Thursday, November 23, 2006

Instruments With Funny Names

Ok, I know this isn't a scholarly article. There have been heroic attempts to classify and describe the vast array of instruments that exist and have existed throughout the world, but this isn't one of them.

Important factors in describing instruments include: method of sound production, materials used in construction, tuning practices, cultural factors that influence the design and use of an instrument, political conflicts which influence the spread or decline of particular instruments, linguistic or etymological factors that influence the naming of instruments, etc.

If you present this type of information to a group of children (or even most adults), you are likely to receive a lot of yawns and blank stares. If, however, you just mention the word sackbut, you are almost guaranteed a response of smiles and giggles.

The scholarly among us may point out that funny instrument names were usually not meant to be funny at the time the instrument was commonly used. The fact that we now find them humorous is a sad commentary on the current disassociation of modern society with historical cultures.

It might be worth discussing this in greater detail, but not now. For now, I will content myself to just list some instruments that sound funny to me. Click on the name if you want to learn more.

Sackbut, serpent, crumhorn, racket, hurdy-gurdy, didgeridoo, diddley bow, bombard,
sarrusophone, clavicytherium, banjolele, crotalum, oliphant, heckelphone, kazoo, theorbo, trautonium, ophicleide, orpharion, viola pomposa, nose flute, nose whistle

What instrument names sound funny to you? Which instrument do you think has the funniest name? So far, my vote goes to sackbut, but I would be happy to change my mind if you come up with something better.

If you would prefer a more serious discussion of this topic, please see Of Phonemes, Fossils and Webs of Meaning:
The Interpretation of Language Variation and

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Listen to a Lutecast

I just learned of a new lute blog that I thought my readers would enjoy. It's called The Lutecast. It features podcasts about lute music and composers. (Hint: click on the post titles to hear the podcasts.) It's a new site, but there are enough podcasts to keep you busy for a few hours.

The Lute Society of America

It's good to see that appreciation of the European lute has spread well beyond the confines of Europe.

The Lute Society in the U.K. was the first lute society, but I was surprised to hear that The Lute Society of America is now just as big. If you check their links page you will find that there are several other lute societies throughout the world, including one in Japan.

I encourage you to visit The Lute Society of America. Check out their downloads page for sound samples and other resources. If your interest in the lute is more than casual, it may be worth it to become a member and get a subscription to their LSA Quarterly and Journal.

I would like to thank my readers who pointed out that I neglected to have a link to this society in my sidebar. I have corrected the oversight. I appreciate any comments that alert me to resources that deserve a mention on this blog.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sting's New Lute CD

It's fortunate for me that I decided to start this blog at about the same time that Sting released his new CD "Songs From the Labyrinth" featuring lute songs by John Dowland.

I should have posted about this much sooner, but I was a little intimidated. I have been following some of the online discussions and I have to admit that there are a lot of people who are much better qualified to evaluate this CD than I am.

Still, I would like to share my thoughts and, more importantly, give you an opportunity to do the same.

I'm not a lutenist, but I know enough to recognise that Sting's performance isn't entirely authentic. This doesn't concern me too much, although I can certainly understand how some people might be bothered by it.

I think it's great that a popular musician is willing to experiment in early music. The results might not live up to some people's expectations, but the songs are quite interesting and enjoyable.

The best thing about this CD is the attention it is giving to early music. I have often thought that more people would enjoy early music if they only had more of a chance to be exposed to it. This CD may provide that opportunity.

I recommend that you visit the NPR website for a nice article on Sting's CD. It also has some audio examples and excerpts from an interview.

You may also enjoy visiting my Video Blog for a post on Sting Plays the Lute.

Please leave a comment about what you think.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

View Instrument Videos at my New Video Blog

I now have a video blog called Video Archive by Daniel Thompson. It's a collection of videos with cultural and educational value.

I plan on including videos on a wide variety of subjects including some on early instruments. You may enjoy the following posts:

Viol Videos
Sting Plays the Lute
More Lute Videos