View the complete version of this exhibit
The collection of the University of Montreal's Music Faculty World music research
laboratory (LRMM) amounts to almost 550 musical instruments. The greater part
of this collection has already been archived, documented, photographed and digitized.
Considered as a scientific collection, it has joined ranks with the University
of Montreal's «Grandes Collections» (Major Collections).
It is with pride and enthusiasm that we present this virtual exhibit on the
astonishing world of musical instruments. You are invited to proceed to this
exhibit's themes menu, or get some important introductory information on the
study of musical instruments: organology.
Have yourself a wonderful visit!
ORGANOLOGY, THE STUDY OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
Present in most civilizations, musical instruments constitute a privileged
access to the cultural understanding of those who play them. Their cultural
diversity, their rich sound palettes, the variety of their
techniques, the refined craftsmanship that goes into their making, the role
they play in rituals: all these elements, and many more, testify to the symbolic
and physical power of musical instruments.
In order to describe, classify and catalogue them, we generally refer to the
mechanical principles of their sound production. This analytical grid was brought
forward by Sachs and von Hornbostel in the early 20th century.
Based on this grid, four major groups are defined: membranophones, aerophones,
chordophones and idiophones.
All instruments whose sound emanate from the vibration of air
(a flute, a clarinet or a trumpet, for example).
All instruments that resort to a string's vibration (such as a guitar,
a harp or a violin).
All instruments whose sounds are neither produced by air, a membrane or
a string's vibration. More often, sound emanates from the hitting
or clashing of pieces of wood, metal or plant material
(claves, bells or maracas, for example).
These are instruments whose sound is the result of a vibrating
membrane (the skin of an animal, or material of an
industrial nature, such as plastic).
(NOTE : LES FICHES D'INSTRUMENTS POPUP SONT EN TEXTE HTML COPIABLE- À
LIER AVEC IMAGES)
A TALKING WORLD
Integrated to ritual music, musical instruments are considered as sacred objects,
as mediators between the worlds of gods and humans.
This junction between music and speech is understandable if we consider that
many languages (african and asian) use designated pitches for specific syllables.
On that basis, we may say that sound intervals carry meaning. In the various
regions where these tonal languages are spoken, percussion instruments reproduce
these fixed pitches to transmit coded messages. They are, in some way, the telegraph's
precursor. Today, they are seldom used as a means of communicating between villages,
but their role in controlling dance remain as strong as ever.
Discover the tapou drum, the nkul slit drum, the tama talking drum, the bala
from Western Africa and the flute, as a means of communicating with divinities.
TAPOU FRAME DRUM
French West Indies
The tapou (from India, tappu or dappu) is made from an iron
hoop across which goat leather has been stretched. This
membrane is glued to the hoop with a strong glue made
from crushed tamarind seeds mixed with water. Two openings
in the hoop are used to slip in a piece of rope that will be used
as a carrying strap. Two types of sticks are used to play the
drum: the koutchi, a basic drumstick, and the nel koutchi,
made from the central veins of coconut tree leaves,
attached together at one end by a fine piece of thread.
The tapou drum is an instrument of worship, used in
Martinique and Guadeloupe, during Hindu religious
ceremonies. It is, in this context, the only accompanying
musical instrument used.
A similar drum is found in Reunion Island and Mauritius, where
it accompanies similar ceremonies of vegetarian and
carnivorous offerings. Its name is the malbar drum.
NKUL SLIT DRUM
The slit drum is made from a hollowed log in the center of which an
opening has been carved out. This slit results in two wooden lips of
various thicknesses, so two different pitches are obtained. The drum
is used for the transmission of messages or to accompany dance.
The way the drum is built enables the communication of rhythmic
patterns constructed from two fixed pitches. This is an essential
characteristic, since the slit drum is used to transmit verbal messages
from tonal languages. Pitch variation thus caries verbal meaning.
For the Fang people, the nkul is accompanied by other instruments:
xylophones, claves, membranophones, trumpets and flutes. The dance
of masks is presented as a complex score in which song, movement
and the language of the slit drums communicate constantly. But it is the
slit drums thatcontrol and send cues to the dancers.
