Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/290

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274

��VIOLIN.

��much older. Another striking illustration of the identity of fiddling and the fiddler now and six hundred years ago is afforded by the bow- hands of the mediaeval players, whose grasp of the bow is generally marked by perfect freedom and cor- rectness.

These early mediaeval fiddles were small instru- ments of simple construction and slight musical capacity, chiefly used in merrymakings to ac- company song or dance. Companies of profes- sional players were maintained by noblemen for their amusement: witness the four-and-twenty fiddlers of Etzel in the Nibelungenlied. The reader will remember that Etzel's private band of fiddlers, richly dressed, and headed by their leaders, Schwemel and Werbel, are chosen as his messengers into Burgundy: and among the noble Burgundian guests whom they bring back is the redoubtable amateur fiddler Volker, who lays about him like a wild boar with his 'Videlbogen starken, michel, unde lane,' doing as much execu- tion, says the rhymer, as an ordinary man with a broadsword. Volker ' der videlar,' or ' der spileman,' as he is often called, is not a mere figment of the poet. Everything proves the mediaeval fiddles to have been popular instru- ments, and their use seems to have been familiar to all classes. Wandering professional musicians, 'fahrende Leute,' carried them from place to place, playing and singing to them for subsist- ence. Among the amateurs who played them were parsons and parish clerks : witness the parish clerk Absolon of Chaucer, who could ' play tunes on a small ribible,' and the unfortunate par- son of Ossemer, near Stendal, who, according to the Brunswick Chronicle (quoted by Forkel), was killed by a stroke of lightning as he was fiddling for his parishioners to dance on Wednesday in Whitsun-week in I2O3. 1

These primitive fiddles apparently sufficed the musical world of Europe until the isth century. Their compass seems to have been an octave and a half, from C to G, including the mean notes of the female or boy's voice. The extension of the compass downwards is probably the clue to the improvement which followed. It may be observed that the development of musical instru- ments has always been from small to large and from high to low : the ear, it would seem, seeks ever more and more resonance, and musical re- quirements demand a larger compass: but the development of the Song in the hands of the Troubadours affords an adequate explanation of the fact that the fiddle-maker about this time strove to make his resonant box larger. But there is an obvious limit : if the belly is greatly widened the bow cannot be made to touch the strings without making the bridge of inordinate height. Some ingenious person, about the 1 3th century, devised an alternative : this consisted in constructing the sides of the resonant box with a contrary flexure, giving the contour of the instru-

l ' In dussem Jore geschah eln Wundertrecken bey Stendal In dem Dorpe gehrten Ossemer, dor sat de Parner des Mldweckens in den Pinxten und veddelte synen Buren to dem Danse, da quam eln Donnerschlach, and schloch dem Parner synen Arm aff mid dem Veddelbogen und XXIV Lude tod up dem Tyn.'

��VIOLIN.

ment a wavy character, exactly like the guitar, and making a sort of waist. By this means the bridge could be left at the proper height, while the capacity of the instrument in respect of size, compass, and resonance was increased. Some unknown mechanic thus invented what came to be called in Northern Europe the Fidel, in Northern France the Vielle, in Southern France and Italy the Viole. We have called it the Guitar-fiddle. There can be little doubt that Provence is its motherland, and that it first came into use among the Troubadours.

FIG. 6.

���The invention of the waist was the first prin- cipal step in the development of the Viol, and this feature was only possible in instruments con- structed like the monochord and hurdy-gurdy, with sides or ribs. The Geige, Crowd, and Kebec were constructed on the principle of the Lute, which still survives in the Mandolin : they con- sisted of a flat belly and a convex back, joined oyster-fashion by the edges. No improvement as regards resonance was possible in these oyster- shaped instruments : the fiddle of the future re- quired a certain depth in all its parts, which can only be given by sides or ribs. No other instrument was capable of a waist : and as the reader is aware, the body of such an instrument was ready to hand in the small organistrum or hurdy-gurdy. The Guitar-fiddle was simply a Hurdy-gurdy played with the bow. The de- scription of it by Jerome of Moravia proves that it was a harmonic as well as a melodic in- strument. It had five strings, the lowest of which was a bourdon, i. e. was longer than the rest, and did not pass over the nut, but was attached to a peg outside the head. In the long Bourdon of the Troubadour's-fiddle we thus have the origin of the fourth string, which was afterwards reduced to the normal length by the expedient of covering it with wire. ^ The two highest strings were usually tuned in unison : this enabled the player either to double the highest note, or to play in thirds, at pleasure. Jerome of Moravia gives three different tunings,

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