> A couple of thoughts on this:
 > 1) So Aksdal is saying the ‘bell-pear-shaped sitrenk’ (a great name 
for the thing!) is a fusion of a bell cittern and an English guittar.

Not really. The way I interpret it it seems more likely the pear shaped 
Norwegian cittern was inspired by the common continental classical 
cittern rather than the English guittar. Honestly I doubt Aksdal has any 
opinion about this at all.

 > (And he is saying the the bell cittern - as used in Norway - is 
played with a feather plectrum and uses French tablature).

That's right.
But keep in mind the time frame here. Aksdal is really just giving us 
glimpses of a 300 year tradition. Playing and notation style probably 
changed a lot during that period.

 > This might also suggest that English guittars and bell citterns are 
quite independent traditions (whereas some people –David? – think that 
the guittar is derived from the bell cittern).


I think we should be careful not to put too much sgnificance into 
details that may seem important but are easily changed (such as playing 
technique, string materials, tuners etc.) when we classify the 
relationship between various instruments.

I'd really like to see some evidence for the English guittar's German 
ancestory before I make up my mind about this, but even if it turns out 
to have come from Germany, I doubt the bell cittern is it's direct 
ancestor. The more common qouthern German 18th century cittern seems a 
much more likely candidate. Earlier I stated there didn't appear to be 
any connection between the English guittar and the Waldzither, but I may 
well have been wrong.


It's very important to keep in mind that when we're discussing 18th/19th 
century classical citterns we are still only seeing the tip - or rather 
the tips - of the iceberg. The connections between the different 
sub-traditions we see are still very much obscured.

Fact is that during those two centuries most of northwestern Europe 
(British isles, Scandinavia, The Netherlands, France and the 
German-speaking regions) had a continuous cittern tradition. It's very 
likely we can extend that region further east and possibly south as 
well. With the possible exception of Scandinavia the same region had a 
similar tradtion going on during the two preceeding centuries.

If we look beyond the superficial local differences in body shape, 
hardware and nomenclature what we see everywhere in that area is a small 
(450-500 mm or thereabout scale) cittern with four melodic courses and 
usually one or more added bass strings - basically a renaissance cittern 
with added basses (and with some construction changes similar to what 
other instrument went through at the same time of course).

I've been through a couple of discussion about different kinds of modern 
mandolins (a field where the construction differences are far bigger 
than what we see in 18th/19th C citterns btw) always trying to argue 
that we should recognise the different types' unique sutibalility for 
different music styles. When it comes to the classical citterns it would 
perhaps be a better idea to go the other way right now: try to focus 
more on the similarities to establish the big picture - *then* go back 
to the local details.

 > It’s a pity that Aksdal makes no mention of tuning or stringing.

Aksdal is sensible enough to just quote the sources he could find 
without really interpreting them. And since he only were able to find 
written accounts, no actualy music he wouldn't be able to say anything 
about tuning. But hopefully we can fix that if we can locate those two 
cittern music books Are mentioned.

There actually is one occasion when Aksdal *might* say something about 
the tuning although it's far from unambigious:

    "In front of this parade the Musicians walked with their
    Hautbois and Waldhorn dressed in the Berg fashion, and also
    the Berg-Sangerne with their Violiner, Citer and Træ-angler"
    (Kierulf 1745:32). In Germany the triangle was one of the
    miners' instruments. It's worth noticing that the cittern
    often were called Bergzither in Germany, but the evidence is
    not substantial enough to conclude there is any connection.

The German term "Bergzither" ("Bergmannzither" really - Aksdal got a 
minor error there) actually refers to a specific tuning: open G 
(g-b-d'-g' - not including the optional bass strings). A cittern in open 
C (g-c-e'-c' - plus optional bass strings) were reffered to as a 
As Aksdal says, it's hardly enough evidence to draw any kind of 
conclusion, but it's certanily a plausible hypothesis.

 > In that case – probably – Norwegians played British guittar music and 
played with the fingers, not with a plectrum, and played from music 
notation not tab.

Hard to say really. An instrument can be imported to a country 
independently of its musical tradition.
It seems unlikely that English guittars imported to Norway would have 
been treated differently than Scandinavian and continental built citterns.

 > 2) Aksdal says the instrument was used for song accompaniment. In the 
British repertoire there are two kind of song accompaniment –  the vocal 
line with a genuine, separate guittar part or, more often, a setting of 
the tune for the instrument and the voice doubles the melody line. This 
can be as simple as one line of music, played and sung, or quite fancy, 
as in the Straube song settings.

I was about to dismiss the idea of neodic song accompaniment on the 
Norwegian cittern, until I remembered one quote in Aksdal's article:

    "Langeleik worked better because the players could sing
    along, as with the Citrinque..." (Wilse 1779:432)

This kind of accompaniment would certainly not be out of place on a 
langeleik, so perhaps it was done on the cittern too.

But now we're venturing into Norwegian folk music. That is still very 
much uncharted territory - and quite dangerous too. Until very recently 
Norwegian folk music "research" was single-midedly focused on finding 
the "uniqueness" of Norwegian music. Therefore the researcher tended to 
overlook the more densely populated (by our standards) areas of the 
country, concentrating on remote villages where foreign influences were 
more easy to ignore. Even today the slightest hint of foreign influence 
is very much frowened upon in some die-hard Norwegian traditional music 
Unfortunately that means the vast bulk of Norwegian music traditions has 
yet to be subjected to any serious research at all.

 > The idea of playing and singing the same line seems a bit lame today 
but it certainly was much practised in Britain.

It still is - at least in Ireland - and it's not lame at all! Just 
listen to any Dubliners record.

 > Maybe Bellman played his accompaniments this way?

Not very likely. We know Bellman embellished his melodic lines a lot, 
never singing a tune exactly the same twice. I'm sure somebody would 
have mentioned it if he was skilled enough to double that 
improvisational aproach with voice and cittern simultaneously.

 > There’s yet another subgenre of  the zitter, zither family – the 
French epinette, the Appallachian dulcimer, the Hungarian citera,  the 
Norwegian langeleik etc.  Some of these (e.g the Hungarian one) are 
tuned to a major chord and presumably, when playing songs, the 
instrument doubles the tune. Perhaps there’s a link between the two 
kinds of zither.

That's something I've been wondering about too. There's certainly a 
connection in that the dulcimer style instruments adopted (and in 
Germany even hijacked) the cittern's name, but if there's anything more 
than that I have absolutely no idea.

Frank Nordberg

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