The Finns love song and poetry. It is said that every village has one poet, or more, and that he prepares a new song whenever aught of importance occurs. Besides these new songs they have many ancient songs, of which they never tire. When they sing the songs of the olden time, two men seat themselves face to face upon a bench, join hands, and rock backward and forward in time to the song. First one sings a line or passage, and then the other repeats the same, and so they continue, rocking back and forth and singing the whole night through. Sometimes a third man plays upon the kantele, while the others sing. This kantele is somewhat like a zither; it has a flat sounding-body upon which are strung from three to eight strings of different lengths. It is usually picked with the fingers like a guitar. It is said that the first kantele was made of fish-bones, though it is not easy to see how that could be.
Egyptian Crotola or Castanets
The history of the Harp may be traced with much the same clearness. The twanging of the bow probably suggested the original idea; and the variation of sound was obtained by lengthening and shortening a multiplicity of strings. These were made, at first, of some fibrous material, or the long hair of animals. Perhaps even the tresses of wives and daughters were turned to such musical use, as we read in the Greek and Roman historians that the bows of the Carthaginians were thus supplied with strings in their last war with the Romans. Harps, too, like the bow, were portable, about four feet long; and all Oriental harps, so far as we can judge from surviving sculptures, unlike ours, had no front pillar. Their bow-like shape and characteristics long remained. Without entering at greater length on their further and later development, we can easily imagine how soon the need of pegs for tightening and loosening the strings was felt; how a sounding-board was found to add to the body of sound; how Strings of fibre or hair were supplanted by those of catgut, of steel, and even of silver. Whether the fingers or whether the quill and plectrum were the first manipulators of the strings, is a matter of debate. Certainly fingers were made long before either quills or plectra! Be it as it may, after these latter had been introduced, hammers wielded by the hand in due time followed. And thus we see how the "stringed instruments" of primaeval and ancient days became the parent of the dulcimer, the spinet, the harpsichord, and the piano.
".. put two such pipes into the mouth, and you get the double Egyptian and Assyrian pipe, such as may be still seen sculptured on their monuments. In the holes or apertures of some of these pipes, which have
been discovered in the tombs and other places, small straws have been found, plainly intended to act the part of reeds in our modern oboes and clarionets. "
The first and primaeval musical instruments must have been of the simplest kind.
A hollow reed, uttering, when blown with the mouth, one monotonous sound would be the first successful attempt at such an invention. The next step was to vary the sound by perforating it with holes, like to our " Penny Whistle."
“Clay pipe from Babylon, the most ancient yet found, apparently modelled to imitate the skull of some animal. It still sounds clearly the intervals of the common chord.”
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
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 representation of David playing on the rotta, from a psalter of the seventh century in the British museum (Cott. Vesp. A. I). According to tradition, this psalter is one of the manuscripts which were sent by pope Gregory to St. Augustine.
In the rotta the ancient Asiatic lyre is easily to be recognized.
The Anglo-saxons frequently accompanied their vocal effusions with a harp, more or less triangular in shape,—an instrument which may be considered rather as constituting the transition of the lyre into the harp. The representation of king David playing the harp is from an Anglo-saxon manuscript of the beginning of the eleventh century, in the British museum. The harp was especially popular in central and northern Europe, and was the favourite instrument of the German and Celtic bards and of the Scandinavian skalds.
a very simple stringed instrument of a triangular shape, and a somewhat similar one of a square shape were designated by the name of psalterium
The botuto, which Gumilla saw used by some tribes near the river Orinoco (of which we engrave two examples), was evidently an ancient Indian contrivance, but appears to have fallen almost into oblivion during the last two centuries. It was made of baked clay and was commonly from three to four feet long: but some trumpets of this kind were of enormous size. The botuto with two bellies was usually made thicker than that with three bellies and emitted a deeper sound, which is described as having been really terrific. These trumpets were used on occasions of mourning and funeral dances. Alexander von Humboldt saw the botuto among some Indian tribes near the river Orinoco.
