Monday, March 12, 2018

Musical Monday - Patty Gurdy - What the Hell is a Hurdy Gurdy?

Until recently, I would have sworn that a "Hurdy-Gurdy" was one of those made up noises, like "Razzle Frazzle."

Turns out, the Hurdy-Gurdy is a real thing, and people really play them, and they're kind of cool.  I could totally see my DnD bard picking one up :-)

I really like that Patty explains this weird thing.  It is clear that quite a bit of serious engineering went into designing the Hurdy-Gurdy.  I mean, according to the Wikipedia article, this instrument is over a millennia old!




"The hurdy-gurdy is generally thought to have originated from fiddles in either Europe or the Middle East (e.g., the rebab instrument) some time before the eleventh century A.D.[2] The first recorded reference to fiddles in Europe was in the 9th century by the Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih (d. 911) describing the lira (lūrā) as a typical instrument within the Byzantine Empire."

That is an old design, and very impressive. I mean, I'm sure the design has changed a lot over ten centuries, but the core seems to remain the same - that is, strings, a wheel and keys.

Now, as a historical/political aside for a moment, here in the 21st century, we like to think of Europe and it's descendants (specifically the full-of-itself United States) as the "civilized and industrialized world."  But, go back and read that quote above.  The use of the fiddle in Europe was recorded by the "savages" of the Middle East.  In other words, when the Europeans were still picking their noses and congratulating themselves for being able to shape iron, the Middle East had colleges with scholars who kept records of what the Euro-savages were using to make music.

Speaking of engineering, "The pitches on the organistrum were set according to Pythagorean temperament and the instrument was primarily used in monastic and church settings to accompany choral music."  Who does that?  Especially in the 9th century?

And here is an example of Patty Gurdy actually playing one.  "Sweet Dreams" is a classic song, for a long of reasons, not the least of which is that it has a very recognizable sound.




And, just for comparison, here is the timeless original:




Actually, I find it amusing that the "Who am I to disagree?" line is almost quaint by today's standards where kink is practically vanilla.  Ah, the impact of the Internet in mainstreaming the weird.