TAMA TALKING DRUM
The tama, talking drum from Western Africa, is made up of two membranes
whose longitudinal tensors are controlled by the pressure applied by the
forearm of the musician. The instrument is maintained under the arm and
hit with the curved end of a drumstick. Variations of tension in the membranes
result in variably pitched sounds. The objective is to imitate variations of
pitch of the spoken word, thus reproducing verbal messages.
The making of the drum starts off with a ceremony, destined to gain the
benevolence of the spirit inhabiting the tree to be cut down for the tama.
The bala is a widespread instrument on the African continent.
Its name refers to an instrument whose sound is produced
by the vibration of wooden blades spread across resonators.
The musician hits these blades with sticks. The bala is usually
tuned to a whole-tone scale.
The bala is a communications tool between villages, anouncing
important events such as births or deaths. It is also found as an
accompaniment to singing and dance during festivities.
The bala is also related to rituals. Its origins are found in a legend that
tells the story of a rich and powerful king who had
fought a war against spirits of the water, and who had brought back a xylophone.
Terrified by the sovereign's power,
the neighbouring country's king offers his daughter in marriage, to insure his
clemency. A friend of her father
accompanies the maiden:
«Fasari Kouyaté, hidden inside a tower, discovers this magnificent
instrument. Filled with wonder, he starts playing praises for the King, who
himself, charmed and delighted by the young man's talent, offers him the instrument.»
THE FLUTE, INSTRUMENT OF GODS
Many peoples of the world attribute important symbolism
to the flute.
To the Greeks, Pan, God of the caves and woods,
would have created the flute so gods, nymphs,
humans and animals may rejoice.
To the Sufis, the reed flute ney symbolises the spirit
separated from its divine origin and its quest to return to it.
The ney and God Incarnate are one. This is why we find
it in the quatrain of the Order of Mawlawis:
«Listen to the reed…It speaks the secrets of the Holy One.»
In China, the legend of Suo-che and Long-yu calls to the
supernatural vertues of the sound of a cheng flute that guides
couples to the paradise of the immortals.
AN EXALTING WORLD
In many societies of oral tradition, musical instruments are used as
accompaniment to mythical songs, epics and sung praises that transmit
a people's history and values.
By playing this role, they become keepers of a society's tradition and memory.
This is the case with the kora, the mvet, the kabaro drum and with instruments
played during bwiti ceremonies in Gabon.
The kora is a 21 string harp-lute. Its neck, along which strings are attached
to sliding rings, goes through the resonator: a calabash covered with a membrane
(antilope, goat or cow skin). Parallel to the neck, two handles are inserted
under the leather. Perpendicular to the resonator, the bridge is notched (eleven
times on the left, ten times on the right) where strings go through to be tied
to a ring at the base the neck.
The kora, played by exclusively male professional musicians, is an instrument
specific to the mandingue culture and language, which spreads from Northern
Senegal to Gambia, and from Northern Ivory Coast to Mali and Burkina Faso.
« Seku, can you hear me?
-No, I listen, since you write to my memory with
your mouth. You who knows how to give words
the maternal gentleness or the mortal charge of an
arrow, skilled craftsman of the Word, I listen.
And who listens also harvests...»
«If your song is not as beautiful as silence, then
stay silent, as to not upset the audience.»
(Diabate : 1986 : 44)
The mvet occupies a priviledged space in epic african litterature, because
of its repertoire as well as the personality of the one who insures its circulation,
the mbôm-mvet, player of the mvet.
The name mvet refers to the musical instrument, the sung and recited oral litterature
accompanied by this instrument, as well as the epic genre. The mvet is the main
epic for the Fang, important ethnic group from Cameroon and Gabon. On a social
level, the mvet exalts martial and fundamental values, a sense of honor as well
as the respect for family obligations imposed by relatives (hence the importance
A plucked string instrument, the mvet belongs to the harp family. It is made
out of a raphia branch out of which four thin strips used to
be partially lifted and tightened over the bridge to create strings. It was
then considered as an idiochord instrument.
Nowadays, mvet strings are made of nylon.
Originating from the Sidamo province of Southern Ethiopia, the
kabaro drum is reserved for funeral rituals and religious cult ceremonies.
