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Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions

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Chicken Charlie 18 Apr 01 - 06:42 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 18 Apr 01 - 07:13 PM
Chicken Charlie 18 Apr 01 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,Arkie 19 Apr 01 - 11:25 AM
catspaw49 19 Apr 01 - 11:56 AM
Pinetop Slim 19 Apr 01 - 12:07 PM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Apr 01 - 01:52 PM
Chicken Charlie 19 Apr 01 - 03:35 PM
catspaw49 19 Apr 01 - 06:48 PM
mousethief 19 Apr 01 - 06:51 PM
Chicken Charlie 19 Apr 01 - 07:16 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 19 Apr 01 - 07:18 PM
mousethief 19 Apr 01 - 07:19 PM
catspaw49 19 Apr 01 - 08:30 PM
Banjer 20 Apr 01 - 05:40 AM
Chicken Charlie 20 Apr 01 - 02:37 PM
catspaw49 20 Apr 01 - 03:16 PM
mousethief 20 Apr 01 - 03:19 PM
catspaw49 20 Apr 01 - 03:21 PM
Sorcha 20 Apr 01 - 04:05 PM
mousethief 20 Apr 01 - 04:07 PM
Chicken Charlie 20 Apr 01 - 04:21 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 20 Apr 01 - 06:30 PM
catspaw49 20 Apr 01 - 06:44 PM
Chicken Charlie 20 Apr 01 - 07:01 PM
catspaw49 20 Apr 01 - 08:06 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 20 Apr 01 - 09:18 PM
catspaw49 20 Apr 01 - 09:35 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 21 Apr 01 - 01:13 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 21 Apr 01 - 01:13 PM
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Subject: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 18 Apr 01 - 06:42 PM

I have a Kentucky/Appalachian/etc., etc. dulcimer which is strung with a melody course and two separate drones. (D'AD, but that's kind of immaterial.) Scanning used book sites for instructional and historical material, I see references to "parlor/parlour dulcimers" and "English dulcimers." Also "church dulcimers." My first question is--what's the diff. between those and my "Kentucky?"

Second question: I've heard you can bow a K.d. How? I play mine on my lap--can I bow it that way or do I have to pick it up?? Given that the finger board is flat as a pancake, I take it there is no double stopping??

Awaiting enlightenment-- Chicken Charlie


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 18 Apr 01 - 07:13 PM

I think those labels are modern sales gimmicks- I know that Hughes was the first to market a "church dulcimer;" I believe it has six strings and therefore it does have more sound, perhaps deeper bass strings can be used, but, as far as I can tell, the same tunings apply- just that some of the strings are doubled.

This sales idea would also apply to "parlor dulcimers-" they're usually accompanied by a booklet of "parlor" songs, but, aside from the makers' individual styles, the parlor dulcimer is still just a dulcimer.

I call mine a Kentucky dulcimer because I come from Kentucky and that's where my instrument was made. A Kentucky-style dulcimer would be one whose shape is based upon the early ones made in Kentucky by Ed Thomas, Knott County, or Will Singleton, Perry County, and those who learned from them. There were of course other dulcimer makers in Kentucky- these were active in the early-to-mid-1800s, and were the ones our family knew.

If you're just learning, I'd say hold off on the bowing until you know how to play a bit the regular way. As the fretboard is flat, it's extremely hard (on listeners, too) to get any satisfactory sounds with a bow. Leah Smith, from Harlan County (her picture's in my, THE DULCIMER BOOK)was the only one we ever knew who bowed the instrument, and why she did it is not known now.

Lots of luck, and joy- Jean


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 18 Apr 01 - 08:14 PM

Jean--

I am overawed at getting a reply from you. I taped (reel to reel back then) "Blue Diamond Mine" on the radio back around 1960 or so, & it's still very high on my personal list of favorites. I've pulled a group together to do trad and trad-sounding stuff and that has become one of everybody's favorites. I'm looking for that book--thought I had it, but got the other one, "Dulcimer People," which I'm studying now. May I presume to ask two sort-of personal questions? First, what can you tell me about BDM as far as why you chose to do it, etc., or if you have any personal memories about that song, and second, what part of the country are you in now?? I'm not after an address; I would just like to put some of these e-people I'm starting to e-talk with into some kind of context. Thanks.

