Howbeit, the Welsh crwth (Anglo-saxon, crudh; English, crowd) is only known as a species of fiddle closely resembling the rotta, but having a finger-board in the middle of the open frame and being strung with only a few strings; while the rotta had sometimes above twenty strings. As it may interest the reader to examine the form of the modern crwth we give a woodcut of it. Edward Jones, in his “Musical and poetical relicks of the Welsh bards,” records that the Welsh had before this kind of crwth a three-stringed one called “Crwth Trithant,” which was, he says, “a sort of violin, or more properly a rebeck.” The three-stringed crwth was chiefly used by the inferior class of bards; and was probably the Moorish fiddle which is still the favourite instrument of the itinerant bards of the Bretons in France, who call it rébek. The Bretons, it will be remembered, are close kinsmen of the Welsh.
A player on the crwth or crowd (a crowder) from a bas-relief on the under part of the seats of the choir in Worcester cathedral dates from the twelfth or thirteenth century
Copy of an illumination from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque royale at Paris of the eleventh century. The player wears a crown on his head; and in the original some musicians placed at his side are performing on the psalterium and other instruments. These last are figured with uncovered heads; whence M. de Coussemaker concludes that the crout was considered 95by the artist who drew the figures as the noblest instrument. It was probably identical with the rotta of the same century on the continent.
An interesting drawing of an Anglo-saxon fiddle—or fithele, as it was called—is given in a manuscript of the eleventh century in the British museum (Cotton, Tiberius, c. 6). The instrument is of a pear shape, with four strings, and the bridge is not indicated.
A German fiddle of the ninth century, called lyra, copied by Gerbert from the manuscript of St. Blasius, has only one string.
The construction of the organistrum requires but little explanation. A glance at the finger-board reveals at once that the different tones were obtained by raising the keys placed on the neck under the strings, and that the keys were raised by means of the handles at the side of the neck. Of the two bridges shown on the body, the one situated nearest the middle was formed by a wheel in the inside, which projected through the sound-board. The wheel which slightly touched the strings vibrated them by friction when turned by the handle at the end. The order of intervals was c, d, e, f, g, a, b-flat, b-natural, c, and were obtainable on the highest string. There is reason to suppose that the other two strings were generally tuned a fifth and an octave below the highest. The organistrum may be regarded as the predecessor of the hurdy-gurdy, and was a rather cumbrous contrivance. Two persons seem to have been required to sound it, one to turn the handle and the other to manage the keys. Thus it is generally represented in mediæval concerts.
Of the syrinx there are extant some illustrations of the ninth and tenth centuries, which exhibit the instrument with a number of tubes tied together, just like the Pandean pipe still in use. In one specimen engraved from a manuscript of the eleventh century the tubes were inserted into a bowl-shaped box. This is probably the frestele, fretel, or fretiau, which in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was in favour with the French ménétriers.
The player on the viola da gamba, shown in the engraving, is a reduced copy of an illustration in “The Division Violist,” London, 1659. It shows exactly how the frets were regulated, and how the bow was held. The most popular instruments played with a bow, at that time, were the treble-viol, the tenor-viol, and the bass-viol. It was usual for viol players to have “a chest of viols,” a case containing four or more viols, of different sizes. Thus, Thomas Mace in his directions for the use of the viol, “Musick’s Monument” 1676, remarks, “Your best provision, and most complete, will be a good chest of viols, six in number, viz., two basses, two tenors, and two trebles, all truly and proportionably suited.” The violist, to be properly furnished with his requirements, had therefore 119to supply himself with a larger stock of instruments than the violinist of the present day.
The bagpipe is of high antiquity in Ireland, and is alluded to in Irish poetry and prose said to date from the tenth century. A pig gravely engaged in playing the bagpipe is represented in an illuminated Irish manuscript, of the year 1300: and we give a copy of a woodcut from “The Image of Ireland,” a book printed in London in 1581.
The lute was made of various sizes according to the purpose for which it was intended in performance. The treble-lute was of the smallest dimensions, and the bass-lute of the largest. The theorbo, or double-necked lute which appears to have come into use during the sixteenth century, had in addition to the strings situated over the finger-board a number of others running at the left side of the finger-board which could not be shortened by the fingers, and which produced the bass tones. The largest kinds of theorbo were the archlute and the chitarrone.
The monochord was mounted with a single string stretched over two bridges which were fixed on an oblong box. The string could be tightened or slackened by means of a turning screw inserted into one end of the box. The intervals of the scale were marked on the side, and were regulated by a sort of movable bridge placed beneath the string when required. As might be expected, the monochord was chiefly used by theorists; for any musical performance it was but little suitable. About a thousand years ago when this monochord was in use the musical scale was diatonic, with the exception of the interval of the seventh, which was chromatic inasmuch as both b-flat and b-natural formed part of the scale. The notation on the preceding page exhibits the compass as well as the order of intervals adhered to about the tenth century.
