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date: 05 December 2019


  • Jeremy Montagu


Vibrating elements added to instruments to ‘sweeten’, distort, amplify, enrich, or extend their sound. These accessories take many forms. For example, a buzzing membrane, usually made of the internal skin of a bamboo stem, covers an extra hole between the embouchure and the fingerholes of many Chinese and southeast Asian flutes. Some Chinese notched flutes have holes covered by a vibrating membrane in the almost-closed upper end. A vibrating membrane covers a hole in the side of resonators of many African and Latin American xylophones. Some drums, especially in Central Africa, have a hole in the side of the body in which is inserted a short section of gourd with a membrane covering the outer end. A vibrating membrane over one end or over a hole in the side of a tube that is sung into is widely used to disguise a singer’s voice, in some cultures turning it into the voice of a spirit or a god. Artificial membrane materials used nowadays include cigarette papers and scraps of plastic bags....

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