The British museum possesses a huayra-puhura consisting of fourteen reed pipes of a brownish colour, tied together in two rows by means of thread, so as to form a double set of seven reeds. Both sets are almost exactly of the same dimensions and are placed side by side. The shortest of these reeds measure three inches, and the longest six and a half. In one set they are open at the bottom, and in the other they are closed. Consequently, octaves are produced. The reader is probably aware that the closing of a pipe at the end raises its pitch an octave. Thus, in our organ, the so-called stopped diapason, a set of closed pipes, requires tubes of only half the length of those which constitute the open diapason, although both these stops produce tones in the same pitch; the only difference between them being the quality of sound, which in the former is less bright than in the latter.
M. de Castelnau in his “Expédition dans l’Amérique” gives among the illustrations of objects discovered in ancient Peruvian tombs a flute made of a human bone. It has four finger-holes at its upper surface and appears to have been blown into at one end. Two bone-flutes, in appearance similar to the engraving given by M. de Castelnau, which have been disinterred at Truxillo are deposited in the British museum. They are about six inches in length, and each is provided with five finger-holes. One of these has all the holes at its upper side, and one of the holes is considerably smaller than the rest. The specimen shown is ornamented with some simple designs in black.
Among the instruments of this kind from central America the most complete have four finger-holes. By means of three holes, four sounds (including the sound which is produced when none of the holes are closed) can be emitted: the fourth finger-hole, when closed, has the effect of lowering the pitch a semitone. By a particular process two or three lower notes are obtainable.
Rather more complete than the above specimens are some of the whistles and small pipes which have been found in graves of the Indians of Chiriqui in central America. The pipe or whistle which is represented in the accompanying engraving appears, to judge from the somewhat obscure description transmitted to us, to possess about half a dozen tones. It is of pottery, painted in red and black on a cream-coloured ground, and in length about five inches.
The engraving, taken from a Persian painting at Teheran, represents an old Persian santir, the prototype of our dulcimer, mounted with wire strings and played upon with two slightly curved sticks.
An interesting representation of a Turkish woman playing the harp sketched from life by Melchior Lorich in the seventeenth century, probably exhibits an old Persian chang; for the Turks derived their music principally from Persia. Here we have an introduction into Europe of the oriental frame without a front pillar.
The hiuen-tchung was, according to popular tradition, included with the antique instruments at the time of Confucius, and came into popular use during the Han dynasty (from B.C. 200 until A.D. 200). It was of a peculiar oval shape and had nearly the same quaint ornamentation as the té-tchung; this consisted of symbolical figures, in four divisions, each containing nine mammals. The mouth was crescent-shaped. Every figure had a deep meaning referring to the seasons and to the mysteries of the Buddhist religion. The largest hiuen-tchung was about twenty inches in length; and, like the té-tchung, was sounded by means of a small wooden mallet with an oval knob. None of the bells of this description had a clapper. It would, however, appear that the Chinese had at an early period some kind of bell provided with a wooden tongue: this was used for military purposes as well as for calling the people together when an imperial messenger promulgated his sovereign’s commands. An expression of Confucius is recorded to the effect that he wished to be “A wooden-tongued bell of Heaven,” i.e. a herald of heaven to proclaim the divine purposes to the multitude.
The flutes of the Etruscans were not unfrequently made of ivory; those used in religious sacrifices were of box-wood, of a species of the lotus, of ass’ bone, bronze and silver. A bronze flute, somewhat resembling our flageolet, has been found in a tomb; likewise a huge trumpet of bronze. An Etruscan cornu is deposited in the British museum, and measures about four feet in length.
The single flute was called monaulos, and the double one diaulos. A diaulos, which was found in a tomb at Athens, is in the British museum. The wood of which it is made seems to be cedar, and the tubes are fifteen inches in length. Each tube has a separate mouth-piece and six finger-holes, five of which are at the upper side and one is underneath.
