves; were they cultured clerics or illiterate jongleurs working within an oral tradition?”

[…]

“Several manuscript texts include lines in which the jongleur demands attention, threatens to stop singing, promises to continue the next day, and asks for money or gifts.”

[…]

“It has been calculated that a reciter could sing about a thousand verses an hour[31] and probably limited himself to 1000–1300 verses by performance,[27] making it likely that the performance of works extended over several days.[31]”

Medieval Instruments & Early Music (Videos)

Organistrum performance

Youtube: Ondas do Mar de Vigo con Organistrum – Orquesta de Instrumentos Autóctonos

Gracenotes

On the strength of the first video lesson for $5, I went ahead and bought the 18 lesson package from bagpipelessons.com. The first lesson took me weeks to master, but I eventually did. So I assume it may be with this next step of grafting ‘gracenotes’ onto my only rudimentary scale technique. But knowing that it will be hard going in, and to take it slowly, one step at a time,less is soothing going into these next stages.

Bagpipes and goats

Curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I finally broke down and bought a practice chanter (to learn to play bagpipes) from Amazon. It’s a cheap one, and every bagpipe site I have ever seen likes to write, in all caps, warnings like:

DON'T YOU DARE BUY A CHEAP ONE!!!!

Which is all well and good if you’re sure ahead of time you’re going to make this plunge and commit to it forever. But starting with a $15 trial balloon over a $100 experiment seems like a good idea to me. What do I know!

The more I’ve gotten into researching the types and history of pipes though, the more compelling it actually is. I mean, as far as “windbags” go…

This is one of my favorite piping videos for a lot of reasons:

Oddly, it turns out that goats and bagpipes seem to have been intimately connected for quite some time.

If you delve into piping history (at least the online sources I found), they put the first officially recognized mention of bagpipes to a Roman source sometime in early AD. But there’s an elemental pattern you can see behind the pipes if you look with the “eyes of the goat.”

I’m not going to pretend to be any kind of expert, but I found a bunch of different traditional forms of bagpipes which are not only made of goat skin, but which explicitly seem to reference the form of the animal, with either heads included, or else with drones, chanters and windpipes in place of the limbs of the beast.

Check out, for example, the Zaqq from Malta:

Here’s another one from Eastern Europe:

And this is included ‘just for fun’: via Duda on Wikipedia:

“…there were many legends about bagpipes that could play themselves when hung from the wall on a nail or about pipers summoned to Witches’ Sabbaths to perform for satanic hosts.”

So my hypothesis, for the moment, goes something like this:

Bagpiping is a secondary cultural artifact from raising goats (or sheep, variously–just using goats as a catch-all here). In French, we have this handy word for goat-raising, Capriculture.

Moreover, the evolution of the “windbag” is simply an augmentation of pre-existing reed flutes, like this German dude (assuming he’s German–maybe I’m wrong) makes in the Youtube video below:

Bagpipes are basically this attached to a pipe you do your fingering on – chanter – which sticks out of a bag, and which has anywhere from typically 1-3 drones, which are reeds on pipes each tuned to sound at one continuous note.

So there’s a precursor invention, the reed pipe, which is more or less a “natural” human invention from naturally-occurring material. Which is over time grafted onto this other invention: an animal skin or bladder which can be inflated or deflated with air or liquid.

Taken in this light, the instrument becomes less a strange oddity, and something more elemental, and perhaps very ancient – as ancient as the human relationships with the plants and animals from which the craft originally descended.

That’s the theory anyway. Not sure I’m ready to start keeping goats, but I’m warming up to giving piping a shot. Will keep you posted!

PS. I love how that last video shows the pipes mixed with the sound of sheep’s bells

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén