This part of the website is an English translation of the definitive hurdy-gurdy reference book Die Drehleier (The Hurdy-gurdy), written by Marianne Bröcker. For general information about this translation please see the Index Page.
This material is covered by copyright and may not be used without permission. Please see the Index Page for more information about distribution.
|Table of contents||Previous chapter||Next chapter||References||Figures|
A: The Judgement of the Sound of the Hurdy-gurdy
The respect or disrespect with which the hurdy-gurdy was regarded in the various levels of society can sometimes be recognized in the reports which have come down to us which refer to the sound of the instrument. These show that the hurdy-gurdy's sound has always been judged differently, according to the positive or negative attitude towards the droning instrument, to the nasal sound of the hurdy-gurdy or to contemporary respectability of the hurdy-gurdy player. Another factor which could have influenced this judgement is to be seen in the construction of the instrument: the instrument was never mass-produced, except in 18th century France. Therefore each instrument had a different sound, to which the saying "jede Leier hat ihre eigene Weise" [trans][fn] refers.
In the Middle Ages the hurdy-gurdy was often characterized as a "beautiful" instrument, with a "soft" sound:
"Et giges et chifonies belès"; [fn]
"Que gigue, harpe e simphonie
.............. Iço sont li doze estruments,
Tant par les sone doucement"; [fn]
"Gigen, harpen sinphonien,
XII instrumente van musike,
Ludde gevet beelde subtilike". [fn]
In many texts the sound of the hurdy-gurdy is noted as being "sweet" or "endearing":
"Tympana, psalterium, citharae, symphonia dulcis"; [fn]
"Diu süeze symphonîe"; [fn] [sp]
"La douceur de la symphonie"; [fn]
"cet instrument moult doux son et plaisant"; [fn] "
sonitus tube ac fistule ac cythare,
sambuce et salterii et simphonie dulcisone"; [fn]
"Cors et musettes, simphonies doulcettes"; [fn]
".................... with the sound
Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet"; [fn]
Even in the 19th century a Spanish author valued the "suavidad dominante" of the instrument. [fn]
Next to these general characterisations of the hurdy-gurdy the merry yet solemn sound or the harmony of the instruments was mentioned:
"çinfonia e baldosa en-esta fiesta sson"; [fn]
"De gighe sot, de simphonie,
Si savoit assés d'armonie"; [fn]
"Cymbala praeclara, concors Symphonia, dulcis
Fistula, somniferae citharae, vitulaeque jocosae". [fn]
Some authors emphasize that the hurdy-gurdy, even when used as a beggar's instrument, can nevertheless produce beautiful harmonies:
"Haec lyra communis et peruulgata, quia coecis nostris tribuitur pauperibus,
et saepe imperitis, viluit quam plurimum. posset tamen concentum valde harmonicum
"varietas harmoniae dulcis amaenaque resultat". [fn]
However other sources show that the hurdy-gurdy was not always favorably judged in the Middle Ages. Even at a very early time its sound was considered to be too loud, too strong, or too nasal. In the following quote from a poem of the 13th century the "sonner" can be attributed to the harp and the "retentir" (drone) to the "cifonie":
"Harpes et Cifonies sonner et retentir". [fn]
In the 12th century Guiraut de Calanso lists among the nine instruments which a jongleur must be able to play:
"E far la semfonia brugir". [fn]
The Provençal word "brugir" is "faire du bruit, bruire" ["to make noise"] in French. [fn] In the Vita Caroli, Aymeric de Peyrac even says that the hurdy-gurdy sounds dissonant:
"Quidam symphoniam dissonabant
A dulci sono discrepantes". [fn]
An English report from around 1450 indicates the noise which arises when various instruments are played together, among these several hurdy-gurdies:
"come ryght noblely arrayd with grete foyson of hornys, trumppys, symphonys, and othre mynstrelces, whiche made grete noys". [fn]
In the 17th century Grimmelshausen reported of a hurdy-gurdy player who made herself invisible and unexpectedly appeared at a dance among the minstrels:
"da es nun bey dem Confect auch einen Tantz gehen solte / liesse sich unversehens bey den Spilleuten auch eine Leyr hören / mit großen Schrecken aller deren dir im Saal waren; die erste die ausrissen / waren die Spilleut selbst / als welche das Geschnarr zunegst bey ihnen gehöret und doch niemand gesehen hatten." [fn]
Here "Geschnarr" can refer to the strongly nasal sound of the hurdy-gurdy, but the instrument could also have had a trompette string (see page 58). The sound of the hurdy-gurdy is characterized in the same way in a "Winzerlied" from 1782:
"Und zu euerm Stampfen soll
Euch die frohe Leyer schnarren". [fn]
The hurdy-gurdy possesses particular characteristics which gave rise to sayings. The constantly sounding drone strings gave to listeners the impression of constant repetition: "Gait nich anne(r)s, secht de Lirn-drai'r [sp][L-i/macron/rn-hyphen-drai'r], danzt man tou." [fn] Thus the drone, which was sometimes considered to be monotonous, led to the transfer of expression which originally referred to this instrument to people who sang long and monotonously: "He sung so'n lirigen Stremel, dat reet gonnich af" [fn]; or to those who spoke monotonously or constantly repeated themselves. In French "vieller" in a derivative sense is used to denote "speaking monotonously" and also "speaking without saying anything." [fn] "C'est une roue de vielle" ["it's a wheel of a hurdy-gurdy"] means that someone speaks long and monotonously, that an unimportant person bombards everyone else with unimportant chatter or repeats the same things without interruption. [fn] German expressions are used in the same way: "er hat uns etwas geleiert" [literally "----"] means "he held a long and tiring speech"; "einem die Ohren
leiern" [literally "----"] means "to tire the ears by playing the hurdy-gurdy" or, in general, "to exhaust one's patience by continuously speaking"[ fn] or "to repeat something thoughtlessly", as apparently did "die Concilien, die nach des Papstes willen dähar lyrend." [fn] [literally "----"] There are also expressions widespread in the entire German-speaking area, such as "die alte Leier", [literally "----"] "immer dieselbe Leier" [literally "----"], "es geht in einer Leier fort" [literally "----"], "jemand bleibt bei einerlie Leier" [fn] [literally "----"] and the noun "Leier" [literally "----"] or "Geleier" [literally "----"] without anything added: all denote something monotonously repeated, boring chatter or complaints. [fn].
A boring chatterer was called a "Leierzapfen" or "Leierkasten" [fn], "Leirer" [fn], or "Lira-su" [fn], and the verb "leiern" was understood to mean "to speak poorly and without expression"[fn], "always repeat the same thing, to continue speaking in the same tone", also "always cry, to speak while crying" and "to play an instrument poorly",
or "to sing monotonously". [fn]
The meanings of monotonous, unimportant, boring and unending speaking which were given to the word "leiern", lead to onomatopoeic word formations like "lirum larum" or "liri lari", which originally were intended to mean the tiring monotonous sound of the hurdy-gurdy, but were then used in the sense of "stupid chatter, nonsense" [fn]. To these belong also the expressions "Larifari" for "empty talk, long-winded chatter, nonsense"[ fn], "lires-lares" for "sing-song" [fn], "liri-lori" for "chatter" [fn] and "tîrelîre"[sp] for "monotonous complaining" [fn].
These meanings of the word "leiern" and the related expressions were derived from the monotonous sound of the hurdy-gurdy. The origin of these expressions from the hurdy-gurdy's drone is shown especially in the name "Leiermann" for a fly "on account of the noise it makes when flying, which sound like a hurdy-gurdy" [fn], and in the naming of the croaking frogs as the "hurdy-gurdy players of the swamp" [fn]. The sound of the hurdy-gurdy, considered to be complaining, not sharp and extended, was compared to the similar sounding crowing of a cock when the weather turns bad, when it said "die Hähne leiern" [fn] [literally "----"]. The drone sound characteristic of the
bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy were mirrored in children's rhymes, in which the verbs "leiern" and "dudeln" were used synonymously. A verse mocking crying children runs: "Dudeldudel Leiersack, morgen ist ein Feiertag" [fn] [literally "----"]. A children's saying from the Southern Lausitz is similar: "Leier, Leier, Dudelsack - morne ham mer Feiertag"[fn]. [literally "----"]
Another group of meanings is related to the turning motion of the wheel. The constant turning of the crank gives the impression of something endlessly long. This meaning of movement without end was transferred in the sense of "to do something very slowly". French "vieller" means also "to do something slowly" and "long comme une vielle" [literally "----"] is said of things "which last extremely long"[fn]. In German "er leiert den ganzen Tag an dieser Arbeit" [literally "----"] means as much as "to work very slowly, dawdle"[fn]. "Leiern" means also "to do something laboriously, to do something slowly" or "to work little and slowly"[fn]. The word "leiern" is understood in Carinthia to mean "to do nothing" [fn], in Tyrolia "to work slowly"[fn], in Switzerland "to work slowly, without seriousness or diligence"[fn], in the Alsace "to work slowly"[fn], in Bavaria "to do unimportant things"[fn], in Swabia "to work slowly, to drag out the work, to be lazy"[fn], in Hessen "to work slowly, to hesitate"[fn] and in the Rhineland also "to work slowly"[fn]. One who works only unwillingly and then only slowly, hesitatingly, and without energy
is hence also called a "Leierich"[fn], a "Lîrer" [fn], or "Leirer (Leirar)"[fn].
Aside from these meanings, adopted from the instrument, of hesitation, slowness, endlessness, there were only a few expressions in which the word "Leier" was used in the contrary sense for something which goes "as smooth as if oiled"; for this it is said in the vicinity of Krefeld and Mörs "Dat gieht wie en Leier"[fn] [literally "----"].
From the turning motion of the crank when the hurdy-gurdy was played the word "leiern" was not just transferred to the mechanical barrel organ, which was not related to the hurdy-gurdy (see page 231), but also to other things which had something to do with a turning motion or a crank-turning. Thus "leiern" means also "to draw water up from the well", and "Butterleiern" denotes "the preparation of butter"[fn]. As a noun "Leier" was transferred to the crank of other utensils: the windlass on the arbalista, which had a crank, was called a "leier"; a "Bratenleier" was a kitchen utensil, on which by means of a crank one could simultaneously turn several cuts of meat; a "Brustleier" was a drill, "der an einem krummen holz oder einen umgedreht wird und auf dessen obern theil man mit der brust drückt" [trans]. The hunters call the tail of the wild pig a "Leier" on account of its similarity with a crank[fn].
The name "Leierkasten" for the barrel organ, stimulated by the hurdy-gurdy, was given likewise to other things. On account of the hand-turned crank after 1920 the film camera was named a "Leierkasten". This name was also given to the machine gun in the First World War for the same reason. [fn]
In the transfer of the hurdy-gurdy names to other motions or utensils an orientation on the specific characteristics of the instrument is shown: the turning motion and the drone sounds. The borrowing of these characteristics of the hurdy-gurdy, which is displayed in the expressions listed above, does not necessarily mean that the instrument was always seen in a bad light. Its tonal charm lay in its constant drone sound, which was valued in the Middle Ages and was attained on a variety of musical instruments. Even in the 19th century a Spanish author exclaimed enthusiastically about the hurdy-gurdy, in which progress and continuance are united at the same time: "En ella se reunen la sucesion y la permanenca en un mismo tiempo"[fn]. [trans]
Although the liking for such harmonies slowly diminished, it was known for a long time how to make use of the expression of these sounds. Thus in the first movement of his Sonata in E minor for violin and continuo (BVW 1023) J.S. Bach prescribes a drone as a charming contrast to the moving melody line[fn]. Reducing the medieval drone instrumentarium to the bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy and pushing them back into the countryside had the consequence that their drone sounds were later used in compositions for the characterization of pastoral scenes. But even in other works the organ point served as an especially expressive device often used for creating suspense. Examples include the entrance song in the Passion of St. Matthew, the introduction to the first symphony in C minor by Brahms or the finale to the "Meistersinger" by Richard Wagner.
Whatever judgement was pronounced on the sound of the hurdy-gurdy in literary sources and in popular sayings, it is significant, since they mirror the image of the hurdy-gurdy in the minds of the people. Just to what extent this image has differed since the late Middle Ages will now be shown.
B. The Varying Image of the Hurdy-gurdy
The image which an instrument like the hurdy-gurdy had with the people must not be considered to be entirely dependent upon the musical characteristics of that instrument, but rather this image is in very close relationship to the people who used this instrument for playing music. The hurdy-gurdy shows this very well. Here it can be recognized from the many literary and pictorial sources how the player's respectability had such great influence on the degree of respect or disrespect which this instrument held.
Up until now most researchers have attempted to characterize a general situation on the basis of a few texts: namely that the decline of the hurdy-gurdy to a beggar's instrument occurred in all countries and to the same extent. This however is not correct. The sources show rather that the social decline of the hurdy-gurdy took place at different times in various countries, and that even in part there were some areas in which the hurdy-gurdy was used in different ways at the same time, and hence had different images depending on its use. It is now to be examined which image was present in the various regions.
The varying image of the hurdy-gurdy and contrasting judgements about it in the same periods of time, indeed even sometimes from the same authors, can be followed especially well in France from the late Middle Ages onwards. In France, where the hurdy-gurdy was most popular, began as well the first complaints about the vices of the hurdy-gurdy players: "Le symphonieur li respondi qu'il estoit moult pechierres, et n'avoit guieres qu'il avoit esté lierres"; [trans] "Quant li symphonierres fui morz plains de touz biens et de vertuz"[fn]. [trans] The first reference to the use of the instrument by the blind is found in the second half of the 14th century. Jean Corbichon reports of blind hurdy-gurdy players as something quite ordinary and well known; but notes in addition that the hurdy-gurdy with its sweet tones does not deserve to
be found in the hands of beggars. This remark is probably in reference to the slight musical abilities of these players; it shows also however that Corbichon had heard the hurdy-gurdy in other surroundings and in the hands of competent musicians, otherwise he would have scarcely regretted its sphere of influence then: "a cet instrument moult doux son et plaisant, se ce ne fust pour l'estat de ceulx qui en usent"[fn]. [trans]
Another source from the 14th century whcih corrobororates that such an interpretation of Corbichon's text, in which the hurdy-gurdy is still counted among the good instruments of the minstrels:
"ont mout de boins instrument;
|"hebben vele goeder instrument;
si hebben ghitteernen, herpen, salterien,
orghelen, rebeben, trompen,
chiphonien, scalemeyden, bombaren,
cornemusen, floyten, douchainen ende nacairen"[fn].
