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Edwin M. Ripin

revised by Peter Walls

(Fr. méchanique; Ger. Mechanik, Mechanismus; It. meccanica).

(1) The linkage between the fingers (or feet) and the sound-producing parts of an instrument. Hence, the mechanism by means of which the strings or pipes of a keyboard instrument are sounded when a key is depressed, e.g. tracker action, pneumatic action, electric action, etc. in organs (see Organ §II...




Laurence Libin


Stephen Bonner

(Fr. harpe d’Eole, harpe éolienne; Ger. Äolsharfe, Windharfe; It. arpa eolia, arpa d’Eolo)

A string instrument (chordophone) sounded by natural wind, interesting as much for its symbolic significance as for its musical importance.

Normally four to 12 (but sometimes 24 or 48) strings ‘of catgut or brass wire, equal in length, unequal in thickness’ (Magasin pittoresque, 1845) are stretched over one or two hardwood bridges of triangular cross-section, mounted on a thin pine, maple or mahogany box of variable shape – measuring 75–200 cm (normally 85–110 cm) long, 11–35 cm (normally 12–26 cm) wide and 5–17 cm (normally 5–9 cm) deep. The ends of this soundbox may be of beech, for insertion of iron hitch-pins or wooden tuning-pegs. Most instruments have some device such as a slit draught for concentrating the wind on the strings.

Six variants of this structure exist: (1) A rectangular soundbox with a single horizontal row of strings, the most popular model in England, and, until 1803, in Germany; also the simplest type....



José Maceda

Idioglot Jew’s harp of the northern Philippines. Most are made of bamboo, but some are of brass or bronze with a slender triangular tongue cut through a small sheet of metal, the tongue remaining fully enclosed but attached only at the base of the triangle. Among the Bontok people it is known as the ...


K.A. Gourlay

revised by Amanda Villepastour

Lamellaphone of the Ọ̀yọ́ Yorùbá in Nigeria. It has diffused to the Nago peoples of Benin and Lucumí people in Cuba, where it is known as the marímbula. Five adjustable metal tongues are mounted on a large wooden box resonator, which can be 45 cm by 60 cm and 22 cm deep or larger. The instrument is played on the lap, suspended from the neck at waist level so that the tongues can be plucked with the fingers of either hand, or resting on the floor with the player seated. The agídígbo is usually used as part of secular instrumental ensembles such as sákárà, mambo, jùjú, and àpàlà. The Yorùbá instrument has given its name to the Gwari and Fon gidigbo and to the Gwari agijigbo, both five-tongued with box (or old kerosene tin) resonators, and to the agidigo used by some Hausa musicians, notably Audu Karen Gusau, who used instruments of this type either solo or with the hourglass drums (...


Martha Novak Clinkscale

A device invented and patented by Sébastien Erard as part of his first repetition action of 1808, which replaced the nut (wrest-plank bridge) and nut-pin (bridge-pin) arrangement of earlier pianos. Érard’s early agraffe resembled a small brass staple with a concave top. One agraffe for each note was attached at a vertical angle to the front edge of the wrest plank, and the strings were passed underneath. Agraffes define one end of the strings’ speaking length and keep them in place by assuring downward bearing on the strings as the hammers strike. An Érard grand piano of 1812 with agraffes of the original type is now in the Musée de la musique, Paris. Later agraffes have separate holes through which each individual string is passed; each agraffe contains as many holes as there are strings for each unison. Pierre Érard’s improvement, the barre harmonique, which he patented in 1838, still serves as the model for agraffes on the modern grand piano. The agraffe should not be confused with the ...



J. Richard Haefer


Diatonic harp with 28 strings of the Yoeme Yaqui Indians of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, and the Mayo and Guarijio Indians of Northern Mexico. The names derive from the Spanish arpa. Made from cedar or other local woods, the harp is about 160 cm tall, with a straight forepillar made from a local cactus pole, an inverted arch neck with wooden tuning pegs, and a resonator of three or usually five sides and a flat soundtable with three circular sound holes. Traditionally the lower strings are made of wound goat gut which the harpist receives as part of his payment for playing the fiesta. Nowadays the strings are made from monofilament nylon of various sizes with the lower ones wound to a larger diameter. The harp is retuned as the performance proceeds through the night with various segments using different scales. The harp is played together with the lave’leo violin to accompany the dancing of the ...



Robert C. Provine

Bowed long zither of Korea. Two main versions are in current use: the ajaeng, which has been a member of court music ensembles for many centuries, and the smaller sanjo ajaeng, invented in the 1940s and used for folk music and accompaniments.

The older version is about 160 cm long and 24 cm wide, has seven strings of twisted silk and is bowed with a long (65 cm) resined stick of forsythia wood. The instrument itself is made of paulownia wood and is played propped up at the bowing end (performer’s right) on a small four-legged stand. The strings run from a gently curved bridge on the right across seven small movable wooden bridges (‘wild-goose feet’) to another curved bridge on the left; the sounding length, from the right bridge to the movable bridge, is different for each string and readily adjustable for tuning purposes. The ajaeng has the narrowest range of the Korean string instruments: in court music it normally operates within a 9th or 10th, a typical tuning being ...


Idiochord single-string stick zither made by Ganda children in Uganda. It consists of a piece of papyrus stem about 55 cm long with a thin strip raised and supported on bits of papyrus that serve as bridges. It is plucked either with a finger of the right hand or with a small stick....




Ferdinand J. de Hen


Board zither of the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It has a single string that passes five times back and forth along a board from notches carved in both ends, with a small stick at each end serving as a nut, and small movable wooden blocks under each length of string to tune them. The name ...