"Chicken Charlie"


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 11:25 AM

David Schnauffer and Mark Biggs are two contemporary mountain dulcimer players who bow the intrument - usually one tune per set. I suspect that one bows the dulcimer for the novelty of it. Having tried it, to see if I could do it, I came to the conclusion that there is more satisfaction in playing a tune nicely in a more conventional fashion.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 11:56 AM

Probably the most common terms of description are "Lap," "Mountain," and "Appalachian." The problem stems from the )ahem) appropriation of the name "dulcimer" from the much older instrument now known as the "Hammered Dulcimer."

I'm not sure that anyone knows, or at least I've never heard a resonable explanation of why the thing was called a dulcimer to begin with, especially since the hammered variety was in contemporary usage when the "App" was born. There are several theories on the origins of the App, some having greater credence than others, and the truth is probably a mixture of those.

Odd, I don't now recall who said it (maybe Jean does--Howie Mitchell maybe?), but I always liked the comment about the Appalachian Dulcimer that in building one, the "tradition" is to be "non-traditional." It is true.......I can think of no other instrument today that has been made in such a variety of sizes, shapes, materials, string configurations, playing positions....................I kind of hate tose folks who try to "pigeonhole" terminology about it and categorize the types. There is a freedom in working with one as a builder that you don't always get with something else.

I'm not the only one who built a few "asymetrical" dulcimers I know. It struck me one day that the thing really didn't fit "my" lap and if it's a lap dulcimer, than it should! So I got to messing around with the idea and thought that if I were to make it wider on opposite sides than it would fit better. This led to the idea that iff the bass side was deeper and the trebble was narrower............so I wind up with a "split heart" kind of look with a tricky depth difference..............oy.................Anyway, I built a couple out of some cheap birch with maple fretboards amd they weren't bad.....needed a little more work though.........It was about that time that other things went nuts in my life and....I haven't gotten back to it yet! It still crosses my mind at times and my friend Julie, an elementary music teacher, has one of them and she claims its great........I still think it needs some work...and better woods.

So call it what you want and play it how you want. I've heard great players of all sorts and and styles. There are a lot of ways to use the instrument..........So be traditional----be non-traditional.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Pinetop Slim
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 12:07 PM

Shnauffer closes his Tennessee Music Box CD with a bowed song. The name of it escapes me; not that it's so forgettable, but I wouldn't want a steady diet of excessive drone. I think Arkie's got it right -- it's a novelty.
Lorraine Hammond has done some bowing and I believe she has worked with Duane Wilder of Bear Mountain Dulcimers on some design elements for bowing. One is the addition of four small semi-discs that function as legs so you can set the dulcimer on a table to bow it.
I sure would like to hear more about Blue Diamond Mine. I think my grandfather worked there before he moved to Pinetop, Ky., from Allock, although his section of Pinetop was known as Spider before they closed the post office.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 01:52 PM

The related Icelandic langspil was traditionally played with a bow.  There's a lithograph from the 1840s here:  A concert in the kitchen of an Icelandic farmhouse  in which you can see the playing position used.  Also a reproduction of an Icelandic stamp showing bowing:  Langspil

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 03:35 PM

Wow--

Malcolm, that was impressive musically and electronically; the image of the folks singing is a real keeper.

Pinetop--I made inquiry through U. West Virginia's web site, but have not heard back yet. I'll be glad to share what I get if anything. I take it your grandfather is no longer living--?? Have you ever heard the song? Very haunting and very 'down home' at the same time.

You were helpful, Spaw, but I still have my basic question: How, if at all, does the stringing of an "English" dulcimer differ from that of a Kentucky, etc.?

CC


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 06:48 PM

Okay Cluck Chuck.....I see what you're after!!!

Fretted Dulcimers are long zithers and Hammered Dulcimers are board zithers. I just want to throw that in as I meant to do so earlier.........