At the same time for Guillaume de Machaut the hurdy-gurdy was only one among many equally respected instruments [fn], which took part in the "Prise d'Alexandrie" at a concert in Prague, a description of the reception of the Bohemian king [fn], and Eustache Deschamps listed the hurdy-gurdy among those instruments a little later which should be silent for the death of de Machaut:
"Rubebes, leuths, vielles, syphonie"[fn].
He apparently still held the hurdy-gurdy in esteem since he places it in the hands of Orpheus:
"Par les femmes de Cyconie,
Quant il (Orpheus) tenois sa cyphonie"[fn].
But when it comes to the question as to which instrument the minstrel would best take, Deschamps already ascribes the hurdy-gurdy to the blind person:
"Les haulx instrumens sont trop chiers,
La harpe tout bassement va;
Vielle est jeux pour les moustiers,
Aveugles chifonie aura"[fn].
Johannes Gerson and Aymeric de Peyrac do the same thing: "Symphoniam putent aliqui viellam, vel Rebeccam quae minor est. At verò rectiùs existimatur esse Musicum tale instrumentum quale sibi vendicaverunt specialiter ipsi caeci" [fn].
"Quidam symphoniam ludebant,
Orbatos lumine exultantes"[fn].
As proof for the complete decline of the hurdy-gurdy a report from the same period is popular in the professional literature: it appears in the "Chronique de Bertrand du Guesclin" (1383) by the Trouvère Cuvelier. Here the author reports of the French ambassador Mathieu de Gournay, who, being sent to Portugal, is received at the court there with great lavishness. For his honour the two best minstrels of the court are supposed to appear, and the king boasts of them to his guest that they are so unique that they do not have their equals all the way east to the Orient, meaning the Middle East. The musicians play the hurdy-gurdy, and de Gournay explains to the king that in France and in Normandy this instrument is played only by the blind
and is an "instrument truant"[fn], a term for the hurdy-gurdy which is constantly being emphasized by the scholars, although it appears in only this one place in the literature and cannot be considered to be a common name for the hurdy-gurdy. Since this source is so frequently only partly cited, the entire section concerning the hurdy-gurdy will be given here.
"'.II. ménestrez avons qui sont en no commant;
Il n'en y a nulz telz jusques en Oriant.
Li rois de Bel-Marine me va souvent mandant
Qu'envoier je li veille; mais ce est pour noiant
Ne m'en déliverroie pour nulle riens vivant.'
Adont les fist mander, qu'il n'i va arrestant;
Et cil y sont venus par itel couvenant
Que Mahieu de Gournay dont je vous voys parlant
Ne vit onques si noble devant roy aparant,
Et s'avoit chascun d'eulx après lui .I. sergent
Qui une chiffonie va à son col portant.
Et li .II. ménestrez se vont appareillant;
Devant le roy s'en vont ambdui chinfoniant.
Quant Mahieu de Gournay les va apercevant
Et les chinfonieurs a oy prisier tant,
A son cuer s'en aloit moult durement gabant.
E li rois li a dit après le gieu laissant:
'Que vous samble? dit-il; sont-il bien souffisant?'
Dit Mahieu de Gournay: 'Ne vous irai celant:
Ens ou pais de France et ou pais normant
Ne vont telz instrumens fors qu'avugles portant.
Ainsi font li avugle et li poure truant
De ci fais instrumens les bourjois entonnant:
On l'appele de lá .I. instrument truant'.
Et quant li rois l'oy, s'en ot le cuer dolant;
Il jura Jhésu-Crist, le père tout poissant;
Qui ne le serviront jamais en lor vivant.
Li rois de Portingal, qui moult se courouça,
Les .II. cinfonieurs adont congié donna" [fn]. [trans]
As the other 14th century sources and those of the following centuries prove, the decline of the hurdy-gurdy was by no means universal in this period[fn]. In France the instrument was still played by minstrels in the 15th century, as illustration 51 shows. Under this picture are the lines:
"Assés près ce chasteau estoit
Qu'avoie ouy qui vielloit
D'une vielle avecq son chant"[fn].
Although in the later French literature the hurdy-gurdy is almost always related to the blind, this does not necessarily mean that the instrument was not well thought of. In the 15th century two blind musicians were held in high respect at the Burgundian court. They were first mentioned in the reports of the year 1433 and then each year from 1436 to 1456 [fn], and indeed they are mentioned as players of 'bas instruments', as 'jouers de luth' or as 'jouers de vielle'. Since the 'vielle' at this time already denoted the hurdy-gurdy, they were probably blind hurdy-gurdy players and not viola players [fn]. Their presence at the Burgundian court for over twenty years shows the high respect which the two musicians enjoyed there. In 1434 the Duke of Burgundy loaned them to Chamberry [fn], where Martin le Franc heard them for the first time, and then met them again in 1435 in Arras [fn]. He was so full of praise for their playing that he even held them in greater esteem than Binchois and Dufay and claimed that these two appeared to be angered and ashamed, because they did not have such beautiful melodies.
"Tu les as aveugles ouy
Jouer à la court de Bourgogne;
N'a pas certainement ouy
Qu'il fast jamais telle besogne.
J'ay vu Binchois avoir vergongne
Et soy faire emprez leur rebelle,
Et Du Fay despité et frongne
Qu'il n'a mélodie si belle"[fn].
Both blind men played also together with other instruments and belonged to the twenty-eight minstrels who made music after meals[fn]. Another source from the same period reports of the participation of the hurdy-gurdy at the 'Voeu du Faisan' feast in 1453[fn].
In connection with these two vielle players at the Burgundian court is found also an early source for the making of stringed instruments by the lute maker Henri Boghart in Brussels, who made two instruments for the court on commission from the duchess. "A Hayne Boghart, faiseur de bas instrumens, demorant audit Brouxelles, pour deux vielles qu'il a faittes pour les deux aveugles joueurs de luz de ma dame la duchesse, X f. XVIs."[fn]. [trans]
In the 16th and 17th centuries the hurdy-gurdy was found both in the hands of beggars and cripples (ills. 140, 141, 158, 161) [figlink], as well as being played by itinerant musicians and folk musicians. In 1606 Robert Estienne considered it to be an instrument of the blind[fn], as did Antoine Furetière in 1690: "Vielle, Instrument... dont jouent ordinairement de pauvres aveugles. Vieller. Les aveugles sont ordinairement ceux qui gagnent leur vie à vieller" [fn]. Already known by term 'vielle' since the 15th century, which is still used today,
the old name 'symphonie' was remembered for a long time in France and was still used for the beggar's instrument[fn]. Both terms were used synonymously:
"Un aveugle, expert vielleur,
Joint sa symphone à la leur"[fn].
The hurdy-gurdy was even associated with blind musicians to such an extent that the young lady in a chanson by Gaultier-Garguille (1632) asks the hurdy-gurdy player whether he lost his sight on account of playing the instrument:
"Une jeune damoiselle
Demandoit à un vielleux:
'As-tu perdu les deux yeux
En jouent de ta vielle?'"[fn].
Apparently most of the hurdy-gurdy players in the streets of the 16th century French cities enjoyed great popularity with the majority of the population.
Thus in Rabelais' time a hurdy-gurdy player could still attract a crowd on the streets: "Car le peuple de Paris est tant sot, tant badaut, et tant inepte de nature, qu'un basteleur, un porteur de rogatons, un mulet avecques ses cymbales, un vielleux au mylieu d'un carrefour, assemblera plus de gens que ne feroit un bon prescheur evangelicque"[fn].[trans] In 1515 the hurdy-gurdy also belonged to the instruments which sounded when Francis I entered Paris[fn], and at approximately the same time, when François Rabelais made his remarks concerning the popularity of the hurdy-gurdy among the common people, it experienced a short period of popularity even at the French
court (see page 155, page 304) [fn]. The hurdy-gurdy also belonged to the instruments which were often pictured in the 16th [fn] and 17th centuries (ill. 217) [figlink] and to the favorite folk instruments of France. In a satire by Mathurin Regnier, written in 1605, the author claims that art is a waste of time and does not make any money. In this the hurdy-gurdy and the bagpipes as folk instruments are contrasted with the lyre of the muse:
"Qui, rudes n'aymeront la lyre de la Muse
Non plus qu'une vielle ou qu'une cornemuse
Laisse donc ce metier ..."[fn].
In Molière's "Dom Juan" Pierrot lists everything he did to prove his love to Charlotte; among other things he hired a hurdy-gurdy player who was to play at her feast: "je fais jouer pour toi les vielleux quand ce vient ta fest"[fn]. Antoine Furetière also calls the hurdy-gurdy an instrument "pour réjoüir les gens du peuple"[sp][fn].
In other countries the hurdy-gurdy also remained a respectable instrument for a long time. In the Netherlands it played a significant role during the 15th century [fn] and was often pictured in the 16th and 17th centuries (ills. 134, 143, 214, 215, 216, 218) [figlink].
When Maskiewicz from Poland stayed in Moscow in 1610-1611, he found the hurdy-gurdy to be an instrument esteemed in the houses of the boyars. [fn]
In the second half of the 14th century, when the first reports of the hurdy-gurdy as an instrument of the blind and beggars were appearing in France, in England it was still a religious instrument: "upon Witt-Sunday þe apostlis knewen alle langagis, and symphonye and croude weren herd whanne apostles knewen alle wittis" [fn]. For John de Trevisa in 1398 it was implicitly understood that a harp or hurdy-gurdy were part of a dinner for gentlemen: "Noble men vse not to make soupers wythout a harpe or symphony"[fn]. Even in the 17th century the hurdy-gurdy was not left out from the other instruments in praising God:
"Praise him upon the claricoales, the lute and sinfonie"[fn].
However around the middle of the 18th century, at the same time as the courtly hurdy-gurdy fashion in France, the hurdy-gurdy was already considered to be an ill-sounding instrument. This was noted in 1749: "Receive this incorrect epistle ... not for its wit or its beauty: for it has no more pretence to either than a hurdy-gurdy has to harmony"[fn].
In German-speaking areas the hurdy-gurdy had likewise a very different position. In 1400 Johannes von Saaz considered it to be an instrument which required some skill to play: "als vil als ein esel leiran kan, als vil kanstu die warheit vernemen"[fn]. At the beginning of the 16th century the hurdy-gurdy in Germany was still an instrument which people liked to hear, for "der tüfel hat erdacht das gyren (Gesang der Messpriester); ich wollt lieber hören liren". [fn] [trans: .... (the singing of priests at Mass) ... ] This did not change even in the 17th century, since
from this period comes the request to play something on the hurdy-gurdy, to turn the wheel and stroke the strings: "Leir mir einmals eins auf / agedum versa rotulam et chordas rade"[fn]. As is apparent from a Mecklenburg list from 1668, the hurdy-gurdy player was still one of the itinerant musicians in the 17th century: "das herumb laufende fremde, unnütze und muthwillige Gesindlein, darunter auch de Lirendreyer vornehmblichen mit gemeinet seyn". [fn].
But the blind and the beggars played the instrument in Germany as well, as Johann Fischart (c. 1546-1590) indicates: "schwäbische blinde Leyrer, burgundische Trümleinschlager" [fn]. [trans] In another place the same author refers particularly to the appropriateness of the hurdy-gurdy to beggars: "Darum musz man Paulum daselbst also verstehn / dasz sein Text mit vorgemelten Lobgesangen der H. Kirchen vberein stimme / wie der Betlerdantz auff Krucken zur gebrochen Leiren"[fn]. [note: looks like a u/macron in this quote, but seems unlikely - need to check] The dual position of the hurdy-gurdy in Germany is made clear by the association of the instrument with beggars by Johannes Cochlaeus in 1514 [fn] and by the representation of a courtly minstrel with hurdy-gurdy from the same year (ill. 10) [figlink]. From the 17th century we also have representations of the hurdy-gurdy as a beggar's instrument (ill. 148) [figlink] and illustrations in which it is represented as an instrument equal in value to the others (ill. 58) [figlink].
In Germany however the hurdy-gurdy was not just an instrument of beggars and itinerants, but at the same time as in France it also had a solid position in folk music and belonged to the instruments which the peasants played when they wanted to earn a little extra money as musicians [fn]. That the hurdy-gurdy was a member
of the village instrumentarium is shown also by the term "Bawren-Leyre" used by Michael Praetorius[fn]. Its use in a concert in Nürnberg on 31 May 1643 indicates its established position in the folk music. The programme contained twenty-two pieces strictly divided according to whether they were sacred or secular in nature. Under the 16th item was presented: "Zum sechzehender wurde dieser zum Gebrauch des Gotterdienstes und Erwekkung des Lobs Gottes angesehenen Music entgegen gesezt die weltliche irregular-Music und wurden gehöret die Leiern, Sackpfeiffen, Citharen, ... welche Instrumenta zum Gottesdienst nicht gebraucht worden" [fn]. [trans] In contrast to the spiritual music and the instruments used for it, folk music was aired here by musicians whose instruments were clearly unrelated to divine service[fn], including the hurdy-gurdy. Its image however must have been quite different in the various German territories. For example in Württemberg in the 18th century it was not listed with the highly esteemed instruments: "Sackpfeiffer, pohlnische Böck, Leyren, Triangel und dergl. nicht musicalische Instrumenten", and consequent with this association there belonged to the less respected minstrels who wandered there also: "Leyrer, Hackbrettler, Sackpfeiffer"[fn]. When in 1653 the music life of the cities in Saxony were regulated by law, the folk instruments were viewed as "unehrliche Instrumente", "als da seyn Sackspfeifen, Leyern und Triangel"[fn]. In other regions it was still used for a long time in festivities, as shown by a common Euskirchen and Zülpich saying from around 1880: "wenn nur en Leier geht" [litererally ....], which means "if only a festivity would talk place"[fn].