The instrument is made from the hollowed out section of a tree trunk
into which small hard particles are inserted. The trunk is then covered
with two cow leather membranes, so that one can be tuned higher than the other,
by further tightening the skin.
BWITI CEREMONIES FROM GABON
The bwiti has its roots in Tsogho and Pindji ethnic groups traditions.
Whatever the variation, the bwiti is based upon the cult of the ancestors
and essentially presents itself as a sum of knowledge around the secret
teachings about the theory of the World.
During these ceremonies, music, dance, carved objects and
scenography are essential elements in the undestanding of the
Two types of drums are used in bwiti ceremonies: the ngomo,
whose membranes are laced, and the misumba, whose membrane
These drums accompany, amongst others, the dances of the Masks.
BWITI CEREMONIES FROM GABON
mungongo musical bow, umbilical cord to the world and ngombi harp, access route
to the Mystery
The mungongo musical bow and ngombi harp are the
two main musical instruments of bwiti ceremonies
The musical bow, male element, symbolizes the voice of
the ancestor and the father.
The harp, female element, symbolizes the woman's
body and the mother-ancestor's face.
The ngombi harp bears eight strings that are the fruit
of her fecundity. The first ancestor, Disumba
(«the mother») is represented by the sculpted head.
During ceremonies, the harp's voice teaches the initiates the true meaning
of hermetic accounts. The instrument becomes performer and mediator.
In the primeval myth, the «upper» and «lower» villages
are connected by a
cord: mungongo and ngombi symbolize this primeval link between the spiritual
and human worlds, as well as the passage from nature to culture.
The ngombi harp is considered sacred when integrated to the
Bwiti ceremonies. There also exists a secular repertoire.
BWITI CEREMONIES FROM GABON
njiembe (or ntchege) double bell
The njiembe (or ntchege) double bell from Gabon is
also found in Cameroon, Congo, Zaire and in Northern
Angola. The body of the instrument is made of wood and
the multiple beaters of metal.
The bell must be worn during the six months of the
initiation period of the future healers. One of rituals
recommend not being seen by the rest of the population
during this period. This is why the initiates sound their
njembe bells during outings, as to announce their presence.
BWITI CEREMONIES FROM GABON
kendo single clapper bell
The kendo bell is used during the initiation rituals
of many societies as well as to mark the birth of twins.
In the Tsogho bwiti, the bell may be used to invoke spirits. It is often associated
with the act of
Traditionally, it could also symbolize leadership or power.
A DIVERTED WORLD
Why such a title as «A DIVERTED WORLD» to talk about musical instruments?
Jingles made of goat hooves, a horn made from tincans or a rattle from a tortoise
give out clues about this theme's contents...
This section will show the ingenuity and creativity of traditional musical
instrument makers worldwide. Also, beyond these aspects, it will show the unusual
origins of instruments themselves. Facing any musical instrument, an important
question needs to be asked in order to properly identify and classify it: WHAT
IS VIBRATING ?
In the case of well known instruments, the answer remains simple: a violin's
string or the air of a flute. But in other cases, the source of sound may be
more difficult to identify, as is the case when the resonator is made from an
animal's carcass or the assembly of several tincans.
It is with the spirit of discovery and astonishment that you are invited to
visit this section. You will find instruments born from the diversion of ANIMAL,
PLANT, MINERAL or even INDUSTRIAL matter. Musical instruments embody an original
and exceptional cultural heritage whose reach is
multiple and complex. This cultural trace is also revealed by this section.
MAN, ANIMAL AND MUSIC
This is, without a doubt, the most significant relationship of the diverted
theme. Man, animal and music have been maintaining intricate relationships for
thousands of year. Rattlers made from animal shells,
jingles from hoofs, flutes from bones, strings from horse hair, mimicry of animal
cries, all these elements show the tight relationship between Man and Animal
In many societies of oral tradition, animals are often endowed with special
powers: this is reflected in certain societies where musical instruments are
gifted by magical characteristics. In certain contexts, the instrument will
act as a mediator between the divine realm and that of man, in others, it will
be through the body of the singer or dancer
(other vibrating elements) that that the symbolic or magical presence of the
animal will manifest itself.
Moreover, animals offer an impressive quantity of sound texture possibilities.
