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Name of Instrument: hurdy-gurdy

Maker / Brand: Pouget Pere et Fils

Stearns Catalog #: 1329

Country of Origin: Ardene, France

Region of Origin: Europe

Instrument Category: Chordophone

Date of Fabrication: 10/31/1866

Description: The vielle (originally vielle a roué, or “wheel viol” ) is one of the earliest European instruments. It appears in literature beginning in the tenth century. The vielle, or hurdy gurdy, is in fact a bowed stringed instrument. A rosin-coated wheel is turned by means of a crank and is thus constantly rubbing across the strings. There may be one or two melody strings, and two or more drone strings. The vielle is strapped to the waist of the player, who may be seated or standing. While the right hand turns the crank, the player’s left hand presses sliding keys which shorten or lengthen the melody strings and produce the necessary variety of pitches. Prior to the fifteenth century, the vielle was known as the “organistrum” and was much favored as a church instrument until it was replaced by the organ and banished into secular society.

Research: Stearns Staff

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower