I talked to Jennie Kinsley at the Harvest Moon Festival.
Tell me about the instrument you are playing.
This is the most ancient folk instrument that we know of. It arose in what we used to be called Persia (the Iran and Iraq area). It is called a Santur in India, yamgqin in China and dulcimer in America. It is the precursor of the piano and the harpsichord. Someone said the dulcimer is a piano on standard transmission. You don’t have the keys. You are hitting directly on the piano wires with the hammers. If you look in a piano, you will see the hammers that are attached.
I listened to them perform an American Folk Waltz. Jenny claimed that the dulcimer sounds a lot like the piano. However, I didn’t hear that. I think my grandfather would have really enjoyed this! The dulcimer and the acoustic guitar brought back memories of my grandfather playing his guitar, yodeling, and occasionally playing his harmonica. Ok, I know the time periods and the choice of music had different sounds and chord progressions (country versus folk).
In Asia, the dulcimer is considered an orchestral instrument. People who are very prim and proper, and well educated, and classically trained, play it. In America, it is more of a folk instrument. We are sort of the rag, tag, bumbling players. It came over in 1763 on one of the boats with the colonists. It would be the way that ladies would show they were cultured in the parlor. When the railroads and the roads came around, the piano replaced it. Then, the dulcimer went under the bed or up in the barn. It was called a Lumber Jack piano for a while, because you would see them on the canal boats. At that time, it wasn’t considered appropriate for a church service. The Sears catalog had these until 1910. In 1910 they had one in stock for a year and couldn’t sell it, so they took it out of the catalog. People started building them themselves. We had salespeople in Ohio who would go around and sell these. They weren’t available from about about 1910 to 1970. They came back out with the New Folk Revival. Then they took the lead melody role. Before they used to be the background “ummmph chuck aaahhh ummmmph chuck aaaahhh.”
This is also a dulcimer. It is like two people having the same last name as Smith; but, not related. Dulcimer in Latin means sweet sound or sweet voice. This is much more ancient. It comes from Persia. This is truly the American folk instrument. It came over in the hands of the Germans. The Germans had a rectangular instrument with a similar string arrangement called the scheitholt. This was built by people who lived in the mountains with whatever material they had. This is also called the mountain or Appalachian dulcimer. It has more of a twangy type of sound.
It was neat to hear the history of the piano and dulcimer. I enjoyed hearing the dulcimers played. The sound reminded me of the harpsichord sound on the keyboard. It’s probably because piano is my second favorite instrument (to the Hammond B-3 organ).