George Grove.

A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

. (page 64 of 194)
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selves. For, although the fittings of the two
classes differed, it was not until the 15th cen-
tur}' that any constructive difference was effected
between plucked and bowed instruments. In
that century the discovery seems to have been
made that an arched back and a flat belly were
best for the plucked class, and a flat back and
arched belly with inwardly curving bouts for the
bowed class ; and hence the lute and the viol.
A higher biidge, supported by a soundpost, in
the bowed class, completed the separation. Both
however were strung alike : and down to the
time of Bach the same music often served for
both, and was played with identical stringing
and fingering.

It is curious that both the pianoforte and the
violin owe their origin to the monochord. Fami-
liarity with the monochord might have early sug-
gested that by stopping the strings of the lyre
upon a fingerboard the number of strings neces-
sary to the latter instrument might be diminished
by two-thirds, the tuning facilitated, and the
compass extended. But before any improvement
in this direction was ever made, the monochord
itself had been developed into other instruments
by the application of the bow and the wheel. The
monochord consisted of an oblong box, at each end
of which was fixed a triangular nut. A peg at the
tail end of the box served to attach the string : at
the other end the string was strained tight, at first
by weights, by changing which the ten.sion and
pitch of the string were altered at pleasure, after-
wards by a screw. Beneath the string were
marked those combinations of the aliquot parts of
the string which yielded the diatonic scale. The
belly was pierced with soundholes near the tail ;
a moveable block or bridge somewhat higher
than the nuts served to cut off so much of tlie
string as was necessary to produce the desired
note. This moveable bridge has survived in all
bowed instruments, though its position is never
changed ; and it will serve to the end of time to
connect them with their original.




This now-forgotten instrument was the main
foundation on which inediiPval music rested. By
its aid the organ was tuned, and the voice of the
singer was trained to the ecclesiastical scales,
the principal of which, with their Authentic
and Plagal tones, were graduated upon it in
parallel lines. The oldest representations of the
monochord show it horizontally placed on a
table and plucked with the finger : but as the
most primitive of bowed instruments is simply
a bowed monochord, it may fairly be assumed
that the bow was early employed to render its
tones continuous. Probably a common mili-
tary bow was originally used. Nothing could
be more natural. The monochord was used, as
already said, to tune the organ and to train the
voice : and its efficiency in both respects would
be greatly increased by thus prolonging its
sounds. The wheel was probably used at an
early period as a substitute for the bow ; and
the monocliord was thus ready for furtlier de-

Adapted so as to be handled vertically, i.e.
with one end on the ground, it became the
Trummscheidt or Marine Trumpet. [See Tromba
Marina.] In its primitive form, the Trumm-
scheidt must have been very unlike the mature
instrument as described in that article. As we
find it in old pictures, it was a monochord about
6 feet long, the lower part consisting of a large
wooden sheath, 4 feet long and about 10 inches
wide at the bottom, and diminishing to 5 inches
in width where it joins the handle. The handle
and head together were about 2 feet long. It
had a common bridge, and was played, not in
harmonics, but by stopping and bowing in the
ordinary way. We know from Mersenne that it
was occasionally strung with two or more strings,
thus forming, if the expression is f)ermissible, a
double or triple monochord.

Wliether the second modification of the mono-
chord, in which it retains its horizontal position,
and the string is set in vibration by a wheel and
handle, and which is represented by theOrganis-
trum or Hurdy-gurdy, preceded or followed the
Trummscheidt in )ioint of time cannot be deter-
mined. Structurally the Orgauistrura departs
less from the monochord than the Trummscheidt
does, because the horizontal position is retained :
on the other hand, the invention of the wheel
and handle cannot have preceded that of the bow,
for which it is a substitute. Originally the Or-
gani.strum was an ecclesiastical instrument, and
it may be said to be a combination of the mono-
chord and the organ. It was made of large size,
and was played, like the organ, by divided labour,
the performer being solely concerned with the
clavier, while an assistant supplied the rotary or
grinding motion which produced the tone. The
large Organistruni is found in the sculpture over
the celebrated door of Santiago at Compostella,
which proves its position among ecclesiastical
instruments. But we have also actual specimens
which appear to have been used in the church.
Two are preserved in the Germanic Museum at
Nuremberg, in both of which the size and orna-