I think what you are seeing as "English Dulcimer" music are arrangements and such of English/Morris/Contra Dance tunes for fretted dulcimer. The tuning will vary depending on the song in question. If you aren't familiar with all the modal tunings, Jean's books and others have very in-depth descriptions plus you'll find probably a half dozen or so threads around here dealing with modal tuning.

As far as the instrument itself, it's the same thing. I don't know anyone who builds an "English" or "Church" or "Parlor" dulcimer and any use of those terms would be on an individual basis as Jean says, "a marketing ploy," and not as any known distinct classification of fretted dulcimer.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: mousethief
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 06:51 PM

Is a fretted dulcimer the same as a lap dulcimer? 4 strings (2 paired and tuned either together or an octave apart), shaped like a swollen p**** with a misplaced c***ring in the middle?

Alex


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 07:16 PM

Mousethief: Yes! That part I know. The gizmo that is either teardrop or hourglass, with either 4 strings 2-1-1 or maybe 5 done up 1-1-1-1-1 is a lap dulcimer, fretted dulcimer, Kentucky dulcimer, Appalachian dulcimer or mountain dulcimer and if I am to believe Spaw et al, also a parlor d. or an English d. or a church d., though maybe purists would say that a church d. has to have the extra strings. I have not yet heard any other name for the hammered d., which makes it in my opinion a very uptight instrument.

Is it getting on toward 5:00??

CC


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 07:18 PM

Malcolm, a beautiful litograph! And the stamp, too; now there's a country whose government knows what's important. Also- years ago someone sent to me a postcard from Finland, showing a woman in traditional dress playing the langspil. You may have heard that, less than a month ago, my state (Kentucky) passed a law designating the Mountain Dulcimer it's official instrument...SO we're catching up!

As far as there being an "English dulcimer," Chicken Charlie (and Catspaw), I can tell you that when I was there on my Fulbright in 1952, I searched the country over, amongst real folks, libraries and other records, and could find NO historical reference to the dulcimer or any similar instrument- except one description of the one-string rebec having been played by traveling French musicians in- I believe- the late 1930s. John Pearce (sp?) was one of the first in England to build a dulcimer, after my visit in the early '50s.

There has been good research done recently. I'll look up the names of resultant books if you cannot find them under "Dulcimer" somewhere yourself. Jean


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: mousethief
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 07:19 PM

Thanks, Chicken Charlie.

In which time zone?

Alex


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Apr 01 - 08:30 PM

Okay MT and CluckChuck..............Basic Dulcimer 101

There are two distinctly different instruments bearing the name "dulcimer." The first is quite old and is commonly now referred to as a Hammered Dulcimer. It is a trapezoidial shaped board zither with strings running across the width of the instrument between two bridges. Each string is actually a string pair and are sometimes done as 3 or 4 strings per course. Down the center is a rail dividing the trble strings at a point 3/5ths ot the distance and thus producing two notes, one on either side of the bridge rail a fifth apart (C on the right is G on the left). Most also include a bass bridge to the right and it's string courses are played only to the left of the rail. The instrument is played by striking the strings with hammers with various materials used on the face which vary the sound. They are named things like 12/11 or 15/14 for the number of string courses crossing the treble and bass bridges. Scroll down to the bottom picture--HAMMERED DULCIMER....This one is a 16/15.

The Fretted Dulcimer is reasonably recent and an American invention. It is a long zither and although it has older relatives in Norway, England, and France, these are different instruments and the fretted dulcimer is distinctly American making it's appearance in the Appalachian mountains within the past two hundred years. Although chording and fingerpicking have become popular in recent years, the instrument was calssically played by plaing the melody on the first string with the others being drones. Again, the classic configuration was one melody and two drones, although paired melody strings are far more common today. The player used a pick/plectrum of some sort (sometimes a feather) to strum and a small piece of wood or other material to "note" the melody string. The shape fo the first ones was probably rectangular, but the "classic" shape today is the "hourglass" along with the "teardrop," "almond," and occasionally the "fiddle." Hourglass Fretted Dulcimer

Thus endeth the lesson.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Banjer
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 05:40 AM

It is my undrstanding that a 'church dulcimer' is usually larger in size than what we think of as a regular lap dulcimer. I was told the purpose of it was more volume so it could be better heard by the congregation. I built mine from some scrap woods I had laying around. The fretboard and tuning head are oak and the body itself is made of thin paneling. They are a lot of fun...I would recommend one to anyone.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 02:37 PM

Banjer, you confirmed my intuition regarding church d's.