We just have to think of animal skin for membranophones; of horns, bones, skulls
or ivory for aerophones; of seashells and carapace for percussion instruments,
or of horse hair and gut for string instruments.
ABOUT THE WOLF
A musician falls into a wolf's nest and finds himself face-to-face with a wolf.
The intruder, by playing music, keeps the animal at a safe distance. This typical
scene can be found in many etchings and paintings from animal iconography in
Other popular tales tell of the natural antipathy between sheeps and wolves.
Descartes mentions this when he tells of «the drumskin from a sheep stays
silent if a wolf skin resonates on another drum». (Compendium Musicae
A small article published in a 1977 russian newspaper relates the efforts of
a farmer to repel a wolf from his sheepfold by playing loud music. The wolf,
under a hypnotic spell from the music, was then easily brought under control!
In Seneca cosmology, the world rests on the back of a tortoise.
Beliefs say that when the tortoise rattle is played, the Creator, a Giant,
is attempting to move mountains. So he shakes a tortoise that makes such
noise that it scares off the animals. The Creator shakes the rattle and scrapes
it against a walnut tree while speaking to the mountains.
He then scrapes the rattle against the mountain itself.
In False Faces myths, it often happens that men hold the
tortoise rattle in their hands. Senecas say that the Great False Face follows
the sun's trace and stops it at noon to scrape its rattle against the great
elm or pine tree at the center of the Earth. It is the Tree of Life. The False
Face Chief is the invisible giant that is the keeper of the tree. By scraping
the rattle against the tree, the Great False Face obtains powers he can transmit
to Invisible Faces, the other members of the company.
In testimony of this belief, the tortoise rattle is scraped against a tree's
bark to enable oneself of special powers.
CONCH OF LAMBI
The conch is found on the major part of the carribean coast. Its
muscle being edible, the shell is then emptied and can become
a musical instrument.
To play the conch, the musician blows as in a horn by placing
his lower lip on the mouthpiece left by the perforation of the
The instrument used to be played to transmit messages: for
example, it announced someone's death to a neighbourhood.
Depending on the sequence of high and low notes, the
departed could be identified. The conch also acted as a
sacred symbol of the end of slavery, as well as played a role
in the danced combats (ladjia), that could occasionally lead to
death. Nowadays, the percussive sound of the conch informs of
the daily return of fishermen.
lute, South America
The main characteristic of this instrument resides in its body, made from the
shell of an armadillo.The charango may be played solo or as part of a group.
It is mostly found in Andean countries, such as Peru, Bolivia and in Northern
Argentina, where it is often considered as the instrument of Love (to the Aymaras).
This is probably why, in Bolivia, a dictum reminds that without its presence
a marriage ceremony loses its true meaning.
The use of bones as musical instruments goes back to Antiquity: first in China,
3000 years before our era, then in Egypt, in Greece and in Ancient Rome. In
the Middle-Ages, bone clappers accompany jugglers and troubadours
across Europe. Very popular in the British Isles, bone clappers arrive in America
with Irish immigrants. African-americans adapt the instrument to their musical
needs by introducing them first to «Minstrel Shows» followed
by the first jazz orchestras. As is the case of spoons, bone clappers are played
To play the clappers, the musician holds one of the bones against the palm
of his hand, and tightens his grip with his index and middle fingers. The other
bone, held losely, is held between the middle and ring fingers. The two bones
one against the other, by a twisting movement of the wrist.
Bone clappers are traditionally made out of ribs from cows or even whales.
Certain musicians prefer wood to bone for its clear sound and its flexibilty
as a building material. In Quebec (Canada) bone clappers give the rhythmic basis
to reels, gigues and polkas.
Originating from Northern Ethiopia, the krar lyra is one of the best known
popular instruments. Its body is covered by cow skin, while the strings are
made from gut or metal.
It is held flat on the musician's knees, and strings are plucked with a plectrum
made of hard leather or an animal's claw.
The krar lyra may be tuned according to four different modes, depending on
the repertoire (tizita, ba'ati, ambassal and anchioy). It is mainly used as
accompaniment to love songs.