mentation leave no doubt as to their ecclesiastical

Meanwhile, the Roman Lyre or Fidicula, ii;
various modified forms, had never gone out 0!
use. Introduced into Celtic Britain by the Ro'
mans, the Fidicida was called by the Britonf
'Crwth,' a word which signifies 'a bulging box.
Latinised as ' Chrotta,' this became by phoneti<
decay ' Hrotta' and ' Rotte.' The meaning of th«
word, taken together with existing pictures, givei
us a clue to its shape. The upper part consistec
of two uprights and a crosspiece or transtillum
the lower part of a box bulging at the back, anc
flat at the front where the strings were extended
From the illustrations in old manuscripts it ap;
pears that sometimes the resonant box wai
omitted and the type of the primitive harp wai
approached. In either form the primitive fidicuh:
must have been of small size. It afiparentbi
had neither bridge nor fingerboard, and wa.i
plucked with the fingers. But in a celebrated an ;
cient 'Harmony of the Gospels' in the Frankisl!
dialect, attributed to Ottfried von Weissenburf
(84 o-S 70), we find the Lyre, the Fiddle, the Harp
and the Crwth, all enumerated in the Celestia
Concert.'^ Were any of these instruments playec
with the bow 1 In other words, does this passag«
indicate that the art of fiddling is a thousanc
years old ? The writer is inclined to think thai
it does. It is hai'd to see how so many sorti
of stringed instruments could have been diffe
rentiated, except by the circumstance that somt
of them were played with the bow : and in ar
English manuscript of not much later date be
longing to either the loth or nth century, wt
have a positive representation of an Englisl
fiddler with fiddle and bow, the former being, ii
fact, the instrument called by Chaucer the Ribible'
and afterwards generally known by the name i]
its French form 'Rebec'

Fig. 2.


Certainly in the nth or loth, probably in th
9th century, the bow, the bridge, and the finger
board, all derived from the monochord, had evi

1 One very large and heavy one has a crucifix carved near ^^

handle, and the lid ornamented with carvings: the other hi

the sacred monogram and sacred heart.

ii ' Sih thar ouh al ruarit

Thas orgaiia tuarit

Lira joh Fidula

Joh managfaliu Swegala

llarpha joh Rutta

Joh thaz joh Guates dohta/

(Suhilter, Thesaurus Autiq. Teut, vol. i. p. STJ


atly been applied to the ' Fidicula' or ' Crwth.'
le instrument is altered precisely as might have
3n expected. The crosspiece and uprights have
[appeared. Their place is taken by a neck and
ad, the latter forming a peg-box ; and the bulg-
r lower part of the instrument is modified to
it the change. It may well be, however, that
:s primitive bowed instrument was the direct
scendaut of the lute-shaped fidicula which the
igenti sarcophagus (p. 267) proves to have
isted before the Christian era, and that it is
intical with the 'Fidula' of Ottfried.
Sometimes the crosspiece and uprights, placed
newhat closer together, were retained side by
.e with the new features, the neck and finger-
FiG. 3,



ard. The above cut, from Worcester Cathedral ,
:ves to illustrate the coalition of the Crwth and
ibec, the upper part of the instrument being in-
:mediate between the two. The instrument
us produced is the bowed Crwth, to which, fol-
ving Mr. Engel, it may be convenient to assign
e name of Crowd, leaving the original word
wth to designate the primitive fidicula plucked
th the fingers. In point of tone and execution
e Crowd and the Rebec were identical. The
ovvd was the Crwth with the addition of a
idge and a fingerboard : the Rebec was the
owd minus its uprights and crosspiece, and
ving a pear-shaped body. The name Fidel, the
cayed form of ' Fidicula,' probably indifferently
plied to both, and was afterwards used for the
•ger instrument presently mentioned.
The ' Geige,' which some authorities have
sated as an independent instrument, appears
be practically identical with the Rebec. In the
ibelungenlied the instrument played by tlie
'^idelar'is called the ' Glge,' though the bow
always called 'Videlbogen.' Mediaeval sculp-
re, painting, manuscripts and heraldry yield
mberless illustrations of the ' Geige.' If there
is any marked difference between it and the
jbec it amounted to this, that the Rebec had a
xrower pear-shaped body, like the lute, while
e Geige had a short neck fitted to an oval or
•cular resonant box.
VOL. IV. PT. p..

The accompanying woodcut is taken from
Cologne Cathedral, and shows the Geige of the
13th century.

Fig. 4.