Spaw--??? You're showing me a lovely forest, and all I wanna know about is one stupid tree.

Jean--what you said about not finding refs. to dulcimers in England way back is interesting; confirms what I read in Peggy Seeger somewhere. I had somebody try to tell me that there were dulcimers in England in Stuart times, but from what you're saying, he was mistaken. P. Seeger said something about a Swedish antecedent, I believe, which would at least be in Scandihoovia, along with Iceland.

Alex--Any time zone, man. I operate on the premise that it must be happy hour SOMEWHERE.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 03:16 PM

Okay....I give up.......What tree?

BTW, there were NO fretted dulcimers anywhere prior to the instrument we know here. There were relatives....as the lute is related to the guitar.

Now again.......What tree?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: mousethief
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 03:19 PM

I operate on the premise that it must be happy hour SOMEWHERE.

Now THAT is a premise with promise!

Spaw, that's fascinating about the lap dulcimer not having any antecedents (if it's true of course). Somebody should write a book about this.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 03:21 PM

Naw. I was just bullshittin' about it Alex.............LOL.......I need a glass of Turkey Turd Beer!!!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 04:05 PM

Alex, it does have "antecedants", just not in the direct, consanguinal line!! The hümle, the langspil, the zither, are all antecedents. There has been a book about it, it's called "In Search of the Wild Dulcimer". Forget who wrote it. Great book. "English" I don't know, but they are spot on about "Church" and "Parlor" generally means smaller and quieter......witness Parlor Guitars and Parlor Pipes.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: mousethief
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 04:07 PM

just not in the direct, consanguinal line

Everywhere I turn on Mudcat, people want to talk about sex!

Seriously, history of instrument forms is a fascinating study.

Alex


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 04:21 PM

Spaw--relax, put your feet up. The train done left the station.

Sorcha--that book was written by Robert Force and Albert D'Ossche. How I know that is www.abebooks.com, a marvellous source for used books. Among the several zillion books for sale right now are 16 copies of "In Search of the Wild Dulcimer." I have almost as much fun on that site as I do here. If Spaw were on abebooks too, then I guess it would be a dead heat.

KimC--something's missing; there's nothing about bread machines in this thread yet.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 06:30 PM

Sorcha's right about the antecedents (sp? who's right, me or you?). About size: My "work horse" dulcimer I take everywhere is one that we built larger and deeper so that it would work better onstage without a microphone- but we do NOT call it a Church Dulcimer. As a matter of fact, in deep Dulcimer Country where I come from, the Church frowned upon ALL instruments, as of the Devil (in Mom's church, the Old Regular Baptist, even harmony was "frivolous"). Not ALL churches, but most in that area. Dulcimers were not played in churches until very recently (my belief, not gospel...!), and I stand by my educated guess that the first person to call one a church dulcimer did so with marketing in mind.

And, CC, there are at least two dozen excellent dulcimer books around, of which, "In Search Of..." was along about the 19th one written (Force & D'Ossche old friends of mine, and I know firsthand- that title another-very good- marketing ploy!). All two dozen are good, informative books. My own, The Dulcimer Book, was first published by Oak Publications in 1963, and most of the historical research therein (and in many of the others) was done by me. Much more research has been done since, the most recent in-depth book by Ralph Smith- I'll have details next time I jump in here. Jean


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 06:44 PM

Charlie, I'm sure your train has left..........

Jean.....Who was it (if you recall) who had a kind of tie-in to the epinette and the French background "relative?" I remeber reading an interesting summation of the epinette being used around Gallipolis, Ohio just about that time and that perhaps it too had added something. I don't recall where I read it though.

All the names attributed to sizes are pretty much as Jean says...marketing ideas/ploys. The configuration and tunings are still the same.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 07:01 PM

Title of Ralph Smith's book is "Story of the Dulcimer." Amazon says it's OP and neither albris.com nor abebooks.com show any copies at present, but anybody interested should check those two sites from time to time.