In Scandinavia the events were much the same as in other countries. At the end of the 15th century the hurdy-gurdy was still highly respected, as is indicated by the mention of the instrument in Alanus de Rupes' (Alain
de la Roche) rosary tract, whose Latin version appeared in 1498 in Mariefeld (Sweden). In this tract the author reports of ten virgins who played "in psalteriis, citharis, rebetis, et simphonijs et in alijs instrumentis musicabilibus"[fn]. But in Northern Europe as well the hurdy-gurdy lost its favor and became a less respected instrument: "leikarinn tók nú í sinfons stað söngfoeir soemiligs siðferðis" ("the fiddlers now took other instruments instead of the sinfon (an) honoured musical instrument")[fn]. An old ballad from East Gotland tells the story of a young shepherd who had to give up the hurdy-gurdy because of a girl. He was forced to play the fiddle instead of the hurdy-gurdy because the latter was a disreputable instrument[fn].
From Denmark come the last testimonies to the presence of the hurdy-gurdy from the 17th and 18th centuries. In the report of Hans Mikkelsen Ravn in 1646 it is said that in his days the hurdy-gurdy was played by Danish farmers [fn]. In 1719 the note was found on the title page of the first edition of Peter Paars that the performance was suited for all instruments, but especially for the hurdy-gurdy and the dulcimer[fn]. Already for a long time in Denmark the hurdy-gurdy was no longer only a farmer's instrument but was played by the beggars as well, as is indicated by a report concerning Marie Grubbe, who after her divorce in 1691 from Palle Dyre followed Sören Sörensen and earned her living by playing the hurdy-gurdy. She wandered around for many years with her instrument until she died in extreme poverty[fn].
The sources show very clearly how much the image of the hurdy-gurdy varied in different countries and frequently even within one country. The hurdy-gurdy accordingly cannot be considered to be an instrument which had completely declined by the end of the Middle Ages. Rather the position of the instrument depended on the respectability of the musicians
who played the hurdy-gurdy, for the players of this instrument came from social levels completely separated from one another by repertoire and respect. It is therefore interesting to learn which groups of musicians preferred especially the hurdy-gurdy, why it was just these people who chose the hurdy-gurdy, and what position they had in society as players of this instrument.
C. The Hurdy-gurdy as a Church Instrument
The attitude of the church to musical instruments during the Middle Ages varied between partial recognition and complete rejection. Thus for example in the early Middle Ages the ancient instruments adopted for church use were not accepted by the Christian church on account of their previous connection with pagan rites[fn]. But if clerics constantly railed against the use of musical instruments in the church[fn], this only shows clearly that they were directing their efforts in vain against an established practice; if the purely vocal execution of church music had succeeded in being established, this constantly repeated polemic would have been senseless. "These utterances represented a defensive de jure claim against a de facto use of instruments in the church"[fn]. That even clerics felt drawn to instrumental music is shown by a report of Jakob of Vitry, who reports of a Flemish priest that he wanted to become a "organizater, hystrio et ioculator". Of this "organizator" Jakob further claimed that he was in league with the devil,
put on airs unashamedly, and refused to work[fn].
Despite their negative judgements many clerics themselves played an instrument - various saints were even musicians[fn] - or allowed themselves to be entertained by minstrels, who indeed often belonged among the permanent guests of the monastery[fn], in various ways[fn]. In the Middle Ages almost all of the higher members of the clergy were from the nobility, and were not satisfied by traveling minstrels, but even maintained for themselves their own court bands[fn]. "After the 13th century there were practically no more Roman Catholic Church princes who did not have court minstrels"[fn].
The hurdy-gurdy also belonged to the instrumentarium of the clerics up until the 14th century, and was first represented in the 12th and 13th centuries in Europe in churches, monasteries, and in the miniatures of psalter manuscripts. Among the 24 instruments which were represented on the portal of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (ill. 17) [figlink] the hurdy-gurdy is given the highest position; it takes the highest place within the arch. This central position of the organistrum cannot be explained by the size of the instrument and its operation by two players, since it also appears in the same form and size among other instruments, but not in such an emphasized position (ills. 13, 16) [figlink]. Rather such a preferred position
indicates the significance of the hurdy-gurdy at this time in the instrumentarium of the church. In Santiago the artist placed the organistrum in the highest place and grouped the other instruments downwards on both sides. Further it is especially noteworthy about this representation that the two players of the large hurdy-gurdy are the only ones among the other musicians represented who are in the process of playing their instrument. The other musicians provided with bowed instruments can indeed not play since none of them has a bow. As to why these instruments were portrayed without bows: one can only presume that thus the privileged position of the hurdy-gurdy was to be especially emphasized.
Undoubtedly the organistrum had an important function in the church. This is confirmed above all by the term "organistrum" for the place in the church "ubi sunt organa"[fn], and by the representation of exclusively large hurdy-gurdies on church buildings. In the depiction of the players of this instrument the respect in which the hurdy-gurdy was held in those times is mirrored: they were crowned men, kings of the apocalypse or monks. On the basis of individual representations it can be established that at first two players equal in dignity and age played the instrument, but that later a clear distinction in rank set in. While the tangent player remained a dignified person, the player who operated the crank was with increasing frequency portrayed as a young man or boy (ills. 19, 20, 21, 22) [figlink]. The duty of the second player became considered as purely mechanical work comparable to that of the calcantus [meaning what? German: Kalkanten] required for organ playing. This is shown not only by the representations, in which the player is apparently a cleric, but also in the single picture of a large hurdy-gurdy in the hands of secular crowned musicians (ills. 14, 15) [figlink], where the only musician who is not wearing a crown is the one turning the crank, and hence he is not considered to be of equal rank with the others.
In the following centuries the instruments, among them the hurdy-gurdy, slowly disappeared from the church.
In their place came the organ, which at first was only slowly accepted as a church instrument[fn], but which was later used more and more for church music[fn]. The increased use of the organ in the church affected especially the hurdy-gurdy, which can be considered to be a predecessor to the organ in this field and which was replaced by it: "l'orgue la (vielle) chassa du monastère et de la cathédrale"[sp][fn]. Next to the organ other musical instruments were also used for a long time in church music[fn], as is shown in the 15th century by the wish of Alfonso V the High-Hearted, who desired his organ builder Jacme Gil from Valencia to build him a small organ for his ensemble, which "in its intonation is matched with the other instruments" ("sien intonats ab los ministrers")[fn].
After its first recorded appearance in Europe the hurdy-gurdy appears to have been known in the various countries of Western Europe in a short time, which lead to the conclusion that the spreading of the instrument was completed on several levels at the same time.
The hurdy-gurdy in a large format for two players was primarily a church instrument, and was known in various countries from Spanish monasteries and churches through monks and pilgrims. Knowledge of this church instrument was also presumably transmitted between the monasteriesr, which were in contact beyond national borders. Just in the representations of large hurdy-gurdies the spreading within one class can be established by the relatively great uniformity of the shape and technique of these instruments (ills. 13, 14, 16-22) [figlink].
The favored position which the hurdy-gurdy had as an instrument played by the clerics was transferred also to another group of hurdy-gurdy players:
the minstrels. These were frequently pictured with angels who are playing instruments and therefore acquired a special position[fn]; for the angels playing hurdy-gurdies belonged to the spiritual sphere, and it is not to be thought, as E. Winternitz did, they were provided with undignified instruments: "like playful children they do not hesitate to take a juggler's or beggar's instrument for the greater glory of the Lord or his saints"[fn]. Rather in some areas the hurdy-gurdy has lost its earlier dignity but had not yet fallen into general discredit, as the angels prove: "it cannot have passed entirely into disrepute; it rather was considered archaic"[fn]. In Italy pictures of angels with hurdy-gurdies are found especially often up until the 16th century (ills. 36, 50, 111, 137) [figlink]. Italy is a country from which we otherwise know little about the instrument. In Spain in the 14th century a picture of an angel with a hurdy-gurdy is found, and in Germany hurdy-gurdy angels can be observed up until the 16th century (ills. 8, 53, 85) [figlink], next to them already praying shepherds with hurdy-gurdies (ill. 138) [figlink]. In a Danish church an angel playing a hurdy-gurdy was pictured in 1560 (ill. 52) [figlink]. The dual position of the instrument becomes especially clear in several representations from the early 16th century from Jakob Cornelisz of Amsterdam, who had the hurdy-gurdy in his paintings played both by angels (ills. 214, 215) [figlink] and by devils (ill. 216) [figlink]. Also on the Sebaldus grave of Peter Vischer in Nürnberg (constructed 1508-9), a boy kneels next to his hurdy-gurdy (ill. 136) [figlink]. Although Vischer pictured many other instruments there as well, important instruments of this period are missing. Of keyed instruments only the hurdy-gurdy is represented, "which at that time had apparently not yet sunk to the level of a beggar's instrument"[fn].
These late representations of the hurdy-gurdy as an instrument of the angels show just how varying the times were in which the decline of the instrument occurred in different countries.
D. The Instrument of the Minstrels
Despite its high position as a church instrument, for the further development of the hurdy-gurdy it was of incomparably greater importance that it belonged to the instrumentarium of the minstrels. In their capacity of traveling musicians they decisively promoted the development of the instrument in the Middle Ages, for they quickly spread themselves throughout all of Europe and pushed aside in a short time the old Germanic, Welsh-Breton and English singers of the heroic epics, which did not originally belong to the traveling people[fn].
The principal task of the minstrels was to present music with instruments[fn]. Their particular effectiveness was based on their wanderings throughout Europe, which contributed to the quick spread of their repertoire and their musical instruments. They thus fulfilled an important function since they made epic material, melodies[fn] and music instruments known everywhere[fn].
In spreading epics, songs and instruments the French minstrels seem to have
had extraordinarily great significance. Their influence in the whole of Western
Europe is clearly indicated by the use of French terms in the other languages.
This is shown in England after the Normans took
power there[fn] as well as in the Netherlands[fn] and in Germany, where since the 12th century it was fashionable to hire French language teachers. In the German literature themes from French works were treated above all others. The strong French influence also appears in musical presentations. The manner of presentation of the French musicians must have differed from that of other minstrels, since playing "in the French manner" is always expressly mentioned and the musicians coming from France are always particularly denoted as such [fn].
The influence of the French minstrels was limited to the Western European countries[fn] and even there was not felt everywhere, as the German influence on the Bohemian minstrels of the 14th century shows. There the long presence of Guillaume de Machauts as a personal scribe at the Prague Court of King Johann did not have provide any direct French orientation as a consequence [fn]. The medieval Hungarian minstrel is also supposed to have originated after the German pattern[fn]. The hurdy-gurdy also came to Hungary with the German minstrel. An indication of its presence as an instrument of the minstrels is given by the old Hungarian expression for a minstrel, "szemfényvesztö" [fn], whose relationship with "symphonie" cannot be denied.
At first the hurdy-gurdy was represented only in connection with the church. However there are numerous testimonies in the literature for the simultaneous use by the minstrels. As early as the 12th century, the same time from which the first representations of the hurdy-gurdy have been preserved, the Norman writer Robert Wace mentions the "symphonie" in "Roman de Brut" as one of the instruments which the jongleur Blegabres, characterized as "Dex des jogleors", played[fn]. Until the 14th century the hurdy-gurdy was used in the church as well as being one of the minstrels' instruments. Only in the 14th century is the instrument found almost exclusively in the hands of secular musicians in the pictorial representations, showing that it had lost its place in the church and monastery: "the organistrum lost its former vogue in the churches and monasteries, and, in a degenerated state, became popular with wandering minstrels and country folk"[fn].
The quick spread of the hurdy-gurdy throughout Europe can only be explained in that it became known as a minstrel instrument from traveling musicians. This means that besides the spreading of the church instrument by clerics the spreading by minstrels occurred to an ever-increasing extent. As soon as the hurdy-gurdy was pictured in the hands of the minstrels a multitude of different forms and techniques becomes apparent, which display great differences. A uniform shape of the hurdy-gurdy could not occur with the minstrels since the instrument was dispersed in greatly differing stages of development. Western European minstrels who reached Hungary on their travels [fn] familiarized their hosts with their instruments, presenting the stage of development of the instrument with which they themselves were acquainted. In this way the
hurdy-gurdy also became known and adopted in other countries in various stages of development.
As with the large hurdy-gurdy the instrument of the minstrels probably also came from Spain which had especially close cultural relations with France in the Middle Ages [fn]. The wide spread of the hurdy-gurdy among the minstrels presumably took place from France outward: this is confirmed by the numerous mentions of the hurdy-gurdy in the French literature; in the literature of no other European country are such references so frequently found. In France it must have had a solid position in the medieval instrumentarium. That it was primarily the French minstrels who spread the hurdy-gurdy further throughout Western Europe is shown by the adoption in all other areas of the term"symphonie", which was common in France. This term indicates that the hurdy-gurdy was at first known under this name in other countries, because it was replaced by vernacular expressions only towards the end of the Middle Ages or even later.
The minstrels however could only make the hurdy-gurdy known to such an extent
and provide for its reception into the instrumentarium in various lands because
they themselves, varying indeed according to country, time, and sphere of use,
were in general positively valued and accepted. At first they were probably
gladly seen, even by the church which, although it condemned traveling musicians
and their instruments [fn], could and would not forego them.[fn]. The
church's recognition of the minstrels is proven, for
example by the representation of instrumentalists on a capital of the cloisters of the Abbey at Saint Georges de Bocherville near Rouen (ill. 14) [figlink]. Pictured there are musicians with their instruments as well as a woman standing on her hands, a so-called "tumeresse"[fn]. This acrobat indicates that these are minstrels and not clerics.
The position of the minstrels in the service of the church up to the 14th century must have been even stronger than the always repeated bans of instrumental music would indicate. The minstrels were not only tolerated by the clerics, but some of them even were highly respected by them[fn]. The chanteurs de geste, "who limited themselves to glorifying the deeds of Christian kings, heros, and martyrs"[fn], took up a special position, and numerous legends tell of minstrels who became known as martyrs or as doers of good deeds[fn].
In all important church occasions secular musicians with their numerous instruments stimulated the faithful and increased the splendour and pomp of the church festivities[fn]. While the minstrels headed a procession and played constantly they raised
the spirits of the people, "et la joie grandissait avec le bruit qu'ils faisaient"[fn]. The church could not forego instrumentalists especially during Corpus Christi, the most splendid of all late medieval processions. [fn] During this event the participating minstrels "vor dem heiligen lichnam hofirten" [trans] and sometimes, as for example in Görlitz, were paid for their work[fn]. During the celebration of the raising of the cross in Toulouse musicians went at the head of the procession[fn], "et il faut bien se persuader ici que c'étaient des instrumentistes, et non point des chanteurs"[fn]. [trans] That processions were normally headed by minstrels is shown by a ban on this practice, which the Advisor of Noyen in 1324 decreed for his diocese[fn].