The next, from the Kreuz-Capelle in Burg Carl-
stein in Bohemia, shows the improved one of
p,e_ 5^ the 14th century. The

name 'Geige' probably
contains the root ' jog ' or
'jig,' the connection lying
in tlie jogging or jigging
^^ motion of the fiddler's right


A writer of the 13th
century gives instructions
both for this small fiddle,
which he calls ' Rubeba,'
and for the larger Fidel,
then just coming into use,
which he calls *Viella.'^ The Rubeba or
Rebec, according to him, had two strings only,
which were tuned by the interval of a fifth, the
lower being C, the upper G. * Hold it clo^e to
the head,' he writes, ' between the thumb and
forefinger of the left hand.' He then minutely
describes the fingering, which is as follows ; —


It will at once strike the reader that we practi-
cally have here the second and third strings of the
violin. A third string was soon added : and we
know from Agricola that the highest string of the
three-stringed Rebec was tuned a fifth higher,
thus ;

- 1st string.

- 2nd String.
3rd Striiig.

We have here practically the three highest strings
of the violin : and it is thus clear that the violin,
in everything except the ultimate shape of the
resonant box and the fourth string, is at least
as old as the 13th century, and probably very

1 Jerome of Moravia (a Dominican monli of Paris). 'Speculum
Musices,* printed in Cousseraalier, Soriptores de Jlusica Medil
Aevi. Tom. i. The original MS. is in the P.ibliolheque Xatioiiale :
Fonds de la Sorbonne. No. ]S]7. A French translation, with noies
by M. Feme, appeared iii Fetls's Kevue Musicals lor lt2T




much older. Another striking illustration of the
identity of fiddling and the tiddler 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-

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. Tlie
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 Vollcer, 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,' carrietl 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
lor his parishioners to dance on Wednesday in
Whitsun-week in 120.^.^

These primitive fiddles apparently sufficed the
musical world of Europe until the 13th 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 lie
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-

1 'In dussem Jore geschah eirv Wundertrecken bey Stendal in dem
Dorpe gehrten Ossemer. dor sat de I'arner des Midweckens in den
Pinxten und veddeite synen Buren to dem Danse, da quam ein
Donnersclilach. und schloch dem Parner synen Arm aff mid dem
Veddelbogen und XXIV Lude tod uo dem Tvti.'


ment a wavy character, exactly like the guitar
and making a sort of waist. By this means th«
bridge could be left at the proper height, whil(
the capacity of the instrument in respect of size
compass, and resonance was increased. Som(
unknown mechanic thus invented what came t<
be called in Northern Europe the Eidel, ii
Northern France the Vielle, in Southern Franci
and Italy the Viole. We have called it the
Guitar-fiddle. There can be little doubt ths
Provence is its motherland, and that it firs
came into use among the Troubadours.

Fir,. 6.

The invention of the waist was the first prii
cipal step in the development of the Viol, and th
feature was only possible in instruments coi
structed like the monochord and hurdy-gurd
with sides or ribs. The Geige, Crowd, and ileb
were constructed on the principle of the Lut
which still survives in the Mandolin: they co
sisted of a flat belly and a convex back, joini
oyster-fashion by the edges. No improveme
as regards resonance was possible in these oyste
shaped instruments: the fiddle of the future i
quired a certain depth in all its parts, whi
can only be given by sides or ribs. No oth
instrument was capable of a waist : and as t,
reader is aware, the body of such an instrume
was ready to hand in the small organistrum
hurdy-gurdy. The Guitar-fiddle was simply
Hurdy-gurdy played with the bow. The c
scription of it by .Jerome of Moravia pro\
that it was a harmonic as well as a melodic i
strument. It had five strings, the lowest
which was a bourdon, i. e. was longer than t
rest, and did not pass over the nut, but w
attached to a peg outside the head. In t
long Bourdon of the Troubadour's-fiddle we th
have the origin of the fourth string, which v\
afterwards reduced to the normal length by t
expedient of covering it with wire. The t
highest strings were usually tuned in uniso
this enabled the player either to double t
highest note, or to play in thirds, at pleasijf
Jerome of Moravia gives three different tunSR


id jirobably others were in use, each being
lapted to the music intended to be performed.
The Guitar-fiddle was larger than the Geige
id Rebec, and approximated in size to the
3nor. (See opposite, Fig. 6.] Tiiis instrument

probably the Fidel of (Jhaucer. It has place

English life as an instrument of lu.xury.