CC


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 08:06 PM

I think Sandy Paton may have a copy of Smith's book, but I'm not sure. He found one on one of the used book sites at 31.00 as I recall, but I have looked at several sites (I like 'em too Charlie!!!) and it never pops up when I've checked. I got a copy out of the Columbus Public Library aout a year ago and was frankly tempted to say it got lost and pay them for it and keep that copy!!! As it turns out, it wasn't an original idea, because now there copy is listed as "Unreturned".......for the past three months!!!

And who says crime doesn't pay????

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 09:18 PM

References for those who are interested

L. Allen Smith, "Toward a Reconstruction of the Development of the Appalachian Dulcimer", Journal of American Folklore, Vol 93, No 370, pp. 385-396 (1980)

L. Allen Smith, A Catalogue of Pre-Revival Appalachian Dulcimers, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1983 (Foreword by Jean Ritchie).

The Tyrolean scheitholt, the French epinette des Vosges, the Dutch Hummel and so forth, seem to me to be, from a performer's point of view, largely the same instrument. This is why I think that the scholars who try to establish that the ancestor of the mountain dulcimer was, say, the scheitholt and not the epinette des Vosges will may never reach a clear answer. The appalachian dulcimer might have been developed from any than one of the European antecedents. It is even possible to imagine circumstances in which more than one of the European fretted zithers contributed to the evolution of the Appalachian dulcimer.

I consider the hammered dulcimer to be a species of psaltery, rather than a species of zither. But even I realize that that is just hairsplitting.

The mountain dulcimer is perhaps more popular today than anytime in its 450-year history (reckoning from the 1560 date given by the New Grove first edition for a fresco in Rynkeby, Denmark, depicting a fretted zither). Folks are experimenting with numerous techniques and tunings. It's an exciting time to be a dulcimer player.

T.


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Apr 01 - 09:35 PM

Thanks T........You're half way there and I've been going back through stuff today to find the article I'm after. The writer referenced Smith and proceeded to make a case on behalf of the epinette. The basic idea was that the instrument was known well in the Gallipolis area and "travelled south" into the mountains from there. I'd have sworn it was in Dulcimer Players News but if so, I can't find it in any of my back copies.....needless to say, a few are missing.

Damn! I can see the article in my mind but considering how my mind is, perhaps that's not for the best..............

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 21 Apr 01 - 01:13 PM

I guess I missed that article, Spaw- would love to read it if you find the source. And, T- of course, it's obvious to me that ALL those Scandinavian/German/French/Dutch instruments were ancestors of our dulcimer. The "educated guess" on that is that our Appalachian pioneers, having no other instruments (or very, very few), went to their woodsheds and "invented" something to make music on, remembering epinettes, scheitholts, langlics- whatever easy-playing things their minds remembered, and the Appalachian or Mountain Dulcimer was the result. That's why it's now considered an American instrument. I tried to make that point clear in my little book, and Ralph Lee Smith does also in his more scholarly work. I do have a copy somewhere, and also have a copy of the ms Ralph sent to me to read- it'll turn up sooner or later in the chaos here, when I have TIME to look for it. Jean


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Subject: RE: Help: Kentucky Dulcimer Questions
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 21 Apr 01 - 01:13 PM

I guess I missed that article, Spaw- would love to read it if you find the source. And, T- of course, it's obvious to me that ALL those Scandinavian/German/French/Dutch instruments were ancestors of our dulcimer. The "educated guess" on that is that our Appalachian pioneers, having no other instruments (or very, very few), went to their woodsheds and "invented" something to make music on, remembering epinettes, scheitholts, langlics- whatever easy-playing things their minds remembered, and the Appalachian or Mountain Dulcimer was the result. That's why it's now considered an American instrument. I tried to make that point clear in my little book, and Ralph Lee Smith does also in his more scholarly work. I do have a copy somewhere, and also have a copy of the ms Ralph sent to me to read- it'll turn up sooner or later in the chaos here, when I have TIME to look for it. Jean


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Mudcat time: 21 October 10:12 AM EDT

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