Patrizio Barbieri

[Albana, Albano, Albanus]

Italian makers of stringed keyboard instruments. At least four builders of this name were active during the 16th and 17th centuries, three of whom are known to have been members of the same Roman family. Documents show that from at least 1623 onwards Andrea Albani (b Rome, c1552; d Rome, 19 August 1639) built harpsichords at a workshop near the church of S Stefano del Cacco. He was assisted by his son Silvestro and his nephew Giovanni Battista Monti (b c1611). Although no instrument by Andrea survives, it is known from an essay by G.B. Doni (c1632–5) that he was persuaded by theorists to build some enharmonic harpsichords with split keys, each note divided either ‘into five parts, according to the principles of Don Niccola [Vicentino], or into four, following the practice which they attribute to Aristosseno’.

Orazio (b Rome, ...



Philip J. Kass

Family of violin makers and dealers. John Albert (b Liel, Baden, Germany, 24 June 1809; d Philadelphia, PA, 2 Jan 1900) began as an engineer and inventor. He came to New York from Freiburg, Germany, in 1854 as a refugee of the 1848 revolution, settling in Philadelphia where in 1857 established a shop. His particular interest was in commercial violin manufacture, in which he held several patents; he established the American Star violin factory which, after his retirement in 1887, was run by his son Eugene John Albert (b Freiburg, 1851; d Philadelphia, 1922). The E.J. Albert firm, under other ownership, continued well into the 1950s.

John’s eldest son, Charles Francis Albert (b Freiburg, Germany, 25 Dec 1842; d Philadelphia, PA, 1 July 1901), established his own shop in Philadelphia in 1865. His interest was in fine instruments and repairs, and as such gained wide respect and admiration. His son and successor, Charles Francis Albert Jr. (...



Laurence Libin

Term for various instruments among the Choctaw people of Mississippi, USA. Meanings of the term were probably extended to cover non-native instruments by Rev. Cyrus Byington, a 19th-century missionary concerned with translating the Bible into Choctaw. Ałepa chito denotes a large drum or bass fiddle, ałepa chito isht boli is a drum stick, and ...



Howard Mayer Brown

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

Term for a whole number that divides into another without remainder; one number is an aliquot part of the other and can be smaller or of the same length. The wavelengths of the harmonic partials of a tone are aliquot parts of the fundamental. Sympathetic strings that vibrate in resonance with others that are struck, plucked, or bowed are called ‘aliquot strings’. In organ building, Aliquotstimme is the German term for a Mutation stop that sounds one or more harmonic partials of the fundamental.

Two types of aliquot stringing are used in pianos. In 1873 Blüthner patented the addition of a sympathetic aliquot string to each trichord in the treble of grand pianos; Boisselot introduced a similar form in 1843. Steinway in 1872 patented a system called ‘duplex scaling’ wherein aliquot string segments beyond one or both ends of the normal sounding length (front and rear duplexes) are allowed to ring sympathetically, being provided with additional small bridges that define their lengths. Steinway claimed a twofold advantage: increasing string flexibility by changing the end condition from a fixed to a hinged state, and suppressing undesirable longitudinal vibrations; however, sympathetic resonance is generally acknowledged as the only audible result. Steinway’s aliquot system was anticipated a half century earlier by the German piano maker Wilhelm Leberecht Petzoldt, who experimented with a small bridge placed behind the normal one in an attempt to exploit sympathetic resonance....


Albert Cohen

A kind of lute, perhaps one activated by a wheel, invented by the French polymath Jean Le Maire. The word ‘almérie’ is an anagram of the inventor’s name. Le Maire (b Chaumont-en-Bassigny, Haute-Marne, c1581; dc1650) was a mathematician, engineer, and inventor who lived in Toulouse and Paris. His widespread interests led to the development of novelties in such diverse areas as architecture, language, mnemotechnics, and typography. In music, in addition to the almérie, he is credited with devising an equal-tempered scale, with adding a seventh syllable (za) to the hexachordal solmization system, and with proposing a novel music notation (‘musique almérique’). Although Mersenne (Harmonie universelle, and in his correspondence) strongly supported Le Maire’s ideas, others did not, and controversy regarding his inventions spread throughout France and elsewhere in Europe.

See also Mersenne, Marin.

A. Cohen: ‘Jean Le Maire and La Musique Almérique’, AcM...




Charles Beare

revised by Carlo Chiesa and Philip J. Kass

Italian family of violin makers. The patriarch of the family, Andrea Amati (b before 1511; d Cremona, 24 Dec 1577), was possibly the founder of modern violin making; certainly he was the first violin maker to work in Cremona, the city whose name today is synonymous with the craft. Little is known of his life. His earliest documented instrument, a violin with three strings dated 1546, was still in existence in Milan at the beginning of the 19th century, according to a contemporary source. Of his surviving instruments – violins of two sizes, large violas (tenors) and large cellos – most have the coat-of-arms of Charles IX of France painted on the back and are dated between 1564 and 1574. The authenticity of these instruments has recently been challenged. If they are genuine then, Andrea must have been working well before that time for his fame to have reached the French court prior to the commissioning of these instruments (...



David D. Boyden

(Fr.: ‘soul’)

A term used to denote the Soundpost of instruments of the violin and viol families. In certain French sources, the bow also is called the ‘soul’ of the instrument. L'abbé le fils (Principes du violon, 1761) wrote: ‘On peut appeller l’archet L'Ame de l'Instrument qu'il touche’ (‘one can call the bow the soul of the instrument it touches’). Italians use the same term: ...