Monday, December 8, 2014

The Gusli

When I was ten, my grandfather gave me a stringed instrument that he brought home from one of his trips in Russia. It came with traditional Russian songs that you could learn how to play. I wanted to see if I could play it for this blog post, but I wasn’t able to find it. I looked online at Russian instruments, and saw that the instrument I’m looking for is called a gusli. It’s like a mixture between a guitar and a harp, with a hollow box like a guitar and many strings like a harp. The gusli has been played in Russia as early as the 11th century. They were usually played by skomorokhs, or street performers, who used gusli to play music by itself or to accompany dance, singing, and epic narratives. Priests also played a type of gusli. The gusli almost completely vanished from folk culture in the 17th century when the Orthodox Church persecuted the skomorokhs and denounced the practices associated with them. The gusli only lived on through a few musicians and the Russian priesthood, who were able to hang on to their gusli. In the 1900s gusli were perfected and evolved into a whole family of instruments that ranged in pitch. They became widely used in Russian folk orchestras. Today there is a large interest in the revival of the gusli by Russian youth. It is often played in concerts and on Russian radio. Here is a link to a video of someone playing the gusli.


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