Originating from Mesopotamia, the lyre became, during Greek Antiquity, a symbol
of high civilization associated with the god Apollo.Today, the instrument has
nearly disappeared except from the oriental coast of Africa and from the facing
shores of the arab peninsula. Lyres are generally built from a calabash resonator
(or tortoise shell, or wood), over which is stretched animal skin (bovine, snake
or lizard). The crossbar and its supports may be made of wood or animal horn.
The baganda lyre is from Uganda. The number of strings varies according the
ethnic group: from 4, 5 (for the Madi people), to 7 (Gishu) or 8 (Ganda or Songa).
These are made from cow tendons. The resonator's upper orifice amplifies the
sound. In Uganda, the lyre can be played with an ensemble composed of a lute,
a rattle and a drum.
man, plants and music
«A blade of grass held between the thumbs sound as a reed under the breath...»
The making of musical instruments never cease to amaze: from the know-how of
the instrument maker, diversity of materials to the incredible creativity involved.
Bamboo shows more than any other material the flexibility of plant matter in
the making of musical instruments. We find it blown (flutes), struck (drum-zither),
oscillated (angklung) or plucked (idiochord zither).
Because of its accessibility, its variety and its flexibility, plant matter
is found as the basis for many musical instruments, such as rattles, sistras
and musical bows. Calabash, wood, bamboo, cork and lianas constitute the dominant
plant matters found in this category.
Discover the vaksi-n trumpet, the medzang xylophone, the mornes flute ,
a calabash sistra, the berimbau musical bow, the syak scraper and the
bamboo trumpets, Haiti
The vaksi-n trumpets are generally played by groups of three, four and sometimes
five musicians at a time.
Of variable lengths, they generally obey the rule of the Golden Ratio (though
not in the case of these instruments), meaning each one measures about 3/5 of
the length of the larger one.
The vaksi-n generally produces one or sometimes two notes. As is the case with
trumpets, the sound comes from the lips vibrations. Simultaneously, the musician
taps the instrument's body with a stick, creating a rhythmic accompaniment.
The melody is the result of combining each trumpet at a specific synchronized
The trumpets can be heard during Rara dances («noisy» dances),
during the festivities preceding Easter. This tradition goes back to the first
years of Haiti's existence, although no traces are found in Africa. During these
festivities, groups assemble in the streets. Each group is preceeded by vaksi-n
players, followed by dancers that collect food and money, from house to house.
This instrument is made from a three-knot long piece of bamboo, the central
one being grooved on one of its side.
The bamboo is held in one hand, while being stroked by a scraper held by the
other hand in a to and fro movement. For bigger syak, the technique remains
the same, except that an end of the instrument rests on the abdomen, the other
against a wall.
Found across most of sub-saharan Africa, the calabash sistra originates from
The calabash rings, slipped through a branch of the wooden fork, are placed
by pairs, concave sides facing. This amplifies the sound when the sistra is
Originally used exclusively for circumcision ceremonies, it is sometimes heard
during funerals. Its usage is strictly reserved to men.
A wonderful rhythmic instrument, the calabash sistra is often integrated to
Made from a piece of bamboo, the flute is closed on one end. It has seven
holes, one of which is used to blow air into the instrument.
Generally, the flute is tuned in A, F or E flat.
The crucial step in making the flute resides in the choice of bamboo. A drier
wood would crack very quickly, as well as affect the sound. The allowed time
to dry the wood is thus a very delicate operation.
The mornes flute is often integrated to rural dance orchestras, as well as
well known groups such as Max Cilla's or the late Eugène Mona's, in Martinique.
Thanks to the sustained efforts of these musicians, the bamboo flute has been
regaining popularity since the 1980s.
portable xylophone, Gabon
This instrument is played in the context of traditional ensembles, called
«medzang me yekaba», composed of four or five xylophones. It accompanies
secular songs and dances.
The size and number of blades varies from one xylophone to the next. The
portable xylophone's wooden blades rest on a frame which has calabash
resonators strapped underneath. Each xylophone plays a specific musical
role: the first is the leader, the melody player; the second, tuned higher,
responds to the melodies with variations; the third, tuned lower, accompanies
the melody by repeating a basic pattern; the fourth gives the fundamental notes
upon which the melody is constructed; the fifth plays the bass notes and gives
the rhythmic accompaniment.
Several rattles, bells and sometimes drums as well as singing may join the
ensemble but the main musical core remains that of the rich and complex sounds
of the medzang xylophones.