The representation of Polyhymnia with a harp, depicted on a splendid Greek vase now in the Munich museum, may be noted as an exceptional instance. This valuable relic dates from the time of Alexander the great. The instrument resembles in construction as well as in shape the Assyrian harp, and has thirteen strings. Polyhymnia is touching them with both hands, using the right hand for the treble and the left for the bass. She is seated, holding the instrument in her lap. Even the little tuning-pegs, which in number are not in accordance with the strings, are placed on the sound-board at the upper part of the frame, exactly as on the Assyrian harp. If then we have here the Greek harp, it was more likely an importation from Asia than from Egypt. In short, as far as can be ascertained, the most complete of the Greek instruments appear to be of Asiatic origin.
A flute-concert is painted on one of the tombs in the pyramids of Gizeh and dates, according to Lepsius, from an age earlier than B.C. 2000. Eight musicians are performing on flutes. Three of them, one behind the other, are kneeling and holding their flutes in exactly the same manner. Facing these are three others, in a precisely similar position. A seventh is sitting on the ground to the left of the six, 13with his back turned towards them, but also in the act of blowing his flute, like the others. An eighth is standing at the right side of the group with his face turned towards them, holding his flute before him with both hands, as if he were going to put it to his mouth, or had just left off playing. He is clothed, while the others have only a narrow girdle round their loins. Perhaps he is the director of this singular band, or the solo performer who is waiting for the termination of the tutti before renewing his part of the performance. The division of the players into two sets, facing each other, suggests the possibility that the instruments were classed somewhat like the first and second violins, or the flauto primo and flauto secondo of our orchestras. The occasional employment of the interval of the third, or the fifth, as accompaniment to the melody, is not unusual even with nations less advanced in music than were the ancient Egyptians.
Young girl listens to her brother practising on his tuba, even though he is not very good.
On several occasions after this the organist came to the chapel on purpose to listen to Handel as the latter played, and he was so struck by the boy's genius that he determined to surprise the Duke by letting Handel play His Highness out of chapel. Accordingly, on the following Sunday, when the service was concluded, the organist lifted Handel on to the organ-stool, and desired him to play.
The Duke and his friends had risen to their feet as Handel began to play, but the Duke instantly detected a difference in the playing, and, glancing towards the organ-loft, he was astonished to behold the figure of a child bending over the keys. But as he listened his astonishment became greater, for it was no longer the child's figure that arrested his attention, but the melody which was pouring forth from the instrument. Instead of walking out of the chapel, the Duke remained standing where he had risen, with his gaze riveted upon the child player, and of course the members of the household likewise kept their places. At length, when Handel ceased to play, the Duke turned to those about him with the inquiry: 'Who is that child? Does anybody know his name?' As no one present seemed to know, the organist was sent for to explain matters. After a few words from this official the Duke commanded that Handel should be brought before him. When the boy appeared he patted him on the head, and praised his performance, telling him that he was sure that he would make a good musician.
For some time this secret practising continued without arousing suspicion on the part of the other inmates of the house. One night, however, when the child had resorted to his favourite spot, he was suddenly missed by those below, and, as it was known that he had been sent to bed, some fears were felt as to what could have become of him. The servants were summoned, but could give no account of him; the father was fetched from his study, whither he had retired, and a search began. The alarm increased when it was ascertained that the child was in none of the living-rooms of the house, and it was decided that the garrets and lofts must be searched. Calling for a lantern, the surgeon ascended the stairs leading to the lumber-room; it was possible that the boy might have found his way thither on some childish expedition, and there fallen asleep. Great was the father's surprise, on reaching the top-most landing, to hear faint musical sounds proceeding from behind the closed door. Noiselessly retracing his steps, he summoned the rest of the household, and then, ascending the stairs in a body, they paused outside to listen. Sure enough the old garret was full of melodic sounds! Now near, now far off, they seemed to the listeners to be wafted from another world; there was something uncanny about it, and the maids gazed into each other's faces with a scared expression, as the master softly lifted the latch, and, having peeped into the room, beckoned silently to the rest to follow him.
