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Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Musical Instrument Museum, Part 7

This instrument is from India and is called a Harmonium. Indian devotional music is primarily vocal but a wide variety of instruments are played to accompany singers. The Harmonium, a small portable reed organ introduced to India by missionaries, is extremely popular for supporting vocalists of all types. This sample is constructed of teakwood, metal, plastic and paper — and was designed for portability — it can fold into a suitcase.

Here is displayed a Yangqin, a struck zither. Such instruments historically have used silk strings but now are strung with steel strings for greater volume. This Yangqin is made of rosewood and paulownian wood — it is modern having been constructed in Beijing in 2009. The modern Yangqin has a pitch range of over three octaves and plays a harmonizing role in the ensemble.

This beautiful instrument is a Pipa, a plucked lute — made of zitan and paulownia wood, cow bone and metal. This particular instrument was crafted in 2009 by China's most revered luthier, Man Ruixin. The tall frets allow the player to bend the strings to create spectacular ornamentations.

Tibet is officially a part of China but the Tibetans maintain their historic culture including their own musical culture. Buddhist monastic music is performed on bells, cymbals, drums and different forms of wind instruments. One such instrument is shown here — a Dung-chen, fabricated from copper and which can be collapsed like a telescope when not in use.

Now I feel like we're back in the Ancient Chinese Musical Instrument Exhibit with this display of a modern Pyeonjong. This set was crafted in 2009 by Kim Hyon-gon out of bronze and wood. I love the painted decorations on the frame.

This is rather interesting — a Chinese Lion Dance costume. It is worn by two dancers, one controlling the head and the other bringing up the rear. During festivals, Lion Dancers parade through the streets of every Chinese city to the deafening din of drums, gongs and cymbals together with the crackling of exploding firecrackers. You can even find such celebrations far from China such as in San Francisco's Chinatown.

In their hot, dusty, dimly lit workshop, Javanese gong makers harness the forces of nature — wind, fire and water — to transform tin and copper ores into polished and powerful gongs.

The fan starts, the wind blows, the fire rages, the metal glows, and the hammers fly, as the metalsmiths of Java give birth to a gong.

After heating, the red-hot disk is removed from the fire and placed on a hard surface for pounding. Several workers strike the disc with heavy hammers, taking turns to insure their work is even, efficient and melodious. After about 15 seconds, the disc — now slightly thinner and wider — is returned to the fire, and the process is repeated until a gong has taken shape and is ready for finishing.

Next we wander into the area of the Hawaiian Islands with a display of a pair of uli uli. The round base is fashioned from a gourd containing pebbles then topped with chicken feathers and mulberry bark. These instruments were fashioned by Kau‘i Zuttermeister.

If you would like to hear the uli uli in a performance click here for a first place performance in the annual Merrie Monarch Festival, held every April on the Big Island.

Last for today is an ipo heke — a hollow gourd with rope and mulberry bark fiber. For a video of a wonderful performance of the ipo heke click here. Wow! These last two performances are drawing me back to my favorite place in all the world. Can't wait.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com