Despite the ban of the church the participation of the minstrels during numerous occasions was not only tolerated outside of the churches, but the minstrels "also went inside and played, with the permission of the authorities, during the service and other occasions"[fn]. In Beauvais the old national heroic epics (the chansons de geste) had to be presented by jongleurs at Christmas, Pentecost and All Saints in the cloister of the cathedral from the end of the prime to the high office, a custom which was practiced until the middle of the 15th century[fn]. The secular musicians in Breslau were obliged to sing a mass at least once a year and be accompanied by their instruments[fn]. Aside from the local church festivities the minstrels were never missing from pilgrimages, on which they participated as pilgrims or as
entertainers[fn]. Accordingly instrumentalists in the Middle Ages had a respected position in church life, and there was no distinction made between secular and church minstrels. The same minstrels were present at all festive occasions[fn]. With the presence of secular musicians at church feasts was bound the tolerations of the instruments they played. Until the 14th century therefore these were also not excluded from use in church events, but rather the clerics and the itinerant musicians played the same instruments[fn].
The great effect of their appearance can be attributed to the fact that the minstrels could be met with in every level of society: they gladly remained in the vicinity of noblemen and accompanied kings and princes[fn]. They were part of courtly life as table entertainers[fn], they played in pubs and bath houses and had great significance for maintenance of old traditional customs[fn]. They were an essential part of every large folk festivity, especially at the very popular dance events, which were enjoyed during
the entire Middle Ages by all social circles[fn]. Minstrels appeared by the hundreds on the occasion of great celebrations, and above all for church dedications, annual markets, princely marriages, councils and Masses[fn], and the places were filled by music of the most different kinds. "Les musiciens étaient innombrables. Aux fêtes de l'Eglise comme aux adoubements et aux mariages, la ville et la campagne étaient pleines de la rumeur des instruments"[sp][fn].
Up until the 14th century minstrels had an easy time earning their money for they were in demand, because they brought diversion and a change of pace, and they were so popular that, for example, in France during the reign of Louis IX the Saint, they received various priviledges, among these exemption from any kind of tax[fn]. But despite the influential position of some minstrels the itinerant musician had a bad reputation which did not improve with time, but instead got worse[fn]. His way of life was considered to be not especially moral and his occupation as undignified[fn], which had caused Charlemagne to attempt to raise the position of the joculators[fn]. The same purpose was shared by a brotherhood founded in the first half of the 11th century in the Abbey of St Martin de Fécamp in Normandy, whose charta [check] shows that the minstrels participated with the monks at the masses,
sang in common with them during other services and played their instruments, including the hurdy-gurdy[fn].
The attempts on the part of the clergy to increase the morality and dignity of the minstrels remained isolated and were not very successful. The number of itinerant minstrels increased since the 13th century to such a great extent that the chances for earning a living for the single minstrel constantly decreased. In addition to the secular musicians came now also the itinerant cleric, the vagrants. They were the "in the hundreds of thousands of outsiders of the high and late medieval society. The stricter the social order became, the larger became the army of outsiders and outcasts"[fn]. The vagrants not only considerably increased the number of the traveling musicians, but they were also soon in competition with the secular singers and minstrels at the courts of church and princely noblemen for their favor[fn].
The big cities above all became collecting points of all good and bad musicians, and the urban minstrels therefore saw themselves forced to do something against the increasing influx of foreign musicians, who endangered their livelihood and their good reputation.
From the Paris tax list of 1292 it is evident that there were in Paris at that time a great number of "jongleurs", "trompeurs" and "faiseurs de vielles"[fn]. These Parisian minstrels united themselves in 1321 to the "Confrèrie de Saint-Julien et Saint-Genest", in order to better protect
their interests against outside minstrels[fn]. This brotherhood with its fixed statutes, while not the first[fn], became a model for many other unions of this type, since in most other countries the minstrels were in a position similar to their counterparts in France. Thus such unions were also formed in the Netherlands[fn], in England[fn], in Germany and in other countries[fn].
Another method of obtaining an assured income and in addition a better reputation for minstrels lay in being supported by a prince or a city[fn]. From early times the minstrels settled down in the cities, where their domicile can often be evidenced in the street names[fn], just like those of the professional music instrument makers.
Thus, for example, there is a street in Köln which had been named "Himmelreichgaßchen" [literally ...] until the Second World War when it was destroyed. The makers of keyed instruments, at the time mainly portatives and hurdy-gurdies, had lived there since the 13th century. In 1232 the street was called "Tastegazze"[literally ...], in 1260 "Clauirgazze" [literally ...] and in 1334 "in der tastinkun(s)tgassen"[fn].[literally ...]
Since the number of the itinerant minstrels was continually increasing the cities themselves soon published strict regulations[fn] which limited the number of musicians appearing at any one festivity, in order to avoid burdening the public, and to forbid entry into the city to foreign minstrels[fn].
The union of minstrels into brotherhoods[fn] and the regulations of the individual cities were necessary measures taken to protect the local minstrels, who in this way wanted to assure their livelihood. Also, the city musicians, who in their territory were very respected, had to protect their standard of musicality and their good reputation from the effects of the influx of foreign minstrels. The unorganised "bands of musicians presented for the occupation of producing secular music a great danger on account of the lower quality of their work. They were less expensive than the city pipers. People of lower incomes, especially the country-folk, preferred their services at all special family events"[fn].
Since the minstrels were so extraordinarily widespread and active in so many areas, and since the hurdy-gurdy was one of the instruments which these traveling
musicians liked to play, the duties of the minstrels, their increasing numbers, and the protective measures consequent to this must be discussed here. For with the respect and the social position of these musicians was connected very closely the respect of the instruments played by them. The itinerant musicians themselves since the late Middle Ages divided themselves into groups, which no longer performed all kinds of music as they had earlier or, on account of the measures of the brotherhoods and the cities, could no longer perform due to the class consciousness of certain groups. Various groups were formed according to their area of activity, and their image depended upon how they were judged by those levels of the population which they sought to entertain with their music. Among the instruments which were played by the musicians who confined their activity especially to the entertainment of country folk, the people in smaller provincial cities, and in the streets of large cities, was also the hurdy-gurdy which was so judged as were the musicians who played it.
In the high and late Middle Ages the hurdy-gurdy had at first belonged to the instruments which were usually played at occasions of every sort. It was played in churches, in palaces, in the houses of the rich[fn], as well as in cities and in villages in the streets and was therefore familiar to everyone. Its popularity is shown, for example, by Buoncompagno of Florence, who wrote a letter of recommendation for a lyra or hurdy-gurdy player, in which it is said of the bearer that he can sing to the lyra and play the hurdy-gurdy marvelously: "scientes quod hic novit cantare cum lira et tangere mirabiliter simphoniam"[fn].
The use of the hurdy-gurdy however was later limited to these traveling musicians who particularly entertained the "folk" in the cities and countrysides. In this function the hurdy-gurdy belonged until recent times among the instruments of these itinerant musicians. There was an especially long tradition of wandering hurdy-gurdy players in northern Spain. From the same geographical area from the first representations of the church hurdy-gurdies have been preserved comes also a tapestry preserved in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (ill. 152) [figlink] which depicts one of these itinerant hurdy-gurdy players. Even in the 19th and 20th centuries there were in this region wandering hurdy-gurdy players (ills. 83, 173) [figlink], who often attracted the attention of the listener with the aid of an animal, like a small monkey (ill. 84) [figlink] and hoped thus to make their presentation more attractive.
The itinerant musicians were popular for a long time in the countrysides and smaller provincial towns of Spain and in the larger cities of France (ills. 71, 72, 199) [figlink]. In the same way they are met with in Germany (ill. 172) [figlink], where they understood how to entertain the country folk, and also appeared in the cities with animals, as for example a "spilman mit einem hunde vnd leyern" [trans" hurdy-gurdy player with a dog and hurdy-gurdy] in 1519/20 in Ochsenfurt[fn] or the woman [German = "Begleiterin"] who accompanied a disabled country servant (1555) and who sang to the hurdy-gurdy and had a dog leap through a hoop (see page 397) [fn].
Despite the popularity of these traveling hurdy-gurdy players they do not appear to have had a good reputation in many areas, as a Tyrolean regulation from 1573 indicates, in which the hurdy-gurdy player is listed with others who have a bad reputation: "Landfahrer, Leyrer, Spiellute, Jacobsbruder[sp], Riffiane[fn] une Gardknechte"[fn]. The careless way of life of the itinerant hurdy-gurdy players mirrored in sayings like "was man bey Tage mit der Leyer verdient, das geht bei
der Nacht wieder alles in Wind"[fn] or, for example, in the derogatory judgements of the "Leirer, Gugeler und Sackpfeifer" in 1586 of Ambrosius Pape (in his "Bettel- und Garte- Teufel"), who without distinction "einen Psalm oder Liedlein daher klingen lassen, und was sie damit sammeln, verspielen, versaufen und mit ihren Madunnen verzehren und alle Buberei mit treiben helfen"[sp][fn]. They were also frequently suspected of committing crimes and hence were arrested, as in 1512 "ain walscher junger leyrer" in Traunstein[fn]. The boldness of their appearance is made clear by the expression "verwuong (=verwegen) muss merr sei wie e Leiermann"[sp][fn]. The angry retort of a farmer who at a dance was bothered by an importunate maid also refers to the proverbial cheekiness of the hurdy-gurdy: "mensch, laszt mich ungeheyt, und kneipt den leyerman"[fn].
On the other hand Grimmelshausen's Springinsfeld shows, for example, the varying respect for the hurdy-gurdy players. In a listing of all disreputable people the hurdy-gurdy is grouped by him with the beggars and rogues[fn]. Springinsfeld married the daughter of a beggar, and he accompanied her while she earned her money by playing the hurdy-gurdy (compare ill. 186) [figlink]. Their activity extended from playing before people's doors - a type of musical entertainment which was very widespread (ills. 39, 228) [figlink] - to playing for dances and church dedications. Springinsfeld made great efforts to improve their lot somewhat and to emerge from the milieu of the beggars. "Derowegen liesse ich mich und sie ein wenig besser kleiden / nemlich auff die Mode wie Leyrer-Gesindel
auffzuziehen pflegt"[fn]. From the mention of the different attire
which he and his wife wore can be seen that there must have still been hurdy-gurdy
players who were counted among the minstrels, for otherwise Grimmelshausen would
not have laid such importance on the external change. The distinction which
Springinsfeld and his wife undertook becomes quite distinct through the reference
to the way they played the strings. They did not want any longer to earn their
money by begging to a musical accompaniment, but by playing music: "wir
liessen sie (die Kinder) ihnen auch gern folgen / weil wir bedacht waren / vnser
Nahrung nicht mehr under dem Schein elender Bettler: sonder durch unser Saitenspil
zu gewinnen / welches reputierlicher zu seyn schiene"[fn].
The special type of musicians' attire which Springinsfeld strived for seems to indicate that these musicians - and perhaps also especially the hurdy-gurdy players - wanted to distinguish themselves from others by their external appearance. Thus apparently it was also customary in many areas for the hurdy-gurdy player to wear a full beard, which was then usually known as a "leiermannbart" (compare ills. 38, 132, 148, 159, 223, 224, 229) [figlink] [fn]. Characteristic of the itinerant hurdy-gurdy player was also the way in which he hung his instrument over the shoulder while traveling (ills. 10, 122) [figlink]. This is shown by a Trier expression transferred to maids: "Se hankt am om Arm wie en Leier"[sp][fn].
Although the number of musicians who badly played the hurdy-gurdy steadily increased, the chances of earning a living could not have been as slim as it appears. The hurdy-gurdy players apparently earned enough to provide for a living, whereby the number of people who gave them money was decisive; for the customary reward for these musicians consisted of [comment: DH: was "in"] the smallest
coins which were jokingly called "leier-gelt"[fn], "monnaie de vielleur" or "pistoles de vielleur"[fn]. Expressions used to denote money of the least value, coined from the hurdy-gurdy, were also given to other things which were either the cheapest of their type or which could be purchased especially by hurdy-gurdy players with their small earnings. Thus skim milk was also called "leiermilch"[fn], a diluted drink "leierwasser"[fn] and cheap whiskey "leiermannkorn"[fn]. Apparently at that time it was worthwhile for a hurdy-gurdy player to play his instrument, and he could always earn something, as a few expressions testify: "Besser g'liret als g'firet"[fn]; "Basser geleierd als gefeierd"[sp][fn]; "Lieber en Batzen erliren als zwe verfiren"[sp][fn].
The hurdy-gurdy player's opportunities for earning a living were even excellent
in many areas: Grimmelshausen's Springinsfeld, who played the fiddle, and his
wife with her hurdy-gurdy played at peasant dances, annual markets and at church
dedications, which "treflich eintrug" for them and their "Gelt
nach und nach zimlich vermehrte"[fn]. This hurdy-gurdy player earned
already without her husband so much with her instrument alone that she "nich
allein sich selbst damit ernahrete sonder noch Geld zuruck legte / und ihrem
mittheilte"[sp][fn]. The French peasant as well, from Auvergne, whose [comment: DH: was "who"] house fell in, travelled throughout France
in order to earn money to repair the damage by playing the hurdy-gurdy and singing. After wandering through the French provinces he returned to Auvergne with a full purse. With this money he bought the shares of the other members of the family in the house. In order to rebuild the house however and to enlarge his acreage he had to wander again through France a few more times and earn money with his hurdy-gurdy: "enfin pour pouvoir ne jouer de la vielle qu'aupres de mon feu et a mon plaisir, il me fallait faire encore le tour de France trois fois si nous avions la paix, trente si nous avions la guerre"[sp][fn].
For most itinerant hurdy-gurdy players there was apparently always the opportunity to earn their living with the help of their instrument. Despite the partially very low respect for the hurdy-gurdy and their players they all had sufficient chances for earning money, which led to the fact that the instrument lasted in most European countries until very recent times.
