The composer, Hobart Blankenburg, alumnis of the Stevenson University Film, Video & Theater Department, used these instruments, representing seven different countries and created the soundtrack for Women Between Worlds.

Instruments in order of appearance:

Gupin (Qins) – China

Gupin, also called the “Seven-stringed Zither,” was rendered as “Qins” in most ancient Chinese writing. Qins is the most revered of all Chinese music instruments, one of the few played today known to have originated amongst the Han Chinese. It is said to have been invented by one of the earliest legendary Chinese emperors, Fu Xi. The discovery of the remains of the Qins in ancient tombs (500 to 200 BC), together with description of the Qins and its music in many ancient Chinese writings assured its long history of almost 2000 years. The instrument was matured nearly 1600 years ago. Today, Qins of the Chinese Tang Dynasty (AD 700) up to the Chinese Qins Dynasty (19th Century) still exist in museums and in collections of modern Qins player.

The Qins consists of a long, narrow upper wooden board made from tong tree (or other trees of the pine family) and a lower board made from catalpha tree (or other hardwood). These two pieces of boards are stuck together and lacquered on the surface. There are 13 small dots (called hui) inlaid on the outside of the upper boards, which mark the positions of the musical notes and their harmonics. Seven strings are stretched on the upper board, starting from the thickest one of the outside to the thinnest on the inside.

The Qins, in accordance with the Confucian Way, was used as a “vehicle for worship, formation of character, and regulation of political life of the state.” It was the instrument of the Confucian Superior Man and most of the scholars of the day were required to study and regularly practice the instrument. Throughout recorded history the Qins was the chosen instrument of the Chinese literati, played for personal enjoyment and self-cultivation. It was one of the scholars’ Four Treasures, the others being qi (a board game that was introduced from China into Japan and then the West. The game is therefore usually referred to in English by its Japanese name, go), shu (Chinese calligraphy), and hua (Chinese painting).

The vast majority of references to a musical instrument in classical Chinese painting and poetry are to the qins. Compared with other Chinese instruments, the Qins is unique for at least three aspects:

The effective vibrating length of the Qins strings is longer than of any other Chinese instruments, resulting in a large vibrating amplitude and a tone rich in the lower register that fits the sounds of nature.
The fingerboard of the Qins is the upper board that does not consist of any frets. Its sound holes are opened on the lower board, which means that the sound is transmitted downwards.
Over 100 harmonics can be played on the Qins, making the instrument having the largest number of overtones.
Among the existing 3000 pieces of Qins music, only about 70 of them could be played by today’s musicians. The ancient scores of the rest of these pieces need to be explored and transcripted. The oldest Qins score, Orchild in Seclusion in Jie Shi Diao, was 1400 years old. The score was said to have been composed by Confucius. The fingering and the recording of the score has been changed and developed with the evolution of history, and therefore the transcription of Qins music is a very hardwork.

Description courtesy of Music of China.

Wooden Slit Drum – Senegal

The principal of the wooden slit-drum is as simple as it is ingenious. A tree or a solid block of wood is hollowed out to leave a longitudinal opening on the upper side. The edges of this slit are of unequal thickness and produce two sounds of different pitch when struck. This type of instrument is known virtually all over the world: in New Hebrides, a slit drum of impressive size, standing upright like a real “tree drum,” is found in many regions.

The wooden linga of the Banda-Linda people of Central Africa are big-bellied drums, set on four feet, of a shape not unlike that of the buffalo. They are generally used in groups of three (or four) instruments of different size (the largest may measure up to two meters long) and form a kind of family. Each player hammers the edges of the slit with a pair of mallets ending in a ball of latex, to produce two different notes.

Description courtesy of Eyeneer Music Archives.

Oud – Lebanon

Shaped like a pear with a short fretted neck, the oud has six courses, each with two strings. Its elastic, syncopated sound results in part from being played with a plectrum (often a trimmed eagle’s feather) to produce a deep and mellow sound. Virtuosos across the Middle East refer to it as ‘the King of instruments.’

This pan-Middle Eastern short-necked lute is the ancester of the European lute. The name comes from al-oud (branch of wood). The ouds’ five pairs of strings has each pair tuned to the same pitch, and a single string which is also the thickest and known as the bantelli in Turkish.

It is the principal instrument of the Arab world, and is of secondary importance in Turkey, Iran, Armenie and Azerbaijan. It also plays an important role in north African countries, such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Sudan.

The most common way to tune the oud is to tune each string with a fourth part. The most common Turkish tuning with D being the highest opening string is DAEBF#C#. There is also an Arabic variant of this tuning where the intervals stay the same but the pitch of each string is dropped down by a full step thus: CGDAEB.

Well-Known Oud Artists:

Issa Boulos – Oudist, Instructor and Composer, Chicago, IL
Simon Shaheen – Oud player, violinist and composer
Farid El Atrache – Famous Egyptian oud player
Description courtesy of Salamat Music.

Sas – Yugoslavia

No description currently available.

Steel Drum – Colombia

The Steel Drum, or Stell Pan, is one of the most recently invented instrument in the world. It originated in the small island of Trinidad and Tobego, off the coast of Venezula. For hundreds of years street gangs used drums to signal fights, so the government slowsly outlawed all of the percussion instruments. Eventually, people wanted their music so badly that they began playing on everything from old car parts to garbage cans, somewhere in-between was old steel barrels used to carry oil. These first bands were called Iron Bands. Eventually sometime in the 1930s someone discovered that the dents in the metal that they were played on caused differences in pitch. From then on people have taken steel barrels and dented them into all the pitches found on a piano. Nowadays you can play just about all music on a Steel Drum. Steel Drum Bands are becoming more and more popular all over the world, and the Steel Drum itself can be heard with Symphony Orchestras and Rock and Roll bands. Steel Drums are played with mallets, sort of like drum sticks, but with rubber tips cut from car tires.

Description courtesy of Miami University in Ohio.

Board Zither – Vietnam

The board zither, with a convex sound-table is played mainly in the Far East, where it is chiefly represented by the Chinese zheng, the Japenese koto, the Korean kayakeum, the Mongolian jetakh and the Vietnamese dan tranh.

The Vietnamese instrument took on its present form in the twelfth century; it consists of sixteen steel strings placed parallel above an oblong sound-box made of wood that varies in length from 90 to 110 centimeters. The strings are stretched over the full extent of the sound-table and are divided into two sections by a set of movable wooden bridges. At one end they are fastened to pegs and on the other knotted below the tailpiece. The musician, waring a tortoiseshell or steel finger-stalls on the thumb and forefinger of his right hand plucks the strings close to the tail-piece; the first, middle and fourth fingers of the left hand stop the strings between the bridges and the pegs to alter the pitch. The dan tranh can be played either solo or with other stringed instruments, or in larger ensembles to accompany stage performances. “The Song of the Blackbird,” a piece from the traditional Vietnamese repertoire, played by Tran Quang Hai, was recorded in the studio of the Department of Ethnomusicology of the Musee de l’Homme.

Description courtesy of Eyeneer Music Archives.

Domra – Russia

The Domra is a three or four stringed instrument of Mongolian heritage and could be found among the Tatars, Kirghiz, Kalmyks, Altaians and other natives of Siberia. In contemporary Russian orchestras the domra usually plays the melody and is played with a pick. The domra is used in classical Russian music as well as folk music.

Description courtesy of Santa Clara University.

One Response to Instruments

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