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date: 22 November 2019

Dörvön chikhtei khuur (‘four-eared khuur)locked

  • Andrea Nixon

Extract

(‘four-eared khuur’)

Mongolian spike fiddle, known also as biwa, bisaanz, khyalgasan khuur, khiil, araltu khuur, and simply khuur. It has a cylindrical, octagonal, or hexagonal wooden body, covered on top by a sheepskin or snakeskin soundtable and left open at the bottom. A tapered wooden rod forming the neck and spike pierces the body. Four gut strings are attached to large tuning pegs (from which the instrument takes its name) and pass over a small bridge on the skin soundtable to the protruding spike. A small metal ring looped to the neck by a cord pulls the strings towards the neck and can be adjusted to alter the pitch of the open strings. A horsehair bow is threaded between the strings, which are tuned in unison pairs a 5th apart.

Pallas (1776), referring to the Kalmyk Mongols, uses the term biwa for a spike fiddle with the horsehair of the bow passing between the four gut strings, and a bladder soundtable. Similar instruments in northern Mongolia use the birth membrane of a calf. A Mongolian ensemble of the Manchu period includes the ...

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