ITALIAN MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
The history of the GUITAR has its origins in Italy, where, following the schools of classical lutes, brought to the birth of different regional schools, which continue today with different styles and techniques.
The main schools were born in northern Italy, due to the influence of Stradivari violin making. Since Renaissance, great is the tradition of violin making in Tuscany, when the Medicis family began collecting instruments. The trade of stringed instruments Italians in France was facilitated by the figure of Catherine de Medicis and ended up passing in Spain where this instrument is widely used in the tradition of flamenco. The history of the electric guitar instead begins in America with jazz and blues.
A typical Italian guitar is the guitar swing, typical of the tradition of Calabria, Puglia, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Molise and of Campania, which we find in the center and south of Italy since the fourteenth century, with ever-evolving forms compared to the presumed model of the historic baroque guitar. Today is also known as Italian guitar as opposed to the “classical” guitar called as Spanish or French guitar. A distinguishing feature of this old guitar is its shaped like an elongated eight.
The oldest sources regarding VIOLIN enable us to trace its birth at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Most of the conventional assumptions place the appearance of the first real violins, with the same shape and tuning still used today, in the north of Italy, in Cremona and Venice. The new family of these string instruments appeared almost simultaneously in different parts of Europe: Northern Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, especially in Brussels, Antwerp and Prague. This suggests that the violin was born as a musical instrument for buskers, during the first decades of the sixteenth century, by a fusion of different instruments. In fact, its use becomes crucial to the gypsy folk music. In the sixteenth century it was mainly used in dance music, though in Italy very soon it took on noblest roles in the courts or in the churches. In 1530 in Italy we have the mention of a violin used during a Mass and about ten years later we find the violins in Venice, in various “schools of music” and during masses and processions.
Made famous by the Italian names of Stradivari, Amati and Guarneri related to this important instrument which becomes essential for the birth of Opera in Italy, at the same time with music opera and central Europe symphonic art.
For many years the ACCORDION was an instrument in the popular and folk-dance Italian tradition. It was born in Italy, from schools craft Castelfidardo, Ancona, Pavia. Its use is massive in the folk and popular tradition, with the Neapolitan tarantella, and the pinch (pizzica) in Puglia, who recently had a big comeback. He was born originally as an instrument for sacred music to accompany the singing during the processions, in contrast to its closest relative, the “concertina”, considered a more popular instrument.
The technical developments and construction of this instrument have increasingly improved its tone and its pitch, encouraging its presence in most cultured areas, so that the first patent for an “accordion”, a term used to indicate this instrument, was filed in 1829 in Vienna . In the Americas, particularly in Argentina, it became the “Bandoneon”, a fundamental instrument of tango orchestras. The German immigrants took the instrument with them in Argentina, in the early twentieth century, and here quickly met great success, and was soon placed in the context of local music.
The origin of the classic MANDOLIN (or Neapolitan mandolin) dates back to the mid-seventeenth century, it is believed that from that time begins the production of mandolins by the famous “Casa Vinaccia”. Their mandolins were mostly rich in inlays of ivory and threadings along the handle, carried out with great care. It is due to the company Vinaccia the use of steel cords in lieu of the brass used at the beginning, that lacked volume and in timbre.
The term HARPSICHORD refers for a family of stringed musical instruments of Italian origin that have a keyboard, among which the most famous is the large instrument nowadays called harpsichord, but also the smaller ones like the spinet. These instruments generate sound by plucking a string rather than striking it, as in a piano or clavichord. The term itself comes from the Latin clavis, and can be considered the successor of cymbalum, an ancient instrument that was played by plucking the strings.
The ORGAN is an instrument of ancient origin. The first organ, the Hydraulis, was built in the third century BC by Ctesibus of Alexandria, designed by Archimedes. Two early descriptions of the organ can be found in Pneumatika of Heron of Alexandria (120 BC) and in “De Architectura” by Vitruvius (first century). Used in the Roman civilization and in the Byzantine area to celebrate public holidays, it will have a change of use due to a random event: in 757 when the emperor of Byzantium, Constantine Copronimo, made a gift of an organ to Pepin the Short, and he placed it in the church of St. Cornelius in Compiègne, France. Since then began the rapid spread of this instrument in areas of Christian worship and liturgy.
The REED-PIPE (different from the traditional bagpipe) is widespread in Calabria, although present in all European popular music and meet during the festivals, pilgrimages, folk manifestations and in many religious and profane occasions. It’s an instrument that is so dear as it brings us back to the celebratory atmosphere of Christmas and its beautiful melodies. The sweet reed-pipe’s sound is given from the particular reeds and from a sack (goatskin) that gives back an air supply. In Calabria the reed-pipes have four or five rods, the sack is made with sheep or goat’s skin whose size is proportional to the reels.
The SHAWM or pipe (called ciaramella or pipita in Italian) is a popular air instrument of the family of oboes with double reed. The Italian word “ciaramella” derives from the late Latin diminutive calamellus, female calamilla or calamella, derived in turn from the Latin word calamus, meaning “reed.” This popular musical instrument has spread throughout the central and southern Italy mostly.
The CASTAGNETTE is an idiophone musical instrument mainly used in Mediterranean folk music, often confused with the similar castanets. Each castagnette consists of two parts, in shaped wood, linked by a piece of cord, which allows to output the sound opening and closing them with the hands. They are used in pairs and each instrument gives a sound slightly different.
The standard OCARINA used in Western music was invented in Budrio, Italy, during the mid-nineteenth century by Giuseppe Donati. Its shape recalls the elongated ovoid profile of a goose (oca in Italian) without the head: the name is derived from ucarina, diminutive of oca in Bolognese dialect. According to available sources, it seems that Donati has invented the ocarina in 1853, at the age of 17 years. But Donati not just build ocarina of one size: the new and winning idea was to build a family of large and small ocarinas tuned to each other.