Uncommon Musical Instruments Part One
I have decided to write a series on uncommon musical instruments...Even if they are only uncommon to me. I will start with the Hurdy Gurdy and the Theremin as those two instruments are what started my journey to discovering such instruments as I had never before known existed.
It all started while I was listening to some music on a chill station on the internet, and I kept hearing this one instrument that had a haunting sound to it. It reminded me of a Bagpipe, yet not quite...Maybe a Bagpipe mixed with a Violin. So i went searching on the internet and discovered the Hurdy Gurdy. I then listened to different samples of it on YouTube. The above video is my favorite. The funny thing is that for the longest time I thought that video was of a man named Theremin playing Beowulf on a Hurdy Gurdy. Then while reading some comments on another video someone commented on the Theremin...and the man was not on that video, but there was someone on a strange instrument. Then I remembered what I had taken to be someone conducting the man doing Beowulf...Turns out it wasn't a conductor after all but someone playing an instrument called a Theremin. The Theremin sounds like a human voice and a violin mixed.
The Theremin is basically antennas and works by the proximity of your hands. The upright antenna controls tone and the vertical antenna controls volume (if I remember right). The Theremin was invented by a Russian Physicist named Leon Theremin in October of the year 1920, although it was not patented until the year 1928. Wikipedia has some very interesting information on how he came to invent this instrument. The Theremin is popular in films, television and even rock groups use it.
According to Wikipedia, the earliest version of the Hurdy Gurdy was called an organistrum, and was around as early as 945 AD or earlier. It is a combination instrument that is stringed and has a keyboard. It has a wheel that applies constant pressure to the strings creating a drone like a Bagpipe and the keys put pressure on the strings to create notes. The Hurdy Gurdy is also known as the Wheel Fiddle.
The Hurdy Gurdy give a beautiful, haunting melody to music, while the Theremin adds an almost pure vocal type pitch to music that perhaps could not otherwise be obtained. Of all the new instruments I have discovered, the Hurdy Gurdy ranks at the top as one of my all time favorites.