Up until modern times the hurdy-gurdy was one of the traveling musicians' instruments, but since the late Middle Ages however the instrument lost respect considerably in some areas for musicians and for the public. If the reasons are sought for this gradual, varying according to region decline of the hurdy-gurdy, it can be established that the social decline cannot be explained by the imperfection of the instrument, but lies in close connection with the respect of the minstrels, which declined to the same extent. This decline was the result of the constantly increasing number of itinerants in the late Middle Ages, which became a plague for the population. Not only were more bad musicians found among the numerous minstrels, but these also turned increasingly to the easily learned instruments, to which the hurdy-gurdy also belonged, and thus brought these into disrepute.
E. The Hurdy-gurdy of the Beggars
Except for the few minstrels who found steady employment on account of their reputation and dignity, the mass of the itinerant musicians were everywhere part of the lowest social class, [fn] while in the late Middle Ages the many beggar musicians occupied an even lower position. They were not only unworthy representatives of their occupation, but they also made "auch manch Instruments und Singweisen zu unehrlichen,'"[fn] which in the Late Middle Ages and in more modern times can be recognized in the literature and in representations. Up until then individual instruments were probably valued according to their loudness of sound or the tonal character, but no instrument was judged in an absolutely negative way. Only when different instruments were adopted by members of the lowest social classes are the corresponding associations made in the literature and in representations. The dependance of an instrument's image upon the musicians who play it can be well seen in the statures of Saxon professional piers from the 17th century. There it is said: "Soll keiner sich unterfangen, unehrliche Instruementa, als da seyn Sackpfeifen, Schafsbocke, Leyern und Triangeln, welcher sich oftmals die Bettler zum Sammeln der Almosen fur den Thuren gebrauchen, zu zoo fuhren, dadurch dann die Kunst ebenfalls in Verachtung gebracht und verkleinert gehalten wird."[fn][sp]
On account of the complicated construction of the hurdy-gurdy it must be assumed that the instrument was first built only by experienced musicians or given in commission by them to skilled craftsmen. Thus the number of people is limited who could have built such an instrument or have it built: among these were clerics who had the necessary musical-theoretical
information, and minstrels, of whom it was expected that they could play several different instruments, string their instruments themselves and partially also construct them, [fn] and who hence had to be good musicians. The social position of the hurdy-gurdy was accordingly closely connected with the difficulty construction of the instrument.
In contrast however with the relatively complicated construction of the hurdy-gurdy, it is fairly easy to learn to play it. The range which is limited by the small number of tangents and the at first even movement of the wheel did not present the player with any major problems. The easy playability of the hurdy-gurdy proved since the late Middle Ages to be fateful, since thus the instrument was best suited for the large numbers of begging musicians, of whom most must be considered to be beggars without any musical aptitude. Among the beggars again it was especially the blind who played the hurdy-gurdy: "il (l'instrument) devint principalement l'objet de mendicite des aveugles, vrais ou faux." [fn]] [sp] [trans:CCW: "It (the instrument) became primarily a begging tool (or object) of the blind, real or pretend."] If in the late medieval literature blind buggers or musicians are mentioned, then the majority of these musicians played the hurdy-gurdy. The reason why the hurdy-gurdy was so suitable for the blind lies in its construction. The even turning of the crank did not involve any special skill, and the arrangement of the tangents made it especially easy for blind to learn the instrument, since the number of tangents, small at first, and their arrangement without gaps (see page 116) made playing very easy for the left hand, and the hurdy-gurdy was probably the instrument which could be learned the easiest by a blind person.
For most of the itinerant blind and beggars their instrument, almost always the hurdy-gurdy, was just a means of better attracting attention to themselves and thus receive more alms. There were therefore not good musicians.[fn] But since the image of an instrument depended largely on the
dignity of the musician playing it, the popularity of the hurdy-gurdy among begging musicians made it impossible for the minstrels to use this instrument if they wanted to avoid being placed on the same level as the contemptible beggars. Hence the more beggars played the hurdy-gurdy, the less it was used by the minstrels, and this lead to a constant decline of the instrument until in some areas it became the sole possession of the blind and the beggars, being despised by other musicians (ills. 160, 166, 167) [figlink]. Just how much the instrument was associated with beggars is shown both by the transfer of the word lire' (Leier) to a person who is continually begging for something, [fn] as well as by the term lirum' for an old instrument which is no longer playable.[fn]
Such a spreading as a beggar's instrument could only have occurred however because the numbers of the blind and the beggars-- and hence those who turned to the hurdy-gurdy-- experienced an extraordinary increase towards the end of the Middle Ages. The grounds for the rapidly increasing numbers of the beggars lie in the general economic and political situation in which Central Europe found itself. As early as the 13th century-- the time of the first labour strikes--there were many labourers, especially weavers, who in times of crisis left the cities and went into the country and, for a time, made their living by begging in the villages. [fn]  Due to the numerous catastrophes the number of those who lived from begging alone rapidly increased in the 14th century. After the famine of 1315-16 which affected all of Europe and which in many cities removed up to 10% of the population, came in 1348 the great plague, which until 1354 with devastating consequences spread throughout the whole of Europe and which exterminated up to one third--and in some areas just over half--of the population. The enormous effects of this first epidemic can be explained in reference to the weakened resistance
of people due to the preceding famine. Further losses occurred in the following years due to the frequency of continuously arising epidemics. In addition came the beginning of the Hundred Years' War, which caused frightful losses to France. The result of these catastrophes were a heavy reduction of the population and the wide-spread devastation of individual territories, [fn] and subsequent to this the economic sufferings of a large portion of the population.
On account of the constant wars, epidemics, bloody encounters, but also on account of the ignorance of the doctors as well as mutilations which were often meted out in the Middle Ages as punishment, the number of cripples and the disabled who, asking for alms, had to wander around, increased very rapidly, and "entire armies of begging men and women," who "like swarms of scarecrows" overfell the cities were formed. In most cases the city gates were closed to them, but on occasion of " a mass or coronation of an emperor as well as on official begging days the poured without end into the city." [fn]  Among the beggars were a remarkably large number of blind: in Frankfurt on the Main there were in the 14th century for 10,000 inhabitants 20-42 blind, and in Ypern there were (from 1431-1501) 36-39 blind. [fn]
Even in the later centuries the percentage of those unable or unwilling to work remained high. As a weighty consequence of the Thirty Years' War there was in Germany a great number of beggars; in the 18th century there were in the church territories 260 beggars for every 1,000 inhabitants. [fn]
There was no regular opportunity for making a living for the blind and crippled up until modern times, unless they were supported by their families. Since they could not be utilized in the labour force
and the states did not take up any measures of guaranteeing social welfare, begging remained to them the only way in which they could support themselves. This was made somewhat easy by the medieval joy in giving [fn], which resulted from the view that poverty was saintly and from the duty to be charitable. "According to the generally accepted view the beggar even provided a service for his neighbor. For God, who distributed his gifts unevenly, gave temporal possessions to the rich, but to the poor he gave the right to claim the heavenly riches...When the rich man gave some of his temporal possessions to the poor man, he thus purchased for himself the heavenly possessions, and thus both went to heaven." [fn]
For centuries people had a quite different attitude toward begging than we have today. It was indeed viewed as undignified, but no danger to society was seen in it and hence there were no legal measures taken against it. Aside from this the diligence of modern times as the "highest virtue of the citizen" was generally unknown up until the 18th century. [fn] Thus the first social care provided for beggars was reduced to a minimum. [fn]
The many economic crises and the difficult social relationships also contributed tot the fact that the number of itinerants was further increased by additional people unable to work or by those who were in the process of changing professions [fn] and became a plague for the population especially at festivities and at annual markets.[fn] Frequently traveling musicians came from hand craft occupations which were disturbed in crises like the Thirty Years' Wars [fn]: there were however also discharged soldiers or those, who on account
of war injuries sustained were no longer able to work, [fn] as for example that 16th century peasant who wandered around with a female companion who played the hurdy-gurdy and thus earned his living:
"Vor Metz ward mir der Schenckel abgschossn.
Seyd thu ich stets dem Krieg nachdrossn;
Wo man zu Feld ligt, hab ich sold.
Doch hab ich auch mein Metzen hold;
Hab ich kein krieg, so hifft sie garten,
Thut bein Bauren des hoffierens warten.
Darzu kann sie int Layern singen,
Der Hunnd kan durch den Ranff (1. Reif) springen.
Byn daheym weder dort noch hie,
Nehr mich also, Gott weyss wol wie.
Hans Guldemun der Elter. M.D.L.v." [fn]
Among those unable to work the blind particularly were often forced to rely on the help of their fellow humans who were not blind, as a 16th century representation depicts, in which a blind man with his hurdy-gurdy strapped to him. A similar role was probably also played by the small boy who in a 17th century representation (I.. 170 ) plays music together with four beggars, some of who [CW: whom] are completely blind. These musicians are playing four hurdy-gurdies at the same time and also singing to the sound of their instruments. Presumably these pictures show two of many such groups formed from necessity. [Note: neediness?]
The opportunities for earning a living do not appear to have been bad for the hurdy-gurdy playing beggars. They probably always managed to make ends meet, as an expression from the Saarland indicates,"De Bedelmann met seine Leier hat selde noch gebraucht ze faschte."[fn] Probably in some times--perhaps only in some areas--one could earn more as a begging hurdy-gurdy player than as a musician. Undoubtedly
there were among the beggars those whose playing and repertoire was good, as is indicated by the audience (ill. 159) [figlink]. Just how many of these beggars were in fact hurdy-gurdy playing beggars and not minstrels who passed themselves off as beggars can no longer be established. The generosity of alms givers towards beggars must have tempted many minstrels to secure higher incomes by pretending to be crippled [fn] or to consciously wear shabby clothing. [fn] The consequence of this must have been that the minstrels were actually considered to be on he same level as the beggars. In many places as well close contact between beggars, minstrels, and robbers or robber bands can be established [fn], since the robbers liked to disguise themselves as minstrels, for which reason under the possible disguises of robbers in 1746 spiel-leute' and geiger und leyrer' are mentioned.[fn]. Thus not only almost all the beggars of the area belonged to Krummfinger-Balthassar's band (1745), but also many hurdy-gurdy players, who in the dialect of the band were call drehwiner.' [fn]
On the one hand the blind were presumably not always really blind, as the report concerning the famous thief Arlapin shows, who played the hurdy-gurdy and imitated a blind person: "tantost jouant de la vielle, il contrefaisoit laveugle'[fn]; on the other hand there were among the blind hurdy-gurdy players apparently also good musicians, as the half-blind hurdy-gurdy player and his companion in a Dutch painting, who seem to be playing from notes (ill. 223) [figlink].
Since begging musicians with hurdy-gurdies appeared in many countries, the supposition seems justified that the instrument at this level as well was wide spread even
over borders, since in many countries in which the hurdy-gurdy had not previously had a fixed use it appeared first as an instrument of blind and begging musicians. In Eastern Europe, aside from its use as a folk instrument in only a few areas, the hurdy-gurdy remained almost exclusively the property of wandering begging musicians and blind, without ever having attained a respectable position in the instrumentarium, as in Western Europe. Thus for example in Romania it did not belong to the folk instruments of the peasants, but to the instruments of itinerant musicians who were not villagers. It was apparently introduced --as the name lira' indicates-- from Germany, and also remained in the same class. [fn]
With no other instruement known in Europe did there exist such a crass difference between the improvements possible and also partially carried out, and its image, as with the hurdy-gurdy. As the representations indicate, the instrument was continuously being made more manageable, so that the tonal range could have been extended without any significant difficulties. But despite the technical improvements the instrument sank ever lower in the respect of the musicians and the public.
The social decline of the hurdy-gurdy since the end of the Middle Ages did not, as is commonly assumed, have anything to do with is nasal tone, nor with is drones, which in no way did injury to sensitivity to sound in this period, nor with its small range which corresponded to that of most other instruments, [fn] but rather it was due to the position of the musicians who played the hurdy-gurdy. On account of its increasing popularity with beggars and blind person it fell into disrepute. [fn] They took the instrument completely into their possession and destroyed the respected position it had then in the instrumentarium, "en lui donnant place parmi les instruments qui leur servaient de gagne-pain [fn]". Only under
this point of view can the decline of the instrument be understood. The consequence of this was that the hurdy-gurdy did not show any further progress in its development since the late Middle Ages. Analogous to the other instruments which were further developed the hurdy-gurdy could also have been perfected. The possibilities in the technique and manner of playing the hurdy-gurdy which were not yet exhausted are indicated by the extensive improvements which it experienced in the 18th century as a fashionable aristocratic instrument in France (see page 123ff, page 158ff).
F. Women and the Hurdy-gurdy
Next to the blind and the beggars there appeared since the late Middle Ages another group of musicians in the foreground, who quite especially favored the hurdy-gurdy. The fact that in Grimmelshausen it was a woman who earned money by playing her hurdy-gurdy (see page 388, page 390), is not unusual, for to the large group of itinerant musicians and beggars belonged also an uncountable number of women. These did not associate themselves with the travelers only because of family tradition or out of pure desire for adventure, but mainly because of the few opportunities which single women had of earning their living.
