The oud, the chant, the guzheng, and the morin khuur. There aren’t many stories of medieval bards out on the Silk Road, but there must have been. Even the conquerors appreciated art and music. The cities of Baghdad, Samarkand, Constantinople, and Hangzhou were considered the happening places to be back in the day. Marco Polo weaves music in and out of his stories of Cathay and of Alaoudin.
When any one of them opened his eyes, saw this delightful spot, and heard the delicious music and songs, he really believed himself in the state of blessedness.Marco Polo, “On the Old Man of the Mountain”
Here’s a quick spin through some medieval instruments, with their links (sorry in advance if you run into a Youtube ad, but wait for the music!)
The lute came out of Persia, an instrument with a neck, strings, and a rounded bowl for good sound. The Arabs called their version the oud. Apparently, it belongs to a class of instruments called chordophones, whose sound comes from vibrating strings. The singer Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (c. 965–1040) was known for his expertise.
Here is Naochika Sogabe, showing you what an oud sounded like:Continue reading “T is for Tone”