Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The horse head fiddle part two.

This is what I thought I was going to get in the initial horse head fiddle investigation.  The morin khuur is a traditional Mongolian instrument with two strings.   One string was made with hairs from a stallion's tail, and the other with hairs from a mare's.  The bow was strung with horse hair, and the sound box was wood.  I found a couple of legends on Wikipedia about the instrument's genesis:  both have the instrument being created out of the bones of equine tragedy.  In one a beloved winged horse is killed when a jealous woman cuts off the horse's wings so it crashes to the ground and dies.  The rider made a fiddle from the remains, and used the fiddle to mourn the horse.   Another legend has a wicked lord killing a boy's beloved white horse.  The horse's spirit instructs the boy to make an instrument from its bones and hair.

With its possible equine genesis, use by a people reliant on the horse and construction out of horse, I wondered if the sound of the instrument was in the least bit equine.  Not to my ear, at any rate. It sounds to my Western ear as if you play both strings at once.  When combined with Mongolian throat singing it is the most amazing sound.


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