In the high and late Middle Ages there was a great surplus of women in all classes. [fn] The reasons for this lay in the greater mortality rate of men due to wars, other disputes travels [fn], and pestilent diseases, as the number of women, as a rule greater after plague years, in the Frankfurter tax lists show [fn] [CW: Grammar seems off here. Maybe it should be "As the Frankfurter tax lists show] as well as on account of the celibacy of the very numerous member s of the clergy [fn]: in the 14th and 15th century there were in Frankfurt from 8 to 10 thousand inhabitants, 200 to 250 who belonged to the clergy, in Lubeck 250 to 300, and in Nurnberg 1(1449) 446. [fn]
Since women in the Middle Ages had few opportunities for an assured and solid existence, the question of woman was not local, "but was a general problem of the medieval social history." [fn] The uncertain conditions forced many women to prostitution [fn], which accordingly was extraordinarily wide spread: thus Strassburg in the 15th century had 30 privileged prostitutes for 20,000 inhabitants. Such established homes of pleasure were either property of the city of "not seldom the loaned property of a religious or secular dynasty." [fn] Presumably even greater were the numbers of women who say themselves forced by their condition to take up an uncertain life of wandering; they followed the crusaders and every army [fn] or attached themselves to traveling people as musicians or beggars They appeared everywhere with the mass of the itinerants "where a large concurrence of people occurred. They appeared here as actresses and wandering artists, as female magicians and dancers, as hurdy-gurdy and harp maids". [fn]
There were always dancing and singing women among the itinerants. In France women appeared in the 12th century as acrobats and magicians [fn], and then as instrument players as well. Among the minstrels who in 1321 signed the statutes of the "Confrerie de Saint-Julien" there were eight women. [sp] These women, characterized as jongleresses' appeared in public places, in taverns and in palaces, where they sang and accompanied themselves on an instrument.[fn]
A very early representation of women with instruments was depicted earlier by the painting on the ceiling of the old cathedral in Peterborough in England. The ceiling is supposed to have originated around
1194. [fn] William Sandys was still able to see the women who played on various instruments, among these the hurdy-gurdy : Other female figures are represented playing on the psalterion or dulcimer, and the symphonie, the parent of our hurdy-gurdy ." [fn] Consequently the hurdy-gurdy was in the hands of female musicians as early as the 12th century, and this is confirmed by an early source:
"Et ele trait sa chiphonie." [fn]
In the following centuries it became apparent that especially the itinerant women preferred the hurdy-gurdy as a music instrument to accompany their singing. [fn] In the literature it is not only mentioned that women played the hurdy-gurdy, but also emphatically that they earned their living thus as well: "Ysis dictum quoniam ab ysi inventrice primitus est repertum quo instrumento comuniter muliers solent suum victum querere". [fn] This is shown also by the representation, dated around 1480, of a hurdy-gurdy and a bladder-pipe played together. The hurdy-gurdy is played by a girl squatting on the ground; apparently the listeners are supposed to toss their money in he basket which is on the ground in front of her (ill. 221) [figlink]. At the beginning of the 16th century the woman who earns money with the help of a hurdy-gurdy was even recognized in a dictionary of scoundrel's dialect (rotwelsch"), in which the term klingen'
denotes the hurdy-gurdy and klingenfetzerin' the woman who plays it (fetaen=to work') [fn].
In the literature of this period the female hurdy-gurdy players is mentioned in a derogatory sense as belonging to itinerant disreputable' people: "badryberin, unstedt wyb, lyrerin, mulier vaga et vilis"[fn];"Klosterwaescherin, Leirerin, Straeubleinbacherin"[fn]; "Leirerinn, fidicina, ambubaja"[fn]. In the Winterthur chronicle of 1563 it runs: "Der landfarenden matzen, lyrenen und was dergleichen argwohnische wybsbilder".[fn][sp] Springinsfeld's wife also behaved more coquettishly "als die Ehrbarkeit einer frommen Leyrerin zuliesse" [fn], which means that there must have been itinerant female hurdy-gurdy players whose morals were better.
In the 17th century there appears to have still been a large number of women who played the hurdy-gurdy for a living, since Grimmelshausen mentions only female players [fn], and Praetorius' formulation as well indicates a particular tendency for itinerant women to use hurdy-gurdies, when he peaks of the bawren-vnnd vmblauffenden Wieber Leyre'.[fn] Up into the 19th century (ill. 222) [figlink] the hurdy-gurdy in Germany was found mostly in the hands of beggars and women: "Apud nos hoc instrumentum (Gerson's symphonia) vocatur eine Leyren, instrumentum familare mendicis in nostra Germania, feminis scilicet".[fn] The wandering female hurdy-gurdy players from Germany appear to have traveled far. Filippe Bennanni in his representation of 1722 puts the instrument in the hands of a woman whose clothing indicates
that she is traveling, and characterizes the instrument as the German hurdy-gurdy, the lira tedesca' (ill 51).
Apparently women did not only beg with the hurdy-gurdy, but played just as frequently as other musician professionally for dances, as is shown not only by Springinsfeld's wife [fn] or by even earlier sources [fn], but also by representations from the 18th century (ill. 185) [figlink].
It has already been mentioned that women earned money by playing the hurdy-gurdy. The appear even to have presented their male counterparts with genuine competition; thus the Prince Electors of Bavarian court chancellery asked in 1755 in a letter to the governments din Landshur, Straubing, Burghausen and Amberg that "denen Weibs Perschnen in offentlichen Wirthshcausen das Aufspielen und mit Pass und Violin geigen noch Hackbretl schlagen: oder leyren, so andern Instrumenten in zukonft nit mehr gestatte"[sp]:, and in the diploma of a Bavarina musician it says that all those want to play in inns without a license, "in spcie aber die Leeyrer, Leyrinnen:, must be shown the door. [fn]
G. The Fashionable Instrument of the French Aristocracy
Since the Middle Ages the hurdy-gurdy had, aside from its use by the blind, by beggars, and by women, a solid position in the folk music of individual countries. This position remained largely unaffected by its function as a beggar's instrument. It was only in this way that in 18th century France the hurdy-gurdy could manage to become the most popular instrument of courtly society, since it was taken from the folk music instrumentarium;
for the aristocratic vogue was connected with a love for shepherd idylls and not with a leaning towards the poorest social classes to which the beggars belonged. It would have been unthinkable for these people to acquire a fondness for an instrument which was used only by beggars.
In a very short time the hurdy-gurdy conquered for itself a principal place in the French society and was played in the years 1731-1733, even with orchestral accompaniment, in the famous concerts spirituels'.[fn] Numerous ladies and gentlemen, who did not want to appear out of step, played they hurdy-gurdy or the musette. To these aristocratic amateurs belong among other Madame la Presidente de Senozan, Prince de Dombes ,Marquis de Monmirail, Comte d'Eu, Madame Paris de Monmartel, Comte de Guines, Prince de Conty, Marquis de Castelnau. [sp] According to an inventory of furniture of emigrated aristocrats, drawn up in 1795, hurdy-gurdies were owned by the Duc d'Avray, the Marquis de Lowendal, the Marquise de Caumont, the Comte de Maillebois, the Marquise d'Herouvile and the Vicomte de Noalilles-Mouchy.[fn][sp] Famous contemporary hurdy-gurdy virtuosi were Jean Charpentier, Nicolar Chedeville, but above all Danguy, Ravet, and Charles Baton, who played the instrument with a perfection scarcely to be believed.[fn][sp] Baton, the most successful teacher of the hurdy-gurdy, had among his pupils both daughters of Louis XV, Adelaide and Henriette. Adelaide especially was considered to be a good musician, the most famous female hurdy-gurdy players of this time however was the French queen Maria Leczinska. The Duc de Luynes mentioned in his memoirs that the Queen often visited him for supper. "Les jours qu'elle vient ici, on lui donne une petite musique pendant son souper, et elle joue a cavagnole ensuite. Le lundi en sortant de table, elle joua de la vielle pendant quelque temps avec les musiciens".[fn] [sp][trans: CW: "On the days when she came here, we gave her a little music during supper and she played on the cavagnole afterwards. On Monday when getting up from the table, she played the hurdy-gurdy for a while with the musicians."] The Queen knew and
valued Baton, who presented her with his new hurdy-gurdy with an extended range (see page 126f.) as she held her court in Compiegne in 1752.[fn][sp]
The great success of the hurdy-gurdy in courtly society resulted in the creation of a musical repertoire as well as a number of writings about the instrument. As a consequence of this vogue people were not satisfied that the hurdy-gurdy was known to have existed for a long time already and with its significance in the Middle Ages --whereby vielle' in the old French literature was interpreted exclusively as hurdy-gurdy'-- but they attempted in addition to give it a history extending back into ancient times. The 18th century love for Greek antiquity also included the hurdy-gurdy, whose origin was placed in this era, whereby it became dignified enough for society.
Burette, who wrote several articles concerning Greek music, was of the opinion that the Greeks plucked several strings simultaneously on the cithara and similar instruments, and hence thus produced harmonies, and that further they played a type of drone in the fifth or octave on other instruments. The existence of the drone caused Burette to suspect that the drone instrument of his day, the hurdy-gurdy and the bag-pipes, could be traced back to antiquity: "Les anciens a la verité ne nous ont rien laissé par écrit touchant ces sortes de bourdons; mais nos vielles et nos musettes, quir vray-semblablement nous viennet d'eux par une sorte de tradition, suffisent pour appuyer une telle conjecture." [fn] [trans: CW: "In truth, the ancients (meaning the Greeks, I think, from context) left nothing in writing on the topic of drones, but our hurdy-gurdies and musettes, which probably come from them through some sort of tradition, will suffice to push (suggest?) a conjecture of this sort."]
Antoine Terrasson believed likewise in the ancient origin of the hurdy-gurdy and grounded his opinion by reference to the lute case of the 18th century French hurdy-gurdies, which were supposed to be very similar to the tortoise shell case of the ancient lyra and developed from this. [f n] His own theory concerning the origin of the case however is contradicted in another place by his remark that in
1700 the hurdy-gurdy still had its old, almost rectangular shape. [fn] The
fact that both instruments, the lyra and the hurdy-gurdy, had several strings
on which chords could be produced was viewed by Terrasson as a proof of his
thesis, just as he had already ascribed the trompette to an ancient instrument
and considered the wheel to have been developed from the bridge. [fn] Aside
from symphonies' and vielle' Terrasson thought he know of other
names for the hurdy-gurdy. The jesuit Pere Joubert had given in his "Dictionnaire
francais and latin" (1709) as an additional name of the hurdy-gurdy the
term Rotata Sambuca' (see page 196).
[fn] From this Terrasson concluded that the ancient sambucca was nothing
other than a hurdy-gurdy. Since Joubert did not provide any sources for this
term for the hurdy-gurdy, Terrasson attempted to explain the origin and meaning
of sambucca with the aid of various theories. [fn] On the basis of his interpretations
and the presumption that the hurdy-gurdy had been known already by the Greeks,
Terrasson came to the conclusion that Orpheus did not play a lyra, but a hurdy-gurdy.
According to another theory the origin of the hurdy-gurdy lay in even earlier mythical distances. According to an ancient Japanese chronicle which was handed down by he Chinese, it was supposed to have been the principle instrument in some misty empire of the Far East [fn], and the Egyptians were supposed to have played the hurdy-gurdy just as the Greek heroes and gods: "ce fut avec la Vielle qu'Appellon attire toutes sortes d'Animaux, qu'Orphée s'ouvrit un pagge auz Enfers; qu'Amphion recut de Mercure celle par le son de laquell il batit la Ville de Thébes a cent portes; qu'Arion se tira du péril par la douceur de sa Vielle et de son chant." [fn] [Trans: CW: It was with the hurdy-gurdy that Apollo attracted all kinds of animal, that Orpheus opened the passage to Hell, that Amphion received from Mercury that sound by which he fought the city of Thebes-of-hundred-gates, that Arion (Orion?) got himself (herself?) out of peril by the sweetness of his (her) hurdy-gurdy and of his voice.] The supposed Greed origin of the hurdy-gurdy soon become however suspect when it was pointed out that the ancient works
and representations give no indications which could support these theories. [fn]
The hurdy-gurdy vogue in the 18th century brought with it a change in the external form of the hurdy-gurdy. It was built from lutes, theorbos, and guitars, and hence took the form of other instruments. This conversion of plucked instruments into hurdy-gurdies was described by Michel Corrette in his guitar methods Le dons D'Appollon, Méthode pour apprendre facilement a jouer de la guitare"[trans: CW: The Gifts of Appollo, Method of easily learning to play the guitar] in an allegorical and burlesque manner. He place events back into Greek antiquity and had Apollo play the guitar. All the gods applauded his singing and playing at the marriage of Tethis and Peleus. But Discordia, who played the hurdy-gurdy and was not invited to the celebration, change in anger the guitar into a beautiful woman. The god Pan in turn changed Discordia's hurdy-gurdy into a marmot [fn] which Midas took under his protection. On the occasion of a feast in honour of Bacchus, Midas made a hurdy-gurdy so large that there was an enormous hall inside of it. The crank of this gigantic was turned by a windmill, the bridge looked like a rainbow and the thinnest strings had served as cables on the ships of Odysseus. The pegs were built to resemble the pillars of Hercules and each key was made from an oak tree from the sacred grove at Dodona. The titans carried the instrument and the Cyclop played it, using the Colossus of Rhodes as a stand. While he sang and played the epics of Cleopatra and Cyrus Bacchantes, who had been attracted by the noise, interrupted the feast and toppled the instrument to the ground. The little marmot, however, the hurdy-gurdy transformed by Pan, played afterwards at all the feasts of Bacchus and al all marriages and serenades. When the marmot found the guitar which Discordia had transformed sleeping at the foot of Mt. Olympus, it was so enchanted with its shape that it crept inside, and thus the hurdy-gurdy assumed the shape of
the guitar. Thereupon the fauns destroyed all the guitars, lutes, and theorbos which they could lay their hands on in order to make hurdy-gurdies out of them. The marmot which now appeared in the shape of a guitar wandered to Parnassus, in order to permit the muses there to dance to his music. Accompanied by Pan and the Myrmidons the dancing lasted all night. At dawn they wanted to climb Parnassus with its accompaniment, when the monotonous and ever-sounding drone awoke Pegasus. With one kick he shattered the marmot (the hurdy-gurdy into a thousand pieces which Apollo threw into Tartaros. [fn]
Corrette, who himself wrote a hurdy-gurdy method (see page 55, page 332), shows himself here in the method for guitar players understandably as an opponent of the hurdy-gurdy.
Placing the origin of the hurdy-gurdy back into antiquity indicates the efforts made to provide a dignified past for the instrument; since above the use of the hurdy-gurdy in the provinces it was not forgotten that the instrument was used at the same time by beggars. Again and again the beggars were cited as proof of the undignified stature of the instrument. As soon as the fashion became established, the aristocratic hurdy-gurdy players were subject to violent criticism. In a collection of pieces for the hurdy-gurdy edited in 1732 by Jean-Baptiste-Christophe Ballard the afterword indicated the previous circle of the instrument. The collections is dedicated to a lady who gave up the pleasures of lively and witty entertainment in favor of the hurdy-gurdy and thus with her example led others to deprive the blind of a possession which had up until them belonged to them without dispute: "Depuis, dis-je,qu'Elle a consideré la VIELLE comme un Instruement capable d'occuper sa délicatesse; Il n'est pas étonnant qu'a son example les Claire-Voyants courent sus aux pauvres Aveugles, pour
leur envahir un Bien qui leur était propre, et qui leur appartenait sans aucuns Concurrents." [fn] [trans:CW: I tell you, at the moment when she considered the hurdy-gurdy to be an instrument capable of occupying her delicateness, it is not astonishing that at her example, the Clairvoyants ran after the poor blind people to invade their good thing, which was their own, and which had belonged to them without any contestants.][Alden, check the original. page 409 for the French. I don't have it and it doesn't look exactly right to me.]
