Thursday, September 1, 2016

Artistic Interpretations with Margaret - The Met's Musical Instruments Exhibit

Welcome to Artistic Interpretations.  I made another trip to New York a few months ago to visit my son and we had a fantastic time tooling around the Metropolitan Museum.  This was the first time I visited the Musical Instruments Exhibit and I was quite taken with their artistry and history.    I share a few of them here with you.

For this challenge, you may write in any poetic form that suits your fancy.  You may be inspired by the photo, the You Tube Link provided for each, or a bit of both.   Please link your original poem (or poems) to Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and be sure to pay a friendly visit to the other linked poets.  

Thank you for playing and I look forward to your artistic interpretation!

Taus - Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the 19th century, bowed instruments fashioned in the shape of peacocks were quite popular.  Taus is the Persian word for peacock.  Sikhs credit the invention of the taus to Guru Har Gobind (1594-1644), the sixth Sikh Guru.  The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) is credited with inventing the dilruba, the descendant of the taus.  Today performance of this instrument is most popular among Sikhs, who primarily live in the Panjab region of India and Pakistan.  Mayuri comes from the Hindu word Mor (peacock).  By the late 19th century, peacocks were commonly associated with Saraswati the goddess of knowledge and music.

You Tube Video Link for the Taus:

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Veena - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Veena detail - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Also known as Saraswati even, after the Hindu Goddess of knowledge and music, this veena is the principal stringed instrument of South Indian classical music (Carnatic).   Unlike the North Indian bin, or ruder veena, the head of the Saraswati veena often takes the form of a yali, a protective spirit with the head of a lion and body of a dragon.  The yali on this even is elaborately painted and gold leafed.  The gourd-shaped counterweight features a painting of a deer on a floral pattern.

You Tube Video Link for the Veena:

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Lute Moon Guitar - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lute (Moon Guitar) - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lute - Moon Guitar 

Thailand - I believe it can also be called the Yueqin.   HERE is a Wikipedia description.  I'm quite taken with the beautiful sound of this instrument.

You Tube Video Links for the Lute: and

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Elephant Bell - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Elephant Bell

The design of this bell is typical of southeast Asian animal bells.  This one, like smaller identical bells worn by water buffalo, was mounted upon a yoke.

You Tube Link for the Elephant Bell:

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Sioux Drum - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Drum (Sioux, 1887)

United States, Northern Great Plains.  Wood, leather, sinew, metal, pigment.  Symbolic patterns and figures frequently decorated Native American drums.  This one, made about 1887, was painted by Thunder Elk in 1904 but its symbolism is unclear.  Yellow, here representing the earth, is often associated with abundance and dark blue with the sky.  Frame drums were used to accompany song and dance in both secular and sacred contexts.

You Tube Link for Sioux Drum: "Sioux Honor Song" (a tribute to the warrior "Crazy Horse":

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Stradivari's "Batta-Piatigorsky" Violincello -
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The "Batta-Piatigorsky" Violoncello

Just as Stradivari's career began about 1665, there was a major advance in string making:  the development of gut strings overseen with fine metal wire.  With the availability of these new strings, Stradivari was able to reduce the size of the cello, thereby improving its acoustical qualities and making it easer to play.  Of the approximately sixty Stradivari cellos that are extent, about twenty are of this smaller size.  The "Batta-Piatigorsky" is considered one of the best examples of this smaller, improved model.

The "Batta-Piatigorsky" 'cello is named after the distinguished Dutch cellist Alexandre Batta (1816-1902), who purchased it in Paris about 1836.  This instrument was Batta's steady companion for most of his career, but in 1893, circumstances forced him to part with it, and he sold it to the London dealer William E. Hill & Sons, who purchased it for the violin collector Baron Knoop.  the great Russian-born cellist Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976) acquired the instrument from Dr. Daniel Catlin, the son-in-law of th heart collector and Metropolitan Museum trustee, Horace Havemeyer, who himself owned and had lent Piatigorsky another important Stradivari cello, the "Dupont."  Piatigorsky wrote in his autobiography:  I played the "Batta for a long time before appearing in concert with it.  In solitude, as is befitting honeymooners, we avoided interfering company until then.  From that day on, when I proudly carried the "Batta" across the stage for all to greet, a new challenge entered into my life.  While all other instruments I had played prior other "Batta" differed one from the other in character and range, I knew their qualities, shortcomings, or their capabilities to full advantage.  Not so with the "Batta," whose prowess had no limitations.  Bottomless in its resources, it spurred me on to try to reach its depths, and I have never worked harder or desired anything more fervently than to draw out of the superior instrument all it has to give.

