For thousands of years people have used the simple technique of vibrating strings to create sound and harmony. Bowed, plucked or hit we have been amazed at the incredible sounds that we have heard on our travels, created by sinew, fishing line, string and wire.
Rebekah and I have just come back from spending 8 days traveling around the south of Wales exploring some of the ancient Celtic sites. During this time we also discovered more of the rich history of music and song. The unique triple harp originated in Italy in the 16th Century yet became so popular in Wales that it is now known as the Welsh harp.
Whilst in the Czech Republic, Libor introduced me to a music store that has an amazing Orchestrion – a machine that emulates an orchestra with piano and percussion using a pinned cylinder. Each music roll contains a certain number of songs – like a modern day juke box!
Check our Pat Metheny’s modern day Orchestrion Project.
After many trips to Sweden I finally got a chance to sit with a Nyckleharpa player. I had heard the stories and seen videos but this was the first time to see the instrument up close – and what a work of art. The making of instruments always fascinates me and I could see the influences of the hurry-gurdy that must have inspired the inventors way back in the mists of time. This particular instrument was made by Annelie Westerlund’s father.
Alemu Aga plays the begenna – an instrument dedicated to prayer and meditation. It was believed to have been brought back to Ethiopia from Israel 3000 years ago when Queen Sheba visited King Solomon. It is also known as the Harp of King David – listening to this wonderful sound can give us a different perspective on what some of the ancient musical instruments might have sounded like in times of David’s temple.
A short clip from the Garlands for Ashes DVD. This is a very popular instrument amongst the Khmer people of Cambodia, a dulcimer type instrument called the Khim.. Originally it is thought to have been introduced to Thailand and Cambodia from China. I loved the sound and managed to find one, deep in the recesses of a market in Phnom Penh.
The Tro Ou (another instrument on the Garlands CD) is a two stringed bowed instrument with a long history of being played at weddings It is made out of a coconut and snake skin with 2 strings, the lower pitch string known as”Gor” is approximately a C (in Western notation) and the higher, “Ek” is a G. The bow is called a “Chak'” and is made of hard wood and horsehair or fiber from a tree.
The Takhe or Krapeu (meaning crocodile in Khmer) may be one of the most recent classical Khmer instruments. It is used in wedding music, Mahori and other modern music including solo pieces.