In August 1738 a letter was published in the "Mercure de France", which represented an answer to an article in June of the same year. The author of the June article had classed the viola and the violin as poor instruments, upon which the author of the answering letter concerned himself with the beauty of the sound of the violin and for his part gave a tirade against he bizarre fashion of the musette and the hurdy-gurdy. According to the opinion of the author the hurdy-gurdy, without incurring any disadvantage to good taste, could be quietly left tot the pubs in the suburbs and to the blind; for despite the virtuosity of a Danguis and of the beautiful ladies, the instrument was so limited and it constant chirping so unpleasant for sensitive ears that it could be done away with without regrets: "mais on pourrait sans inconvient pour le bon gout, releguer la Vielle aux Guinguettes, et l'abandonner aux Aveugles; car n'en deplaise aus Danguis, et aux Belles qui s'y sont addonnées depuis quelques années, c'est un Instrument si borné et son cronement perpetual est si désagréable pour les oreilles délicates, qu'il devrait etre procsrit sans misericorde." [fn] [trans:CW: This passage is quite effectively translated by the author in the sentence preceding the quote in French.]
The most extensive and amusing protest agains the hurdy-gurdy vogue is the "Lettre de Monsieur l'Abbé Carbasu, a monsieur de Auteur du Temple du Goust. Sur la Mode des Instruments de Musique,"[fn] [Alden: Check the original French here. This neeeds some work.] published in 1739. Behind the pseudonym of Abbé Carbasus lay the French theorbist Francois Campion (c. 1686-c. 1748), who worked on the Grand Opera. A
manuscript found in the possession of the Bibliotheque [sp] Nationale in Paris since 1748 (signature: Vm7 6221), an autograph by Campion, contains pieces for the guitar and begins with a catalogue of the workds of Francois [sp] Campion, among these, as opus 6, "L'Abbé Carbasus, critique de la vielle."
This report gives the impressions of Campion during a conert in which hurdy-gurdy and musette players appeared. The writer makes fun of the sound of these instruments, whose only upper voice is accompanied by constant cat music, to which could be added the croaking of frogs or the booming of the knife-smith's wheel or of the weaver, and indeed, if desired, the rumbling of the marmot wagon with the tambour de Basque: "La Muzette et la Vielle n'ont pour principal object qu'un dessus: tout le bruit qui les accompagne est un Charivari continuel, auquel on peut ajouter [sp[ le croacement des Grenouilles pour accompagnement; et pout Countre-Basse , le murmure ou ronflement que fait la roue [sp] d'un Coustelier ou d'un Tissérand; meme [sp] si l'on veut, celui do l'equipage d'un Mulet, avec le Tambour de Basque."[fn] [Alden, again, the translation precedes the quote.] Campion also cites the remark of the composer Marais [fn], who described the sound of the hurdy-gurdy drastically as a pumpkin ragout which has to be thrown into the compost heap, even if it is well prepared: "C'est le ragout [sp] de Citrouille [sp],...qu'il faut jetter sur un fumier, lorqu'il est bien assaisonné." [fn] Following this Campion describes the conversation of Marquise with her hurdy-gurdy teacher. The Marquise is indeed not enthused about the hurdy-gurdy, but in order to be in vogue she is willing to give up the harpsichord and the guitar and learn to play the hurdy-gurdy. The teacher wants to convert her valuable guitar into a flute-cymbal. When she became upset over this, he explained to her that this was the only use to which instruments like theorbos, lutes, and guitars could still be put: "Ces instruments gothiques et meprisables sont en dernier ressort métamorphosés en Vielles; c'est la leur
tombeau."[fn] [Trans: CW: These gothic and untrustworthy instruments are metamorphosed into hurdy-gurdies as a last resort. It's their tomb.] According to the teacher's remarks other instruments were earlier respected only because the true value of the hurdy-gurdy had not been recognized; "il n'y a rien quit soit interessant, ni quit soit sensible au coeur, comme la Vielle,"[fn] [Trans: CW: There is nothing that is interesting, nor which can touch the heart, like the hurdy-gurdy.] and because the beggars before the doors of playing musicians could only manage it so poorly that they had to be despised.[fn] The disrepute of the other instruments is carried so far by the teacher that he gives the hurdy-gurdy a very long past and considers it to be the origin of the other stroked instruments; the violin came from the rebec, to whose predecessors again the hurdy-gurdy belonged. [fn] In favor of the hurdy-gurdy he falsified the meaning of the term basso continuo, which was robbed of its original meaning of unchangeable tone' by the musical charlatans; "Le mot de Basse-continue est suffisement énergique pour exprimer une Basse qui ne change point, c'est ce que la Vielle accomplit parfaitement et sans soin." [fn] [Trans: CW: The term, basso continuo, is sufficiently energetic to explain a bass which never changes, that which the hurdy-gurdy accomplishes perfectly and without care.]
All the protests and mockery of the hurdy-gurdy fashion, which even extended into other countries (ill. 95) [figlink], could not however push the hurdy-gurdy from its place in society. It remained for still a long time a favorite instrument of fashion and was only very gradually ignored again. Only with the occurrence of the French Revolution and the related temporary disappearance of the aristocracy who had set the pace in matters of fashion and taste did it completely lose its place in polite society.
Only in France did the hurdy-gurdy become a society instrument; a similar position cannot be detected in any other European country. In comparing the many 18th century hurdy-gurdies in European and American museums with the non-French instruments of the same period the different position of the
hurdy-gurdy outside of France can be seen just in the construction of the instruments: instruments from other countries vary considerably in construction, stringing and number of tangents from the French hurdy-gurdies. (ills. 80, 101, 103, 104, 106-108, 123, 124,182, 185, 187) [figlink]. The influences of the French vogue were limited to representations of the hurdy-gurdy in the hands of shepherds and shepherdesses (ills. 90, 180, 191, 219, 220) [figlink].
H. The Hurdy-gurdy as a Folk Music Instrument
With the outbreak of the French Revolution society's interest in the hurdy-gurdy was completely extinguished, since it was just this aristocratic group that was driven from their mansions and their possessions. In one mansion it only appears again in 1826 but as an instrument bringing misfortune. but it is played by the little red man who according to an old legend always appeared in the Tuileries when the master of the mansion met with misfortune [fn].
"En toque il avait mis
Vingt plumets ennemis,
Et chantais au son d'une vielle
Vive Henri-Quatre et Gabrielle!
Saints du Paradis
Priez pour Charles-Dix" [fn]
The hurdy-gurdy indeed remained [?] in the French cities for another century as an instrument of itinerant musicians who played in the streets, squares, and in the restaurants and thus earned their living. Among these there were in Paris street musicians who played the hurdy-gurdy very well and had a very extensive repertoire. They were very popular with the city people, as the large number of street musicians indicates, who were still appearing in Paris in the last century.
In the warm season the Champs Elysees[sp] was especially a meeting place of the street musicians. When taking a walk from the Rond Point to the Place de la Concorde one could not take a step without constantly hearing different music. At the same place in the in the Champs Elysees[sp] an entire family of musicians always took up position around the middle of the last century. The father played the hurdy-gurdy and astonished the listeners with "accords frappants de melodie[sp] pittoresque" [fn]. The two sons played the violin and the harp, while the daughters played violin, harp, and guitar. They all played at the same time to their father's hurdy-gurdy and according to the listener Victor Fournel it sounded beautiful and interesting: "Et de tous ces accords s'unissant sans se confondre, il resulte un concert saisissant, d'une harmonie saccadee etrange, originale, qui tranche vivement sur la paleur des concerts d'apparat et force l'attention de plus indifferents" [fn]. This street musician with his family was one of the most well-known of the itinerant musicians in Paris. He always had a large group of listeners around him and received ten times as much money as the other street musicians. [fn]
Another street musician in Paris with the hurdy-gurdy was a large man with a black beard and a wide-brimmed hat, called "Barbu" by the Parisians. He was one of the musicians well known in the city between 1850 and 1870 ans was possibly one of the last good hurdy-gurdy players in the streets of Paris. Barbu played in the Champs Elysees[sp], in courts, and also at balls. He was described as mocking and arrogant and is supposed to have refused to collect money because he counted on the enthusiasm of his listeners and therefore with a corresponding reward. His success proves that he was a genuine artist with the hurdy-gurdy (see page 336). Before 1870 he often went to Versailles and played in the cafes there. After 1870 he was no longer seen, and it is suspected that he was shot during the Commune. This suspicion
is founded on the fact that he called himself Billorey and hence could have been confused with a painter of the same name who was a member of the Commune. The Billorey of the Commune was deported after the events of 1871. [fn] Barbu was one of the last great urban hurdy-gurdy virtuosi. Although well known in Paris and always certain of a public, he sometimes left France and went to England where he could be heard playing in the streets of London. [fn]
The hurdy-gurdy once again became widespread, even outside the borders of France, from a territory which alternately belonged either to France or to the Kingdom of Sardinia. At the end of the 18th century and in the beginning of the 19th many Savoyards, forced by poverty and hunger, left their homes in order to earn money in the cities. The versatile Savoyards worked as laborers and chimney-sweeps, presented trained marmots or magic-lantern shows, and played the hurdy-gurdy. [fn] Around 1850 they built up entire orchestras which played before the magic-lantern and marmot shows, in which the hurdy-gurdy also had a place. [fn] The hurdy-gurdy especially, which was an important folk instrument in Savoy, became the chief instrument of the Savoyard children as they were on the road, who either just sang and played or had marmots dance to their music (ills. 233, 234) [figlink]. As illustration 235 [figlink] very clearly shows, the children in Savoy were instructed in hurdy-gurdy playing by an adult, so that they could make money by playing it on the road.
It was not accidental that Fanchon, made so famous by the various theater pieces, was a girl from Savoy. The real Fanchon, Francoise [sp] Chemin, in fact came from a Savoyard family which had wandered to Paris. The "Fanchon" of Bouilly and Bain, one of the numerous children of a poor family, went from
Savoy to France to try her fortune with her hurdy-gurdy playing, as she sang about in the most famous song in the entire Fanchon literature:
"Aux montagnes de la Savoie,
Je naquis de pauvre parents;
Voila qu's Paris on m'anvoie,
Car nous etions beaucoup d'enfants.
Je n'apportais, helas! en France,
Que mes chansons, quinze ans, ma vielle et l'esperance. [sp]
Quinze ans, et sans ressource aucune,
Que l'on eveille de soupcons!
Cependent j'ai fait ma fortune,
Et n'ai donne que mes chansons.
Fillette sage, apporte en France,
Tes chansons, tes quinze ans, la vielle et 'esperance" [sp] [fn]
This song was translated by August von Kotzebue as follows:
"In Savoyen bin ich geboren;
Wakre Eltern, aber arm,
haben mich fur Paris erkohren,
aus der Geschister munterm Schwarm.
Ich verliess, mein Herz war schwer,
alles, was mir lieb und theuer;
brachte nichts mit mir hieher,
als meine Lieder, funfzehn Jahre, die Hoffnung und meine Leyer. [sp]
Stimulated perhaps by the Fanchon literature, Gaetano Donizetti composed in 1842 for the Kërntnertortheater [sp] in Vienna an opera, "Linda di Chamounix", in which the hurdy-gurdy plays an important role as the instrument of the Savoyard girl who appears in it. The action takes place around 1760, and hence at the time of the great hurdy-gurdy vogue, and contains aside from a love story the path of many Savoyards playing the hurdy-gurdy from Chamonix to Paris.
Up into the 19th century the little Savoyard boys with their marmots and their hurdy-gurdies were part of the street scene in French cities. [fn] They also appeared in the cities of Germany [fn], Italy [fn], and England [fn], and were just as well known there as in France. Since these Savoyards were constantly on the move with their hurdy-gurdies, they often served as messengers: "Savoyarden..., die in ihren Laiern eine Menge Briefe haben." [fn]. In many areas, but especially in the cities, the hurdy was probably still known only as a Savoyard instrument, which is why it was called a 'fanchonleier' (see page 335) or 'savoyardleier' [fn].
In addition to these child hurdy-gurdy players from Savoy came children from other poverty-stricken areas, like Piemontais[sp], who, clothed in sheep skins and accompanied by paid yeachers, were sent into the cities to beg with their hurdy-gurdy playing [fn].
London above all was a favorite goal not [comment AH: add "only"?] of Savoyards but also of hurdy-gurdy players from other countries [fn], especially from Italy: "he made friendships with blind pipers, Italian hurdy gurdists" [fn]. These foreign street
musicians with hurdy-gurdies were described by William Lynd as follows: "About thirty-five years ago hurdy-gurdy players were often met with in the streets of London and Paris. I have a lively recollection of an old Spaniard who used to play in the City, while his two children danced the cachuca, and I frequently heard the hurdy-gurdy well played by an Italian who used to frequent Langham Place and the neighboring streets in the evening." [fn] They played in front of house doors: "Two hurdigurdists, and a poor Street-Handel grinding at my door" [fn], and above all in the streets of London, where they were still often heard only a few decades ago [fn]. [comment AH: provide real dates, not relative]
Just how widespread and well known these small Savoyards with their hurdy-gurdies and marmots were is shown by a poem by Goethe, which first appeared in his writings in 1789: [fn]
Ich komme schon durch manches Land,
Avec que la marmotte,
Und immer was zu essen fand.
Avec que la marmotte.
Avec que si avec que la,
Avec que la marmotte.
Ich hab' gesehn gar manchen Herrn,
Avec que la marmotte,
De hatt' die Jungfrau gar zu gern, [sp]
Avec que la marmotte.
Avec que si avec que la,
Avec que la marmotte.