For him [i.e. the Oxford Clerk] had lever han at his
beddes hed

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 tlie Fidel appear to
dicate that the increased length of the instrn-
ent was not at first accompanied by a cor-
sponding increase in the length of the strings,
id that it was fitted with a tailpiece and loop
unusual length. It had no corner-blocks. A
lod idea of the medieval Fidel may be gained
•m the modern Spanish or common guitar,
iich appears to be simply the improved Fidel of
e Troubadours minus its bridge, tailpiece, sound-
st and soundlioles. It has precisely the same
rangement for the pegs, which are screwed ver-
;ally into a flat head, which is often, but not
ways, bent back at an angle with the neck,
le guitar, however, requires no bridge, and no
undpost : its tailpiece is glued to the belly,
id it retains the primitive central soundhole,
iiicli in the bowed instrument gives place to
double soundhole on either side of the bridge.


We now reach a step of the greatest impor-
nce in the construction of bowed instruments,
16 invention of 'corner-blocks.' This improve-
ent followed naturally from the invention of
le waist. A modein violin has two projecting
)ints on each of its sides, one at eitiier ex-
eniity of tlie bouts or bow-holes which form
le waist of the instrument. In the classical
ittern, which has prominent corner-blocks,
!ese projections form a sliarp angle : in the
der ones, including the viols, the angle is less
•ate, and the corner therefore less prominent,
hese corners mark the position of triangular
)locks' inside, to which the ribs of the instru-
ent are glued, and which are themselves glued to
e back and belly, forming, so to speak, the cor-
T-stones of the construction. They contribute
lormously to the strength and resonance of the
Idle. Corner-blocks, as well as bowed instru-
jents of the larger sizes, first appear in the 15th
ntury : and as large fiddles can only be con-
niently constructed by means of corner-blocks
i may fairly conclude that the two inventions
e correlative.

The writer inclines to ascribe the origin of
rner-blocks to Germany, because it was in
at land of mechanical inventions tliat the
mufacture of the viol in its many varieties
IS chiefly carried on by the lute-makers from
50 to 1600, because the earliest known instru-
mt-makers, even in France and Italy, were
irmans, and because it is in the German
i-'iical handbooks of the first part of the
th century — Virdung, Luscinius, Juden-




kiinig, Agricola, and Geile — that we find the
viol family for the first time specilically 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 bovv crosses the strings.
The illustration is from a drawing by Ratiaelle,
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
ble ones. 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 gamha in Domenichino's St,
Cecilia. The vibiation 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,
p-obably 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 wei-e produced


Fig. 8.



by this extra vngant cutting of the bouts were
sometimes further complicated by adding more
blocks at the top, or bottom, or both, and by
cutting some of the ribs in two pieces, and
turning the ends in at riijht angles. The former
of these devices was early abandoned, and few
specimens of it exist : but the latter was some-
times used for the viola d'amore in the last cen-
tury. Its tendency is to diminish the vibrational
capacity, and the intensity of the tone. Its adop-
tion was partly due to artistic considerations,
and it is capable of great variety in design. But
it naturally went out of practical use, and the
viol settled down to its normal model about the
beginning of the i6th century, by the final adop-
tion of the simple outline, with double corners
and moderately long and shallow bouts.

Concurrently with these experiments on the
outline, we trace a series of experiments on the
place and shape of the soundholes and bridge.
For a sketch of the development of the former,
the reader is referred to the article Soundholes.
Their true place, partly in the waist, and partly
in the lower part of the instrument, was not de-
fined until after the invention of the violin. In
the guitar-fiddle the soundholes had naturally
fallen into something nearly approaching their
true position. But the invention of the bouts
displaced them, and for nearly a century we find
them shifting about on the surface of the instru-
ment. Sometimes, indeed, it occurs to tlie early
viol-makers to leave them in the waist between
the bouts. But at first we frequently find them
in the upper part of the instrument, and this is
found even in instances where their shape is of
an advanced type.

Later, we usually find the soundholes and
bridge crowded into the lower part of the in-
strument, near the tailpiece, the instrument-
maker evidently aiming at Fig. 9.
leaving as much as possi-
ble of the belly intact, for
the sake of constructive
strength. The illustration
is from Jost Amman's
' Biichlein aller Stiinde.'
and represents a minstrel
of the 1 6th century per-
forming on a three-stringed
Double Bass.

Afterwards the sound-
holes are placed between
the bouts, the extrenrities
of both approximately
corresponding, the bridge
standing beyond them. This
arrangement prevailed dur-
ing the early half of the
i6th century. It was not
until the violin model had been some time in use
that the soundholes were lowered in the model,
extending from the middle of the waist to a short
distance below the bouts, and the bridge fixed in

Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 64 of 194)