Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/291

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VIOLIN.

and probably others were in use, each being adapted to the music intended to be performed.

The Guitar-fiddle was larger than the Geige and Rebec, and approximated in size to the Tenor. [See opposite, Fig. 6.] This instrument is probably the Fidel of Chaucer. It has place in English life as an instrument of luxury.

For him [i.e. the Oxford Clerk] had lever ban at his

beddes bed

A twenty bokes, clothed in black and red, Of Aristotle and his philosophy, Than robes rich, or Fidel or Sautrie.

(Canterbury Tales, Prologue.)

Existing representations of the Fidel appear to indicate that the increased length of the instru- ment was not at first accompanied by a cor- responding increase in the length of the strings, and that it was fitted with a tailpiece and loop of unusual length. It had no corner-blocks. A good idea of the mediaeval Fidel may be gained from the modern Spanish or common guitar, which appears to be simply the improved Fidel of the Troubadours minus its bridge, tailpiece, sound- post and soundholes. It has precisely the same arrangement for the pegs, which are screwed ver- tically into a flat head, which is often, but not always, bent back at an angle with the neck. The guitar, however, requires no bridge, and no soundpost: its tailpiece is glued to the belly, and it retains the primitive central soundhole, which in the bowed instrument gives place to a double soundhole on either side of the bridge. [See SOUNDHOLES.]

We now reach a step of the greatest impor- tance in the construction of bowed instruments, the invention of 'corner-blocks.' This improve- ment followed naturally from the invention of the waist. A modern violin has two projecting points on each of its sides, one at either ex- tremity of the bouts or bow-holes which form the waist of the instrument. In the classical pattern, which has prominent corner-blocks, these projections form a sharp angle : in the older ones, including the viols, the angle is less acute, and the corner therefore less prominent. These corners mark the position of triangular ' blocks ' inside, to which the ribs of the instru- ment are glued, and which are themselves glued to the back and belly, forming, so to speak, the cor- ner-stones of the construction. They contribute enormously to the strength and resonance of the fiddle. Corner-blocks, as well as bowed instru- ments of the larger sizes, first appear in the isth century : and as large fiddles can only be con- veniently constructed by means of corner-blocks we may fairly conclude that the two inventions are correlative.

The writer inclines to ascribe the origin of corner-blocks to Germany, because it was in that land of mechanical inventions that the manufacture of the viol in its many varieties was chiefly carried on by the lute-makers from 1450 to 1600, because the earliest known instru- ment-makers, even in France and Italy, were Germans, and because it is in the German musical handbooks of the first part of the 1 6th century Virdung, Luscinius, Juden-

��VIOLIN.

��275

���kiinig, Agricola, and Gerle that we find the viol family for the first time specifically described. This invention was the turning-point in the de- velopment of bowed instruments. It not only separated them definitely from their cognates of the lute and guitar class, but it gave them immense variety in design, and rendered them easier to make, as well as stronger and more resonant. Whether double or single corner- blocks were first employed, is uncertain. Possi- bly the first step was the introduction of single corner-blocks, by which the ribs were increased from two to four, the upper ones having an in- ward curvature where the bow crosses the strings. The illustration is from a drawing by Raffaelle, p JG rj t in whose paintings

the viol with single corner - blocks oc- curs several times. [For another speci- men, see SOUND- HOLES, Fig. 3.] Sin- gle corner - blocks were occasionally used long after the introduction of dou> bleones. The writer has seen very good old Italian tenors and double-basses with single corners. A well-known specimen in painting is the fine Viola da gamba in Domenichino's St. Cecilia. The vibration is more rapid and free than that of the instrument with double corners, but the tone is consequently less intense.

But the foundation on which fiddle-making was finally to rest was the viol with double corners. Double corners produced a new con- structive feature, viz. the 'middle bouts,' or simply the 'bouts,' the ribs which curve in- wards between the two corner-blocks. While the corner-blocks enormously increased the re- sonance of the fiddle, the bouts liberated the right hand of the player. In early times the hand must have been kept in a stiff and cramped position. The bouts for the first time rendered it possible for the fiddler to get at his strings : and great stimulus to play- ing must have been the consequence. It was long before the proper propor- tions of the bouts were settled. They were made small and deep, or long and shallow, at the maker's caprice. At one period, probably an early one, their enormous size ren- dered them the most con- spicuous feature in the out- line. It would seem that fiddlers desired to carry their newly- won freedom of hand to the utter- most : and the illustrations in Agricola prove that this preposterous model prevailed for in- struments of all four sizes. The fantastic outlines which were produced

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��FIG. 8.

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