Hab' auch gesehn manch' Jungfer schon, [sp]
Avec que la marmotte,
Die tate nach mir Kleinen sehn! [sp]
Avec que la marmotte.
Avec que si avec que la,
Avec que la marmotte.
Nun last mich nicht so gehn, ihr Herrn, [sp]
Avec que la marmotte,
Die Burschen essen und trinken gern,
Avec que la marmotte.
Avec que si avec que la,
Avec que la marmotte."
This song was put to music by Beethovan, since he too was no doubt familiar with the children with hurdy-gurdies and marmots [fn] and provided the simple melody, consciously borrowing the drone of the hurdy-gurdy, with not only a monotone bass accompaniment, but he actually wrote a drone on the primary and fifth (A and E) in the first eight bars. [fn]
At the last streets musicians [comment AH: what?] in the streets of England, France and Germany, Italians, Spaniards, and Savoyards played the hurdy-gurdy. [AH: rewrite] The number of these musicians did not at first decrease, but they came to prefer in increasing numbers other instruments, of which above all the barrel-organ more and more replaced the hurdy-gurdy. [fn] These mechanical instruments [AH:required] absolutely no musical ability on the part of the player and could therefore be played by anyone. The barrel-organ grinders occupied the same position which the street musicians with the hurdy-gurdies had previously had, and this led to the complete disappearance of the good hurdy-gurdy players: 'l'orgue de Barbarie a tue la Vielle". [sp] [fn] Insofar as the hurdy-gurdy was still played, it was found again in the hands of the beggars whose musical incapacity had already brought the instrument into disrepute. [fn] Again the decline was due not to the imperfections in the instrument, but to the mechanical instruments which were preferred by the musicians.
The barrel-organ and the hurdy-gurdy had one thing in common: both instruments were played by means of a crank, and this led in some cases to their being known by the same name, whereby, as in English, the name of the hurdy-gurdy was transferred to the barrel-organ: thus today "hurdy-gurdy" refers also the barrel-organ. The German name for the barrel-organ, "Leierkasten" -- a term which in the Rhineland was transferred to the piano as well [fn] -- refers to the turning motion, the "Leiern" and the characteristic box shape of the instrument. On account of the turning motion the bird-organ or Serinette [fn], used for training songbirds, was also called the "Pfief-Leier". [fn] Just how completely the barrel-organ took over the hurdy-gurdy's place is indicated by expressions which were transferred from the hurdy-gurdy to the barrel-organ, like the expression "Lieren-Dreiher"
for organ-grinders in Schleswig-Holstein [fn], originally used for the hurdy-gurdy player, or the Bern name of the barrel-organ as "Messlire" [fn], which means that this instrument, as the hurdy-gurdy earlier, was often played at annual markets (= "Messen").
In the United States, where the hurdy-gurdy was not known at all, the name for the barrel-organ there was even transferred to young women who served as dancing girls or decoys. [comment AH: decoys? German = Lockv÷gel] According to Ottoker Schupp the work of the dancing girls must have been "disgraceful", "since no other nation in the world -- even the most depraved -- contributes to this. The Hurdy-gurdies are only German, only Rhineland girls." [fn] What caused this author to call these dancing girls "Hurdy-gurdies" cannot be explained. Although the name used in this context has not been recorded in any other place, Schupp seems to be voicing a name which is familiar to him.
Although the beggars liked to play the hurdy-gurdy, it maintained in most countries for a long time its respected place in the folk music instrumentarium. Its simultaneous as a beggar's instrument was generally known and correspondingly valued. The hurdy-gurdy was popular with country musicians because, on account of the number of strings -- comparable to the bagpipes -- , it could produce constant harmonies without the use of a second instrument. Thus in many countries, in which the instrument was played by beggars up into very recent times [fn], [comment AH: need to define time period] it is evident that the hurdy-gurdy has been highly valued as a folk instrument continuously since the Middle Ages. It belonged further to the instruments of the itinerant musicians (ills. 172, 180, 199) [figlink] [fn]; but
the musicians established in the country used it the longest: they built and played the instrument up into the 20th century (ills. 118, 119, 120, 201, 225, 226) [figlink]. [fn]
The respect for the hurdy-gurdy as a folk instrument, unchanged since the Middle Ages, is shown for example by an Alsatian Dance of Death from 1517, in which Death is in each case provided with the instrument which corresponds to the rank of the dying person. The village of the hurdy-gurdy is expressed in that Death, when he comes to the mayor, has a hurdy-gurdy hanging around his neck: "Hie gryfft der tot den schuktheys ... vnd ... hat ein lyr mit einem schwartzen sidenen binden am halss hangnen" [fn] About the same time was made by Niklaus Manuel the Bern Dance of Death, in which death with the hurdy-gurdy can even fetch the astrologer (ill. 60) [figlink].
In the villages the farmers or shepherds played the hurdy-gurdy and often earned some good extra money. Thus a shepherd boasts in a song that he wants to begin quickly to play the hurdy-gurdy, and that no one shall prevent him from doing this:
Und i fang das Leiern gschwind an, Das Leirn, das g'winnt ma keiner a".
In another song the shepherd says to his collegue:
"I leg jetzt warzing d'Joppen an,
Du nimm dein' Leyern mit,
Wann i dort nix dahaschen kann,
Hast mit der Leyern dein' Schnitt" [fn]
The hurdy-gurdy was especially used for a long time for dances at village festivities. It was played alone (ills. 92, 143, 231) [figlink], together with the bagpipes (ills. 93, 134, 154, 187, 196, 197, 230) [figlink], with shawm and bagpipes (ill. 185) [figlink] or with other instruments as well (ill. 229) [figlink]. Thus Johann Fischart placed the "Welschengeiger, Schalmayer, Leirer"
next to one another [fn], and in Mecklenburg in 1741 it was said:: "Jie hefft oock noch nich als mahls geschmeert die Trumpeit und die Lier" [fn]. The hurdy-gurdy, fiddle, and bagpipes were especially indispensible at peasant weddings for the dance after the supper:
"Hanns de mut de Fiddel stricken,
Gurg versteiht dee leyer goot; [sp]
Kene syn su eeres gliecken,
Der da mackt een freschen Moth.
Martens speelt den Dutelsack [sp]
Den gonzen Toog un ock dee Nackt" [fn].
The dance musicians had to play continually, which for the hurdy-gurdy player could often lead to over-exertion of the right hand which was constantly moving the crank, so that the wrist became swollen and painful, which was called "laierle" [fn]. Besides this the hurdy-gurdy player playing at a dance had to fire people up constantly through his own gestures or by singing or calling along, so that the impression of continual joy on the part of the musicians arose. This professional gaiety was expressed in the saying "sich freuen wie ein Leiermann" [fn]. Expressions of this type indicate that the hurdy-gurdy was generally known and loved as a dance instrument. In fact it must have been one of the most popular dance instruments: how else could be understood the fact that a dance in an English mining camp was known as a "hurdy-gurdy house"? [fn] Aside from being a dance instrument the hurdy-gurdy was also used in larger groups of musicians who played for entertainment (ills. 134, 173, 227, 228) [figlink] or presented vocal serenades (ill. 226) [figlink]. As a solo instrument it also served, as Daniel Chodowieski represented it (ill. 225) [figlink],
to pass away long winter evening in the farm house. The hurdy-gurdy accordingly had -- despite the disrepute of the "bettlerleier" -- a respected position in the villages and in the country was part of the instrumentarium, with which dancing and singing were completed, for centuries. [fn]
In the last decades [comment AH: provide date context] however the hurdy-gurdy is slowly disappearing as many other old instruments even in the back areas and is more and more frequently being replaced by modern instruments, whereby the musicians at first prefer those instruments whose sound is similar to that of the old. [fn]
The only country in which the interest in the hurdy-gurdy has up to now not been extinguished is France. In the central areas of France, especially in Berry, in Bourbonnais and in Auvergne, but in other parts of the country as well, the bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy have maintained their central position as important folk instruments. Customs, legends, and the musical traditions of the country people of Berry and Bourbonnais were inscribed by George Sand in her novels. In these writings she used the village life in the vicinity of her home Nohant in Bas Berry as well as old folk customs and legends, which she energetically sought to investigate. Sand, who on account of her good deeds was called "la bonne dame de Nohan", was thanked by the village musicians for the lively interest in the art by frequently shaping the head at the end of the peghead of their hurdy-gurdies with her features. Since Sand spent a great part of her life in Nohant, her friends as well came in contact with the poetry and music of the region. Presumably Frederic [sp] Chopin also became acquainted with the hurdy-gurdy here, which he mentioned in a letter to his friend Fontana: "Nous sommes, toi et moi, comme deux vieilles vielles sur lesquelles le
temps et les circonstances on joue [sp] leurs malheureux petits trilles". [fn]
Despite the long and lively tradition of the hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes playing in this region, towards the end of the 19th century fewer musicians were playing these instruments. Patrons of old folk instruments and their music therefore attempted, with success, to renew interest in them, so that the old players again turned to their instruments and also instructed young musicians. As the first the sculptor Jean Baffier collected a group of hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe players around him, which in 1888 caused Edmond Augras to found the society of the "Gas du Berry"[sp], still existing today. They appeared already on the 14th of July 1889 at the Paris World Exhibition (see page 338) and there had their first great success, which others soon followed. [fn]
The "Gas de Berry" [sp] did not remain the only group of this type. Since then a large number of similar groups have been founded, which all have the same purpose of maintaining the old folk dances and songs, as well as their music and instruments; of these groups can be named for the regions in which the hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes are played: Les Gas de Berry [sp], Les Thiaulins de Lignieres [sp], Les Treteaux du Pont, La Rabouilleuse, Les Troubadours Montluconnais [sp], Les Maitres Sonneurs Bourbonnais [sp], Les Baladins Bourbonnais, and three groups located in Paris: La Bourree [sp], Bas Birrichonne, and Les Pastouriaux du Berry.
One stimulus for playing the old instruments, besides the membership in the groups which often have an influence outside their own region, is formed by the local competitions, in which the best players are established. After several tests the player attains a certain rank and is permitted to bear the title "Maitre [sp] Vielleur", the title "Maitre [sp] Sonneur" denotes the bagpipes player, or sometimes the person who can play both instruments well. This title is above all
reserved for the older players who have received several medallions and prizes in competitions. It is already a kind of title of honor. [fn] These titles of master were not however just introduced with the groups and competitions at the end of the 19th century, but are considerably older. In 1853 George Sand described in her novel "Les Maitres [sp] Sonneurs" the contest between two bagpipes players for the title of master and their test and secret judgement by a jury of "maitres". [sp] [fn] The custom of presenting the title of master after an examination, which around the end of the middle of the 19th century was considered to be so self-understood, appears to have a much longer tradition, whose beginnings extend perhaps back into the late Middle Ages.
Aside from the groups there are still today a great number of musicians who even play the hurdy-gurdy or bagpipes as a profession. They are so numerous that in the national competitions at Saint-Amand the players are grouped into two classes, "amateurs" and "professionals". Just as large is the number of musicians who have a different occupation -- often as a craftsman -- and appear as hurdy-gurdy players or bagpipers as amateurs. Their ability is no less than that of the professional musicians, and they usually play their instruments with greater virtuosity. [fn] Like the professional musicians they are engaged for festive events and are paid for their efforts. In the provincial towns of central France hurdy-gurdy players were even to be heard until the 1940's in cafes and restaurants. They were engaged by the innkeepers and paid, and therefore did not have to rely on tips from the guests. Only after World War II were these musician pushed aside more frequently by the innkeeper's music automata.
Although the hurdy-gurdy even in France today has been partially forced out of traditional areas, the instrument still is more widespread than in any other country. Probably this is due to the long tradition in France, uninterrupted since the Middle Ages, of playing the hurdy-gurdy. Undeniably the country assumed a prominent position for the spread, the development, and the image of the instrument, in comparison with the other countries.
France was probably also the only country in which the hurdy-gurdy was produced in series. Stimulated by the image of the instrument at the court in the 18th century, the French musicians in the provinces adopted the new lute form of the hurdy-gurdy developed at the courts and continued to build it since. Up into the 20th century there were in many regions of France, especially in the smaller provincial towns, numerous established instrument makers who constructed hurdy-gurdies. Even in the 1970's there were many excellent hurdy-gurdy players in France who were not satisfied with just playing, but built hurdy-gurdies themselves.
These musicians frequently build new hurdy-gurdies according to the established patterns, but not in order to sell them; for new hurdy-gurdies, on account of the various woods used in making them, tend to warp and can only be played by someone who himself knows how to repair and attend to them. Besides, if one considers the amount of hourly wages today, a a new hurdy-gurdy with ornamentation, carvings, and partly decorated with inlay, would be very expensive. Andre [sp] Barbes for example needed several hundred hours for the construction of an instrument. Already in the 18th century, at the time of the hurdy-gurdy vogue, a good hurdy-gurdy was not inexpensive. Around 1750 an instrument cost up to 12 Louisdors, which in the early 1970's corresponded roughly to a price of $800.
The interest in the hurdy-gurdy which is still lively is indicated by the fact that it is extremely difficult to acquire a good old instrument in France. In the provinces, where the hurdy-gurdy is still often played, the instruments upon the death of a player are not
sold but expressly inherited. If no direct heir is available, it is then given to another good player, and insturment are offered for purchase only seldom. The old hurdy-gurdies are so asked for that the demand is always greater than the supply, and the virtuosi have to not infrequently pay exorbitant prices in order to acquire a good instrument. France is probably the country in which there is still a living tradition of playing the hurdy-gurdy, in which the instrument possesses not just a museum value, but still in some areas is part of the folk music instrumentarium. From the Middle Ages onwards a special love for the instrument can be seen in this country: since the late Middle Ages the instrument does not appear to have been so widespread in any other European country as it was in France. Twice, in the 16th and 18th centuries, the hurdy-gurdy became a court instrument, but still retained at the same time its solid position among the folk instruments. There, up to the present, it could not be finally pushed aside by any other instrument.
contact us if you have comments or questions about
this page or other pages on this site.
Alden and Cali Hackmann
Olympic Musical Instruments
© Original text in German copyright 1977, Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft GmbH
© Translation copyright 2005, Olympic Musical Instruments and the Bröcker Tranlation Group