History of Western Music 2: Medieval Instrumental Music and Instruments

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Estampie or istampita

Instrumental accompaniment for dance from the 13th to 14th centuries which could be either monophonic or polyphonic. Each section -puncta or partes- was repeated, like plainchant.

Open and closed cadences

Endings used in the estampie. The first section -puncta- ended with an ouvert -open or incomplete- cadence, while the repeat ended with a clos -closed or full- cadence.

Psaltery

Similar to a zither and commonly played by plucking the strings, or the strings could be struck. It is frequently pictured in medieval art, and from it the harpsichord and clavichord were derived.

Vielle or Fiedel

The French vielle or German fiedel was one of the main bowed instruments in the 13th century and medieval times. The shape and size varied, but the 13th centurty variety had five strings, with one usually a drone. It was bowed by jongleurs to accompany singing and recitations. It is an ancestor of the violin.

Organistrum

A stringed instrument like a large three-stringed vielle. It was played by a revolving wheel that was turned by a hand crank. It was often used in churches in the early Middle Ages, and required two players. After the 13th century a smaller version became the ancestor of our modern hurdy-gurdy.

Shawm

A reed wind instrument of the oboe variety.

Portative organ

An smaller version of the great church organs, it had a single set of pipes, and the right hand pressed the keys or "slides" while the left hand worked the bellows. This organ could be carried -portatum- because of its small size.

Positive organ

This organ was a bit bigger than the portative. Although it could be carried, in order to play it it had to be placed -positum- on a table, and it required a second person to pump the bellows.

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