Cover image for The hammered dulcimer : a history
The hammered dulcimer : a history
Gifford, Paul M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxiv, 439 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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ML1041 .G54 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The last quarter of the twentieth-century saw a renewed interest in the hammered dulcimer in the United States at the grassroots level as well as from elements of the Folk Revival. This book offers the reader a discussion of the medieval origins of the dulcimer and its subsequent spread under many different names to other parts of the world. Drawing on articles the author has written in English as well as articles by specialists in their own languages, Gifford explains the history and evolution of the instrument. Special attention is paid to the North American tradition from the early 18th-century to the 1970s revival. Drawing from local histories, news clippings, photographs, and interviews, the book examines the playing of the dulcimer and its associated social meanings.

Author Notes

Paul M. Gifford became interested in the dulcimer and its music through his father, Norman, a pianist and flutist, who had known dulcimer players and fiddlers in the 1920s and '30s. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Gifford has been an archivist and librarian at the University of Michigan-Flint since 1987

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Gifford (Univ. of Michigan, Flint) offers a fascinating history of a number of instruments considered "hammered dulcimers," instruments that consist of a resonant sounding board over which are stretched series of strings beaten by light, soft mallets. The most common shape is the trapezoid, and the number of strings extends from eight or ten up into the seventies. Not to be confused with the plucked "Kentucky mountain dulcimer" (with three or four strings), hammered dulcimers have been widespread for a thousand years throughout Europe, Asia, and Euro-America. Gifford provides individual chapters on the histories of individual dulcimer types--the Middle Eastern santur, the German hackbrett, the cimbalom (used in Eastern Europe but most famous as a Hungarian folk and concert instrument), the Italian salterio, the Chinese yangqin, and others. In general, he is skeptical of theories of multiple origin, emphasizing relationships and crediting instead a common central or southern European genesis. About half of the book is devoted to a detailed history of the dulcimer in North America as a folk, vernacular, and popular instrument. Well researched and documented, critical of some conventional wisdom, and not technically overpowering, this book will speak to students from high school up and to scholars and college faculty. B. Nettl University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Table of Contents

Ralph Lee Smith
Illustrationsp. ix
Figuresp. xiii
Maps and Tablesp. xvi
Musical Examplesp. xvii
Forewordp. xix
Acknowledgmentsp. xxiii
1 Introductionp. 1
2 Forerunnersp. 7
3 The Dulcimer's Originsp. 25
4 The Santurp. 45
5 The Hackbrettp. 65
6 The Cimbalom Familyp. 103
7 The Pantaleonp. 165
8 The Salteriop. 171
9 The French Psalterion and Tympanonp. 189
10 The Yangqin Familyp. 195
11 The Dulcimer in the British Islesp. 213
12 The Dulcimer in America, 1717-1850p. 239
13 The Dulcimer in North America, 1850-1900p. 251
14 The Design of Nineteenth-Century American Dulcimersp. 289
15 The Dulcimer in North America, 1900-1975p. 313
16 The Dulcimer's American Revivalp. 351
17 Dulcimer to "Hammer(ed) Dulcimer": Transformation of the Instrument since 1970p. 373
Appendix 1 Tuningsp. 393
Appendix 2 Michigan Dulcimer Players Identified in 1910 Censusp. 409
Select Bibliographyp. 413
Indexp. 427
About the Authorp. 440