MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS - online book

The History And Development Of Musical Instruments From The Earliest Times.

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6                      MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.
but a cembalo with a key-board attached to it; and some of the old davicembali, still preserved, exhibit the trapezium shape, the round hole in the middle of the sound-board, and other pecu­liarities of the first dulcimer. Again, the gradual development of the dulcimer from a rude contrivance, consisting merely of a wooden board across which a few strings are stretched, is dis­tinctly traceable by a reference to the musical instruments of nations in different stages of civilization. The same is the case with our highly perfected harp, of which curious specimens, repre­senting the instrument in its most primitive condition, are still to be found among several barbarous tribes. We might perhaps infer from its shape that it originally consisted of nothing more than an elastic stick bent by a string. The Damaras, a native tribe of South-western Africa, actually use their bow occasionally as a musical instrument, when they are not engaged in war or in the chase. They tighten the string nearly in the middle by means of a leathern thong, whereby they obtain two distinct sounds, which,-for want of a sound-board, are of course very weak and scarcely audible to anyone but the performer. Some neighbouring tribes, however, possess a musical instrument very similar in appearance to the bow, to which they attach a gourd, hollowed and open at the top, which serves as a sound-board. Again, other African tribes have a similar instrument, superior in construction only inasmuch as it contains more than one string, and is pro­vided with a sound-board consisting of a suitable piece of sonorous wood. In short, the more improved we find these contrivances the closer they approach our harp. And it could be shown if this were requisite for our present purpose that much the same gradual progress towards perfection, which we observe in the African harp, is traceable in the harps of several nations in different parts of the world.
Moreover, a collection of musical instruments deserves the attention of the ethnologist as much as of the musician. Indeed, this may be asserted of national music in general; for it gives us
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