I discussed this with Owain in person at a renaissance fair several years ago.
The short answer is yes. He played a deliberately modern instrument that looks
kinda renaissancey to entertain an audience that is seeking fantasy via
idealized anachronism rather than expecting anything like a historic approach.
I stumbled across him doing a set with a small ensemble while I was reluctantly
wandering the grounds of a renaissance fair in the late 1990s. I knew of his
New World Renaissance Band but had never seen him perform before. Afterwards,
I approached to discuss his interesting instrument. I said something like,
"That's an interesting piece you have there. It looks to be a modern
steel-string guitar fitted with something similar to banjo tuners and
ornamented to emulate the famous Jaquemart-André vihuela held in a Paris
He replied something like, "This is a chitarra battente," in spite of the fact
that he played it entirely fingerstyle.
I told him exactly what design features are typically considered to constitute
the chitarra battente that arose in Italian-speaking places of the baroque era.
However, the conversation had already ended by then, and I just hadn't
realized it had.
He actually knew chitarra battente perfectly well. He played one by James
North (1993) on the album Sweet Was the Song (1995), although he rearranged its
10 string capacity to span six courses.
Yes, I actually liked his sound. I consider it a slightly guilty indulgence
only to be selectively revealed to my HIP friends. Unfortunately, cancer took
Owain in 2012.
From: lute-...@cs.dartmouth.edu [lute-...@cs.dartmouth.edu] on behalf of Edward
C. Yong [edward.y...@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2014 12:34 AM
To: Vihuela List
Subject: [VIHUELA] Owain Phyfe
i've been relistening to my cds of the late Owain Phyfe's stuff. it's fun
stuff, catchy and all, but the description of his instrument as a 'chitarra
battente (Italian renaissance guitar)' in interviews puzzles me.
it sounds like neither a chitarra battente nor a renaissance guitar of any
sort, and pictures show it to have 6 single metal strings, bridge pins, machine
tuners etc. merely tarted up w some vihuela-style soundboard inlays.
would i be right in concluding that calling it a 'chitarra battente (Italian
renaissance guitar)' is nothing more than an organological lie that he got away
with for so long because his audience were (are?) generally ignorant Renfaire
τούτο ηλεκτρονικόν ταχυδρομείον εκ είΠαδοιο εμεύ επέμφθη.
Hæ litteræ electronicæ ab iPade missæ sunt.
This e-mail was sent from my iPad.
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