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Jouhikko, the bowed lyre
New edition 2017
Rauno Nieminen’s book Jouhikko - the bowed lyre presents what is known about the scandinavian traditional stringed instrument known as bowed-harp, bowed lyre, jouhikantele or jouhikko. This strange kind of fiddle was played in medieval times throughout Scnadinavia and also possibly in the Shetland isles; relatives are known from Iceland and even as far as Baffin Island in Canada. It may also be related to Welsh crwth, English crowd and other bowed instruments.
In the remote forests of Finnish and Russian Karelia, knowledge of this very old tradition continued down to the early 20th century, and ethnomusicologists took cylinder recorders out into the field to collect recordings of the last tradition bearers.
The book presents a history of the instrument and its use, photos of extant instruments in museums, portraits of the performers, and transcriptions of the melodies. In the back is a CD with 46 archive recordings on it. There are also sections on the practicalities of playing and on the modern revival.
For me this tradition is a fascinating parallel to the early Gaelic harp traditions, showing how an ancient, pre-modern indigenous tradition declined and died out leaving only traces for later revival efforts. THe existence of archive recordings we can listen to gives a visceral coonection to the old tradition, and can inform how we think about the old Irish and Scottish harp music where such audio recordings are lacking.
The book was originally published in 2007, but almost instantly went out of print. This 2017 edition is substantially the same, but with minor revisions and additions.
£4.00 (UK only - select for overseas postage)
£8.50 (Airmail within Europe)
£13.50 (Airmail outside Europe)
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© Simon Chadwick
First published November 2017.