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MMD > Archives > November 1997 > 1997.11.14 > 02Prev  Next

Lira Organizetta, The Organised Hurdy-gurdy
By Jan Kijlstra

I bought a book by the English author Susann Palmer, printed in 1980,
called "The hurdy-gurdy".  This book answers almost any question related
to the hurdy-gurdy.  It cost some money, being rare, but I just "had to
have it", and so I bought it.

Since the thread started, some time ago, by asking if anybody knew
about a hurdy-gurdy "with an organ on it", I give below an excerpt
from this book:

 "Related instruments
  Organised hurdy-gurdy (vielle organisee; lira organizetta)

 "This is in fact a genuine hurdy-gurdy, except that an organ has been
  added.  The body is usually that of a guitar-shaped hurdy, but the
  ribs are much higher than in the ordinary instrument.

 "There is an eighteenth-century organised hurdy-gurdy in the Victoria
  and Albert Museum, London, which, it is thought, was made by a
  Frenchman living in London at the time.  Bellows are placed inside
  the body and one or two rows are attached to the sound-board.  The
  pipes are connected to the tangents so that, when the tangents are
  operated, small vents to the pipes are opened and the pipes play the
  same notes as the melody strings will play.  The bellows are inflated
  by the handle when it is turned.  When there are two rows of organ-
  pipes, the upper set plays at a higher octave than the lower set.

 "The organ and hurdy-gurdy can be played separately if wished, as
  the organ-pipes can be closed or the strings of the instrument can be
  lifted clear of the [bowing] wheel by means of a small lever.   There
  are other varieties of organised hurdy-gurdies, although they all
  work on the same basic principles."

Craig Brougher will be pleased to know that, in the chapter on names
and etymology of the hurdy-gurdy, the Oxford English Dictionary (1976)
gives these as alternative explanations used in North-America:

  "hurdy-gurdy girl, a dance hostess in a hurdy-gurdy house, being
   a disreputable type of cheap dance hall" - "a dance with a hurdy-
   gurdy girl cost ten dollars a whirl".

By the way: my question about mechanical hurdy-gurdies (the stringed
instrument, not being an organ) also is answered in this book, more or
less, where it informs us that Leonardo da Vinci already drew two
drawings of a viola organisata that was meant to be playing

A lot of other mechanically-played bowed string instruments are known.
And in a way, the Hupfeld Violina orchestrion does contain
automatically played violins.

 [ And the Mills Violano plays the violin with a bow-wheel in
 [ the same manner as the "wheel fiddle" hurdy-gurdy!  -- Robbie

But a mechanically playing hurdy-gurdy (the one with strings, not an
organ) I still did not find.

Jan Kijlstra

(Message sent Thu 13 Nov 1997, 23:33:50 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Hurdy-gurdy, Lira, Organised, Organizetta

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