George Frederick Handel
The King next requested him to play a six-part fugue, and Bach extemporised one on a theme selected by himself. The King, who stood behind the composer's chair, clapped his hands with delight, and exclaimed repeatedly, 'Only one Bach! Only one Bach!' It was a visit replete with honours for the old master, and when he returned home he expressed his gratitude by writing down and elaborating the piece which he had composed on the King's theme, dedicating it to His Majesty under the title of 'Musikalisches Opfer' (Musical Offering), and sending it to Potsdam with a letter begging its acceptance.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Lüneburg possessed two schools, attached respectively to the Churches of St. Michael and St. John, and the rivalry between the two was so keen that when, as was the custom during the winter months, the scholars were sent out to sing in the streets in order to collect money for their support, the respective routes to be traversed had to be carefully marked out so as to prevent a collision.
With his mouth curved into a cruel smile, Christoph seized the manuscript book and the copy, and, taking them from the room, hid them away in a new place where Sebastian could not possibly find them
Bach copying from his brothers book which he 'borrowed'
Then, taking his pen and some manuscript music-paper with which he had provided himself, he began his task of copying out the pieces contained in the book.
An hour or more slipped away in this absorbing occupation, and it was not until the moon had shifted her position, so that her rays no longer afforded the necessary light, that Sebastian ceased to ply his pen. Then, having hidden the book away and removed all traces of his work, the now wearied little musician sought his pillow and fell fast asleep.
'Christoph, I wish you would let me have that book of manuscript music which you have in your cupboard—the one which contains pieces by Pachelbel, and Frohberger, and Buxtehude, and ever so many others—you know which I mean. I will take such care of it if you will only lend it to me for a little while.'
Christoph was about to leave the room, but he turned sharply to his little brother as the latter put his request.
'No, Sebastian, I will certainly not lend you the book, and I wonder that you have the impertinence to ask me such a thing! The idea of your thinking that you could study such masters as Buxtehude and Frohberger—a child like you! Get on with what I have set you to learn, and do not let me hear any more of such fancies!'
With that Christoph shut the door behind him, and Sebastian was left to ponder sadly upon his elder brother's harshness in refusing to accede to his simple request. The disappointment was very keen, for little Sebastian had been longing to get possession of that precious volume. For several days past he had spent hours in his brother's absence gazing at its covers through the lattice doors of the cupboard, and feasting his eyes upon the names of the musicians which were written on the back in bold letters in Christoph's hand.
frequently the different members of the same band of minstrels present differences of costume, as in the instance here given, from the title-page of the fourteenth century MS. Add., 10,293; proving that the minstrels did not affect any uniformity of costume whatever.
In the MSS. we not unfrequently find the ordinary musical instruments placed in the hands of the angels; e.g., in the early fourteenth-century MS. Royal 2 B. vii., in a representation of the creation, with the morning stars singing together, and all the sons of God shouting for joy, an angelic choir are making melody on the trumpet, violin, cittern, shalm (or psaltery), and harp.
Another of these guilds was the ancient company or fraternity of minstrels in Beverley, of which an account is given in Poulson’s “Beverlac”. When the fraternity originated we do not know; but they were of some consideration and wealth in the reign of Henry VI., when the Church of St. Mary’s, Beverley, was built.
Besides the pipe and horn, the bagpipe was also a rustic instrument. The picture is a shepherd playing upon one.
It is curious to find that even at so late a period as the time of Queen Mary, the shepherds still officiated at weddings and other merrymakings in their villages, so as to excite the jealousy of the professors of the joyous science.
The accompanying wood-cut, from a MS. in the French National library, may represent such a rustic merry-making.