I don't believe any of the videos are of the "Batta", but certainly a genius of the man shines through.

You Tube Gregor Piatigorsky plays Bach Bourses:
You Tube Gregor Piatigorsky plays Tchaikovsky Waltz:
You Tube Gregor Piatigorsky plays Chopin Sonata:

(Three?  Yes, because the cello is my favorite instrument.  Hope you enjoy it)

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Baroque Guitar - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Baroque Guitar detail - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Baroque Guitar

The guitar above is attributed to Matteo Sallas (1612-1652) Venice, 1630-50.  This guitar has five double strings - a model now known as a "baroque guitar" since the form was popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  The strings are made of gut, as are the frets along the neck that are tied to the instrument.  The guitar has a vaulted back with scalloped snakewood ribs and ivory spacers.  The back of the neck is inlaid in a checkerboard pattern made of bone and snakewood squares.  The rosette (a modern replacement) is of parchment.  The Sellas family, active in Venice in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, was noted for their highly ornamented lutes and guitars.

You Tube Link to the Baroque Guitar:

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African Lyre - Metropolitan Museum of Arrt

Lyres have two wood or horn arms that project from the body and carry a crossbar to which the upper ends of th strings are fastened.  The strings lie nearly parallel to the countable.  African lyre bodies are made of wood, gourds, tortoise or coconut shells.  Most African lyres lack bridges:  the strings vibrate against the soundable to create a buzzing sound.

#6) Decorative lyre made for export - Central or East Africa

#7) Ending with lizardskin soundable and hide tuning rings Ganda or Uganda?

You Tube Link to the (East) African Lyre (voice of Ayub Ogada - Kothbiro):

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Ngombi - Metropolitan Museum of Art

When used in rituals of the Bwiti religious group, the sound of the ngombi is thought to be the voice of the "sister of the creator" (Nyingwan Mebege).  Her likeness is carved on the top of the harp and the strings are thought to be sinews of her body representing her endurance and flexibility.  The ngombi is also used among Catholics in Gabon for whom the harp is the interpreter of God's words to man and a symbol of the Holy Virgin.  The harpist asks God questions with the four higher strings and the four lower strings give God's answers.

You Tube Link to the Ngombi:


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Thanks, Margaret. Your prompt set up a little tune, in my heart.

Stacie Eirich said...

OMG seriously?! I can't hold back my enthusiasm for this post, Margaret! Love, love, LOVE the Met museum and how I wish to see this exhibit! The history of instruments is fascinating, as well as their unique sounds -- can't wait to listen to the clips! I have no doubts as to being inspired to write from this. ;) Stacie

Debi Swim said...

Thanks for the prompt. It made me research and I was fascinated by all the info.

Kerry O'Connor said...

This is fascinating information, Margaret. I would like to sample each instrument.. Unfortunately I have a busy weekend ahead and will be away but I shall certainly return to the challenge when I have some time at my disposal.

Gillena Cox said...

very interesting photos, links, factoid, music. Luv everything about this prompt

much love...

Outlawyer said...

Wonderful prompt, Margaret. k.

Susie Clevenger said...

Lovely photos and the notes with them. Thank you so much for the inspiration Margaret!

brudberg said...

So much to love about traditional and old music... our modern setup is so limited... It's really hard to chose an instrument here.

Jim said...

Hi Margaret ~~ I'm really late again, but it was a fun write, if you call it that this time. I picked the Tau. I have it played with a bow and also had a YouTube playing by strumming only. But when the words got done I had lost my Strumming YouTube. Sorry.
You play the cello, Mrs. Jim plays the Viola, same octave. Rather she did until arthritis got her hands and fingers to being too stiff. And hurting. For a while after stopping play, she was still the orchestra librarian but not than now either.

rallentanda said...

Thank you for this interesting piece on those musical instruments. Will listen to all those links.