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(more ConCulture than ConLang) tube zithers, board zithers & kites

From:Jonathan Chang <zhang2323@...>
Date:Saturday, June 24, 2000, 1:40
    The following is interesting in that similar ideas could be used in a
ConCulture or two, but there are some ConLang points of

    In my latest musical research - via both books & Internet - into
seemingly "primitive" string instruments, I have come across a Malay
idiochord zither called _keranting_ - which exists in several differing
forms, under different related names.

    It is made from a single joint of large diameter bamboo - closed off at
each end by the bamboo node. There are anywhere from 2 to 7 strings (actually
strips of the bamboo itself) raised from the bamboo's surface - played either
by plucking or, in some versions, played by striking with hard wood sticks.
    Lengths range from a foot to as long as 5' or thereabouts. Bridges
inserted under the strings serve for tuning; rings of rattan prevent the
strings from splitting away from the bamboo tube. There are holes in the
bamboo to bring the sound out of the bamboo.  When the strings are fairly
thin, the sound is slightly percussive, with noticeable plucking noise and
little sustain. Thick, heavy strings produce a dual fundamental - an unique
"quaint and attractive effect."
    Some forms of this instrument have bamboo frets under the strings. In
recent versions/adaptations, the traditional fiber strings have been replaced
with strings of rattan or wire (wire having the advantage of being easier to
tune & having a clearer, louder sound with a longer sustain).

    Very similar - even identical in many respects - are the _kullibet_
zithers (also bamboo idiochords) of the Philippines.
    (There are oodles of highly unique bamboo tube zithers created & played
by different peoples all along the South China Sea down to Papua New Guinea -
for example, the tribal highland people of Vietnam have some very odd -
sounding & looking, spacey-alien-like bamboo tube zithers).

    Some scholars believe that bamboo idiochords like these originally were
from Yunnan, China, and that these instruments are the ancestors and close
relatives to Asian long board zithers like the Chinese 7-string
_ch'ing_(_qin_), the Japanese _koto_ & Ainu 5-string  _tonroki_, and the
Korean _Kaya-go_, 6-string _komun'go_ & the 12 string _kayagum_.

    Intriguing, eh???

    Today I saw a neat, short PBS program on the kites (one literal
translation of one of the Chinese names for kites:_paper-birds_).
    Most of the program was filmed in WuiFeng (sp?), Mainland China, during
the International Kite [something-or-other, "Congress"?... I didn't catch
what was said]...
    It was quite beautiful to see all the different kites, esp'ly the various
bat & insect kites - very simple, fairly elegantly small-sized zoomorphic
    There was a really neat cicada kite that had a sonic element: an aeolian
harp (windharp) was attached to it & thus made nice insectoid-like
string-drone humming in flight...  And there was also a bat kite that had
some kind of whistle...

    ...very charming.... *pikachu* cute...

    As you might know there are tons of Chinese & Japanese poems about bats,
cicadas & crickets, etc.. and kites.
    I oughta do a lil research into kite-lore - like I have done with singing
insect lore from China & Japan - so I can write poems about kites, esp'ly bat
kites with whistles & insect kites with windharps. =)

    Havin' FUN, havin' a ball learnin' new stuff... how about you?