The medzang players, often travelling professional musicians, are invited to
play during various festivities to accompany secular songs and dances as well
as epic poetry.
Originating from Gabon, the kadandzi is mostly used by the Téké
even though the instrument is also found in Southern Gabon. It can be
played solo or as part of a kadandzi duo or trio. A rattle sometimes
accompanies the ensemble, mostly during the performance of secular songs.
Its sound can be modified by blocking an orifice located at the end of the
BERIMBAU MUSICAL BOW
Between the XVIth and the XIXth century, millions of africans, mostly of the
Bantu people, are deported to Brazil and sold as slaves to work in plantations.
African culture in Brazil is very important, particularly in religion, liturgy,
cuisine and music.
The berimbau, a musical bow, is the only melodic instrument of Brazil that
has kept its original shape. The instrument, which has been used for two hundred
years, is still gaining in popularity in Brazil, particularly in the Bahia region
of the north.
With his right hand, the berimbau player hits the string with a stick at various
heights of the bow while shaking a small straw rattle called caxixi. He holds
the instrument with his left hand, while sometimes slightly touching the string
with a coin to produce higher harmonics. Sound is amplified by the calabash
which is held against the abdomen.
man, the industrial and music
Many musical instruments were made from material which previously carried other
functions. From the kitchen to the workshop or the garage... to the concert
hall! Those could have been the main themes of this section.
Through this transfer of functions, certain objects have known important transformations
or adaptations; others have been fully adapted to the world of music as they
were, responding to the needs of the musician.
Witness the degree of these transformations by learning about the washboard,
the broken line horn, the steel drum, the musical saw, gumboots and musical
BROKEN LINE HORN
The broken line horn is composed of three tinplate cones welded together in
a broken line. These cones come from sheets of recycled tinplate. It is played
by lip vibration. The sound is lower than that of the kléron.
The horns can be heard during the Carnival. They do not replace the
vaksi-ns but rather complement them. A good musician can produce as many as
four to five sounds playing the instrument.
The steel drum was born in Trinidad, from a ban that was imposed
not to play drums during Island festivities. This rule was adopted
following a riot opposing african descendants and colonialists.
To bypass this ruling, the african descendants experimented with
many types of objects to recreate drums they were forbidden
to use: cookie tins, bottles, brake drums and finally oil barrels.
The latter became the steel drum.
The instrument is made from an upside-down oil drum. On one of
its extremities, a circular keyboard is hammered down and played
with a pair of sticks. The steel drum has direct links to the african
bala by its play technique as well as its fixed-tune keyboard.
The musical saw appears in the later half of the XIXth century in music hall
and vaudeville shows. Even if its sound has a poignant and nostalgic quality,
it has often been associated with a lighter kind of entertainment. It is often
used by clowns and public performers, although composers, such as Henri Longuet,
has written works for the musical blade.
The musical saw consists of a long flexible blade whose straight edge is played
with a bow. The musician plays in a sitting position by holding the saw firmly
between his knees. With his other hand he controls the blade's bend, altering
In the 1920s, a three-octave musical saw is manufactured for concert purposes,
although the woodsaw is the preferred instrument of professionals.
The washboard's sound come from the scraping of the boards ripples with either
the nails, thimbles, spoons or even coins. Metallic or wooden idiophones are
sometimes attached to the board to enrich its sound.
Its use as a rhythmic instrument originated at the beginning of the XXth century
amongst african-american communities from southern United States. In the 1920s,
the washboard is an important part of jugbands and accompanies the jugbass (a
musical bow whose resonator is an upside-down washbasin). Poverty stricken musicians
will use washboards, gazoos and harmonicas to sing the blues, ragtimes and popular
music in general. In the 1950s, the predominance of the drumkit in jazz will
accelerate the decline of the washboard. However zydeco music (from Louisiana's
french-speaking african-americans) will give it a new momentum. From then on,
the washboard hanging from a musician's neck is directly identified to zydeco
and two-steps music.
