Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Weird Instruments: Viol da Gamba

[it's a monster]

No, it's not a sitar, it's a viol! The first I've ever seen. A couple weeks back, we had a customer from Hastings College bring all kinds of interesting instruments for us to look at. Many of them needed some major repair and restoration work done on the instrument. I've taken some quick photos to document the 'before' shots.

A set of strings running through the bridge and under the fingerboard.

A carved scroll and so many pegs made it look like a millipede from afar.

Ornate artistry on the back of the violin.

Alex thinks that this this viol was likely made in the early 20th century (~1920's) in Germany.

[The "Viol" family]

Upon closer review of the instrument, Alex decided that it was better for this project to be handled by another close dealer-restoration friend of his, Jerry Pasewicz.

In case you're wondering what a viol is, a quick run down on this weird instrument's history.
A viol is a bowed string instrument that was developed in the 15th century and played throughout the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The instrument has the characteristics of a violin and a cello but comes from a Spanish family of bowed but guitar-like instruments called the vihuela. The Moorish rebab also had its early influence developing the "a gamba" playing position or holding it upright in the players lap or between their legs.

As usual, I perused some more to find that there is quite a cult following for these chamber music instruments.
Head on over to the Viola da Gamba Society of America (VdGSA)
and you'll find a more comprehensive and interactive source of information. There are sound clips, short videos, schedule of events, and even a publication. Some one in the Iowa State Music Department also has collection of links related to all things viol.

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