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date: 18 November 2019


  • Paul Oliver


Afro-American panpipes, played singly or in groups. Various forms have been reported since the mid-19th century, from a single cane or willow stalk, to a group of three or four of different lengths and pitches, held loosely in the hand. The chemist and folklorist Talley (1922) made a distinction between the ‘little set’ of five or fewer quills and the ‘big set’ with many pipes. The latter were made from cane, closed at the lower end by a node and held in a wooden frame. The name ‘quills’ suggests that the instrument was originally made from feathers, but all known reports refer to cane, bark, or reedpipes. There are few recordings of the quills, the popularity of the instrument having declined by the early 1920s. Henry Thomas, a songster from Texas, recorded about ten items accompanying himself on the guitar and quills between 1927 and 1929; a single title was recorded by Big Boy Cleveland. In ...

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