Gumboots is a percussive dance composed of rhythms played by the
dancers, by slapping their rubber boots with their hands. Practised
since the beginning of the XXth century by South Africa's gold mine
workers, the gumboots dance provided some escape from the
excruciating work conditions. Taught to young people in some
townships community centers (Soweto is probably the best known)
since the end of the 1970s, gumboots is today performed and
embodies the miners resistance and courage in the face the
Apartheid Regime (1948-1994).
In South Africa, dancers often attach burnt beer bottle caps held
together by a wire to their ankles to add texture to the sound of
the slapped boots. In a rhythmic manner, guitar often accompanies
Musical spoons often rhythmically sustain, with the help of bones
and stomping feet, traditional music in Quebec. Made from a
high quality alloy, they have a convex shape and are played back
to back. One of the spoons is maintained between the thumb and
forefinger, the second between forefinger and middle finger. It is
possible to create complex rhythmic patterns by alternately hitting
the spoons against the thigh and the other hand's palm.
A good musician enlarges the instrument's possibilities by using
his fingers to create ornamentation, his mouth as a resonator or
other body parts. Made from wood, stainless steel or silver, these
spoons are nowadays joined at their extremity to ease their
Musical spoons are used in other countries, as in Turkey, Bosnia,
Russia, Lithuania and Vietnam. In certain of these regions, small bells are
attached to the spoons in order to enrich
man, mineral and music
French researchers have noted that in certain caves, there was a direct relationship
between subjects depicted in rock art and the natural environment's sound resonance
properties. Certain lines in the artwork even seem to emphasize sound, as to
underline man's intervention. Would these represent the first rhythmic movements,
stones clashing to produce a new musical world?
From the Cro-magnon's natural lithophone to the use of mineral-based instruments,
the world of music follows man's evolution: from the Stone Age to the Iron Age.
The blacksmith becomes a part of music and instrument making. Bells, cymbals,
concussion or stamped idiophones; the transformation of mineral matter into
living musical instruments is now a part of the blacksmith's responsibilities.
Discover the graj scraper, the kléron bugle and qerqabat crotals.
Introduced to the Maghreb by Sudanese brought as slaves by Arab Berbers, these
metal castanets are exclusively used by their descendants for secular dances
as well as the accompaniment to several possession rituals specific to certain
The qerqabats are also called qaraqeb in Algeria, chackcheck in Tunisia, qarqabous
Made of tin, the kléron resembles the military bugle. It has a conical
shape and has a wide bell as well as a mouthpiece. The kléron is played
by lip vibrations.
It is mostly heard in strolling bands, the Carnival's Rara, where it accompanies
In Haiti, this instrument is made by a tinsmith who roughens a piece of tin
by piercing it repeatedly. To play the instrument, its side is scraped with
either a spoon or a metal rod.
Its rhythmic sound is used as ostinato in musical accompaniments.
The Laboratoire de recherche des musiques du monde gratefully acknowledges
the financial investment by the Department of Canadian Heritage in the creation
of the virtual exhibition «The Astonishing World of Musical Instruments!»
for the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Exhibit commissioner: Monique Desroches, PhD, ethnomusicology professor and
Director of the World Music Research Laboratory, University of Montreal
Conception, design, computer graphics and programming: Luc Bouvrette, PhD, World
Music Research Laboratory, University of Montreal
Photography: Luc Bouvrette (unless otherwise mentioned)
Research team: Monique Desroches, Violaine Debailleul, Brigitte DesRosiers,
Final text writing: Monique Desroches
Translation: World Music Research Laboratory, University of Montreal
Video/photo digitizing of LRMM archives: Yara El-Ghadban, Linda Lafortune
Transcription: Linda Lafortune
Collection: World Music Research Laboratory, University of Montreal
Many thanks to:
We would like to gratefully thank the CHIN's team for its collaboration and
cordiality throughout the making of this exhibit. Special thanks to Lyn Elliot
Sherwood, Director-General, Pierre Chalifour, Luc Pesant and Kim Gauvin. We
would also like to thank the University of Montreal's staff for all their help:
Johanne Beaudin from the Music Faculty, Michel Rivest of the BLEUS, Andrée
Lemieux director of the Exhibit Center, Annick Hernandez from DGTIC and Sophie
Limoges from the Anthropology Department. Thank you.
© Laboratoire de recherche sur les musiques du monde, Université
de Montréal 2002. All rights reserved.