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date: 14 November 2019


  • Timo Leisiö


Manchu-Tungusic word used in various forms (purgu, abyrga, syynpyrgyzy, amyrga) by several Turkic populations for a lip-vibrated aerophone played by inhalation. Three forms are known: a tube of alder or willow or a long hollow stalk of a vascular plant or bamboo; a coiled roll of bark; and a length of tree trunk or branch, split, hollowed, and reunited like an alphorn. Whereas with blown trumpets the lips of a player vibrate outward, with the byrgy the lips vibrate inward, producing a relatively quiet sound. Both the Khanty wooden byrgy from West Siberia and the similar Karagas-Turkic wooden byrgy from Central Siberia have an integral carved mouthpiece. These examples are about 80 cm long and 4 to 6 cm in maximum diameter, average among the wooden byrgys. The origins of the byrgy are unknown, but it might have been used since antiquity by Ugric, Turkic, Tungusic, and Mongolian hunters to lure big game (elk, deer, etc.), and might have been brought west from Manchuria mainly by Turkic peoples, eventually reaching the Komis and the Udmurts in Russia. Types found in the Americas could have originated independently. The coiled bark form was used by Canadian Cree hunters. Instruments made of a vascular plant stalk were also used by shamans in central Mexico, by the Chiriguanos of Paraguay, and by the Mapuches of Chile, who added a cow-horn bell to theirs...

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