The pneumatic organ is sculptured on an obelisk which was erected in Constantinople under Theodosius the great, towards the end of the fourth century. The bellows were pressed by men standing on them: see page 103. This interesting monument also exhibits performers on the double flute. The hydraulic organ, which is recorded to have been already known about two hundred years before the Christian era, was according to some statements occasionally employed in churches during the earlier centuries of the middle ages. Probably it was more frequently heard in secular entertainments for which it was more suitable; and at the beginning of the fourteenth century appears to have been entirely supplanted by the pneumatic organ. The earliest organs had only about a dozen pipes.
That there was, in the time of Shakespeare, a musical instrument called recorder is undoubtedly known to most readers from the stage direction in Hamlet: Re-enter players with recorders. But not many are likely to have ever seen a recorder, as it has now become very scarce: we therefore give an illustration of this old instrument, which is copied from “The Genteel Companion; Being exact Directions for the Recorder: etc.” London, 1683.
Of the little portable organ, known as the regal or regals, often tastefully shaped and embellished, some interesting sculptured representations are still extant in the old ecclesiastical edifices of England and Scotland. There is, for instance, in Beverley minster a figure of a man playing on a single regal, or a regal provided with only one set of pipes; and in Melrose abbey the figure of an angel holding in his arms a double regal, the pipes of which are in two sets. The regal generally had keys like those of the organ but smaller. A painting in the national Gallery, by Melozzo da Forli who lived in the fifteenth century, contains a regal which has keys of a peculiar shape, rather resembling the pistons of certain brass instruments. The illustration has been drawn from that painting. To avoid misapprehension, it is necessary to mention that the name regal (or regals, rigols) was also applied to an instrument of percussion with sonorous slabs of wood.
The bagpipe appears to have been from time immemorial a special favourite instrument with the Celtic races; but it was perhaps quite as much admired by the Slavonic nations. In Poland, and in the Ukraine, it used to be made of the whole skin of the goat in which the shape of the animal, whenever the bagpipe was expanded with air, appeared fully retained, exhibiting even the head with the horns; hence the bagpipe was called kosa, which signifies a goat. The woodcut represents a Scotch bagpipe of the eighteenth century.
The minstrels’ gallery of Exeter cathedral dates from the fourteenth century. The front is divided into twelve niches, each of which contains a winged figure or an angel playing on an instrument of music. The instruments are so much dilapidated that some of them cannot be clearly recognized; but, as far as may be ascertained, they appear to be as follows:—1. The cittern. 2. The bagpipe. 3. The clarion, a small trumpet having a shrill sound. 4. The rebec. 5. The psaltery. 6. The syrinx. 7. The sackbut. 8. The regals. 9. The gittern, a small guitar strung with catgut. 10. The shalm. 11. The timbrel; resembling our present tambourine, with a double row of gingles. 12. Cymbals.
The shalm, or shawm, was a pipe with a reed in the mouth-hole. The wait was an English wind instrument of the same construction. If it differed in any respect from the shalm, the difference consisted probably in the size only. The wait obtained its name from being used principally by watchmen, or waights, to proclaim the time of night. Such were the poor ancestors of our fine oboe and clarinet.
The woodcut represents a very beautiful vielle; French, of about 1550, with monograms of Henry II. This is at South Kensington.
The contrivance of placing a string or two at the side of the finger-board is evidently very old, and was also gradually adopted on other instruments of the violin class of a somewhat later period than that of the vielle; for instance, on the lira di braccio of the Italians. It was likewise adopted on the lute, to obtain a fuller power in the bass; and hence arose the theorbo, the archlute, and other varieties of the old lute.
The idea of forming of a number of bells a musical instrument such as the carillon is said by some to have suggested itself first to the English and Dutch; but what we have seen in Asiatic countries sufficiently refutes this. Moreover, not only the Romans employed variously arranged and attuned bells, but also among the Etruscan antiquities an instrument has been discovered which is constructed of a number of bronze vessels placed in a row on a metal rod. Numerous bells, varying in size and tone, have also been found in Etruscan tombs. Among the later contrivances of this kind in European countries the sets of bells suspended in a wooden frame, which we find in mediæval illuminations, deserve notice. In the British museum is a manuscript of the fourteenth century in which king David is depicted holding in each hand a hammer with which he strikes upon bells of different dimensions, suspended on a wooden stand.