The picture is of a royal dinner of about the time of our Edward IV., “taken from an illumination of the romance of the Compte d’Artois, in the possession of M. Barrois, a distinguished and well-known collector in Paris
Regals or Organ (Royal, 14 E iii).
Regals and Double Pipe (Royal 2 B vii).
The picture is a curious illumination from the Royal MS. 2 B vii., representing a friar and a nun themselves making minstrelsy.
In the illustration, of early fourteenth-century date, the scene of the dance is not indicated; the minstrels themselves appear to be joining in the saltitation which they inspire.
The picture is an exceedingly interesting representation of a grand imperial banquet, from one of the plates of Hans Burgmair, in the volume dedicated to the exploits of the Emperor Maximilian, contemporary with our Henry VIII. It represents the entrance of a masque, one of those strange entertainments, of which our ancestors, in the time of Henry and Elizabeth, were so fond. The band of minstrels who have been performing during the banquet, are seen in the left corner of the picture.
The custom of having instrumental music as an accompaniment of dinner is still retained by her Majesty and by some of the greater nobility, by military messes, and at great public dinners. But the musical accompaniment of a mediæval dinner was not confined to instrumental performances. We frequently find a harper introduced, who is doubtless reciting some romance or history, or singing chansons of a lighter character. He is often represented as sitting upon the floor.
The shepherds, throughout the Middle Ages, seem to have been as musical as the swains of Theocritus or Virgil; in the MS. illuminations we constantly find them represented playing upon instruments; we give a couple of goatherds from the MS. Royal 2 B vii. folio 83, of early fourteenth-century date.
There were also female minstrels throughout the Middle Ages; but, as might be anticipated from their irregular wandering life, they bore an indifferent reputation.
Cymbals and Trumpets
In the MSS. we not unfrequently find the ordinary musical instruments placed in the hands of the angels
An engraving from a manuscript of a semi-choir of minoresses, which is only a portion of a large church interior.
The picture of a semi-choir of Franciscan friars is from a fourteenth-century psalter. The picture is worth careful examination for the costume of the friars—grey frock and cowl, with knotted cord girdle and sandalled feet; some wearing the hood drawn over the head, some leaving it thrown back on the neck and shoulders; one with his hands folded under his sleeves like the Cistercians at p. 17. The precentor may be easily distinguished in the middle stall beating time, with an air of leadership. There is much character in all the faces and attitudes—e.g., in the withered old face on the left, with his cowl pulled over his ears to keep off the draughts, or the one on the precentor’s left, a rather burly friar, evidently singing bass.
In a MS. volume of romances of the early part of the fourteenth century in the British Museum, the title-page of the romance of the “Quête du St. Graal” is adorned with an illumination of a royal banquet; a squire on his knee (as in the illustration given on opposite page) is carving, and a minstrel stands beside the table playing the violin
In the illustration, reproduced from Mr. Wright’s “Domestic Manners of the English,” we have a curious picture of a dance, possibly in the gallery, which occupied the whole length of the roof of most fifteenth-century houses; it is from a MS. of fifteenth-century date.
In all these instances the minstrels are on the floor with the dancers, but in the latter part of the Middle Ages they were probably—especially on festal occasions—placed in the music gallery over the screens, or entrance-passage, of the hall.
Negro harp of the NiamNiams a tribe in the vicinity of the Bahr-el-Abiad.
The body is of hollowed wood covered with skin, and the wooden neck terminates in a carved head with two horns.
The Chinese have full as great a variety of musical instruments as most other nations, but they are all of them indifferent, and the music, if it may be so called, produced out of them, execrable.
Hanging to Music. (A Minstrel condemned to the Gallows obtained permission that one of his companions should accompany him to his execution, and play his favourite instrument on the ladder of the Gallows.)--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in Michault's "Doctrinal du Temps Présent:" small folio, goth., Bruges, about 1490.
Sword-dance to the sound of the Bagpipe.--Fac-simile of a Manuscript in the British Museum (Fourteenth Century).