Curiosities of Music - online book

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head to the handle; but the head of this primitive fiddle is hollow, and holds a sounding board, though a very small one, of gazelle's skin. The sounds drawn from this oriental fiddle are said to set one's teeth on edge; it is said to be the most execrable of all Chinese instruments. The in­vention of this fiddle cannot be ascribed to the Chinese, as it probably came from India originally. There also exist several Chinese instruments of a kind much resembling our guitars or banjos. The number of strings on these are variable.*
From remote antiquity, the Chinese have understood the ductility of metal, and it is not surprising that the trumpet is, with them, one of the oldest of instruments. These trumpets are made of all sizes and most peculiar shapes.f It appears that they are intended to give but two tones each, although being made of all sizes, a complete scale can be arranged by collecting ten or twelve of them. The music of them (as with the ancient Greeks) is judged only by the degree of loudness with which it is given, and even when several play together, there is no attempt at harmony, but each trumpeter repeats his two notes with vigor and persistency; the result is said to be most distressing to European ears. Yet it is possible to extract beautiful music even from single-toned trumpets, for in Russia, most exquisite melodies are rendered by bands of trumpeters, each of whom perform;* but one
•Fetis Hist. Gen de la Mas. VI. 1, p. 66-67. tFetis.p. 73

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III