T is for Tone

Lute, oud what’s in a name?

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”
Wikipedia shows range of medieval lute players.

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 Oud

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:

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Grandpa Didn’t Recognize Led Zeppelin Either

Chris Stapleton (45) admiring Stevie Wonder (72): 2023 Grammys (photo from Yahoo!Sports)

There was a lot of kvetching last week about the Grammys this year, on the Facebook and the Interwebs. As in, who are these people?

Our blogging friend Fandango wondered about it in his Wednesday question of the week. After wondering why so many people on the Grammys seem strange, his question was What’s your favorite music, but I decline to answer that, since my list is long, and I like individual songs rather than the style (though I will answer, at the end of the post). I’m still considering the other question: Who are these people?

I’ve seen my contemporaries, my sexagenarian friends, ask that question too, with a lot of grumpiness. And yet, I say to them, when you were a kid and watched Frank Sinatra or Perry Como sing year after year at the Grammys or the Oscars, didn’t you feel like they ought to shuffle aside for someone a little hipper?

Let’s keep the Grammys in perspective.

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