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Author: Subject: The 17th C Turkish Saz?
jdowning
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[*] posted on 12-31-2007 at 06:17 PM
The 17th C Turkish Saz?


I had the opportunity to study this instrument at first hand many years ago while living in Scotland and thought that it might be of interest to forum members. It is a long necked Colascione, Italian 17th C (?) in the collection of musical instruments, Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, Scotland.
I know almost nothing about the history of the colascione or the music that was written for it in 17th C Italy - if indeed any music survives. G.G. Kapsberger wrote a piece for chitarrone entitled "colascione" that presumably mimics the music of a colascione (see YouTube).
It is thought that the colascione may have been introduced to Italy from Turkey in the mid 15th C and survived in that country into the early 20th C as a folk instrument.
The Dean castle instrument - in original condition - is made from ivory and ebony so in its day was a costly and presumably important instrument. There is no makers label or date visible on the instrument. It has three single strings ranging in length from 757 mm treble to 755 mm bass with the neck offset to the bass side. The length of the fingerboard from nut to neck joint is 520 mm and it is decorated with 22 ivory panels. The fingerboard was originally fitted with tied frets (about 21?) but none survive today. The top of the pegbox - which is fitted with three ivory tuning pegs - is decorated with the ivory head of a lion carved in typical 16th/17th C style. The soundboard made from coarse grained pine is 322 mm long and 211 mm wide. The decorative rose is made from wood and parchment.
Presumably the colascione has its origins in the Turkish Saz or Tanbura - instruments that I know little about either.
The attached images are not of very good quality but give a reasonable idea as to the appearance of the colascione.



Saz comp reduced (465 x 600).jpg - 48kB
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[*] posted on 12-31-2007 at 06:23 PM


.... and here are a few more detailed images.

Any observations about this instrument and how it may relate to the Turkish Saz - ancient or modern - would be welcome.

A happy, healthy and peaceful New Year to all members of the forum.



Saz comp 2 reduced (453 x 600).jpg - 53kB
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[*] posted on 12-31-2007 at 09:46 PM


Heres a layman's view...

I think the fixed bridge indactes that there is no relation, so possibly suggesting that the instrument shown above is a variation on a member of the already established European lute family. Other clues to this theory is the staved bowl. For many centuries eastern members of the saz/tambura family have always been carved from a single piece of wood, cherry or the like. Ribbed bowl construction really began to influenece eastern long necked lutes I would imagine when the expelled Christians of Asia Minor began to inhibit mainland Greece and rebmetika music began to evolve. At that time, the bouzouki was a lot more related to the saz, but it began to resemble a lot more the european mandolin, first with the ribbed bowl and fixed frets, and finally a lot later, the fourth string course, and hence the modern day bouzouki. Early 3 course bouzoukis were infacts mandolins that got altered to have a long neck and serve the rembetika style.

Again an observation of mine, fragments pieced together from many different sources. I'm sure others can clarify further.
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[*] posted on 1-1-2008 at 09:49 AM


Coincidentally, I have been looking for a picture of this instrument. Apparently I have been misspelling the name. H. Alizadeh, a master of Persian music, has been playing a similar instrument, at least consctruction wise. They call it Sallaneh (a made up name) but the idea is based on the Colascione and the plucked instruments depicted in a palace in the city of Esfehan, called "Chehel Sotoon". Some frescos shows Shah Esmail and court musician and one of them is holding a six string instrument (see picture). In Persia, these types of instruments (along side with the oud) went out of circualtion after this era. They were mostly replaced with smaller instruments. Wheather or not the instrument is related to the baglama, I can't tell. The writer Aboldghader Maraghi (1400s) lists about 40 types of tanbur type instruments in his manuscripts, some with very unusual features.
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[*] posted on 1-1-2008 at 11:52 PM


The staved-back construction was not commonly used for saz-family instruments until the 1930s (and even then only in a few localities), according to Picken. The kopuz and other pre-saz instruments were all carved out of a single piece of wood. I'm not sure on the history of the tanbur...

Melbourne, I'm not sure about your sources on the bouzouki, there were staved-construction buzuq instruments in the 1880s and the instrument was more popular in Syria than in Anatolia at that time. If 1920s mandolins were bastardized to make bouzoukis, that's more a testament to lack of materials than an instrumental origin in the mandolin family...

What about lavta history? There could be something interesting there... it's something on which I have seen no sources.




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[*] posted on 1-2-2008 at 07:58 AM


I was talking about the Persian Tanbur. Plucked lutes with long necks were called Tanboors (going back to the time of Farabi). One of the books I have says the Tanboor backs were always carved and it wasn't until 150 years ago when they used staves.
As Eliot says, the connection to the lavta is much more plausible, with lavtas having longer necks and frets.
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[*] posted on 1-2-2008 at 11:20 AM


According to Anthony Baines "The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments",OUP, 1992, the Italian colascione was a development of the Turkish 'tambura' first mentioned by Tinctoris circa 1480.
A bit of on-line research finds that Johannes Tinctoris, the Franco-Flemish composer and theorist (1436 - 1511) mentions a number of instruments in detail in his "De Inventione et Usu Musicae"
David Whitwell in Essay 66 and 105 of his "Essays on the Origins of Western Music" summarises what Tinctoris had to say about the tanbura. Tinctoris was not complimentary calling the instrument 'miserable and puny which the Turks ....... had evolved from the lyra'. He later mentions having heard Turkish prisoners playing the instrument while in captivity in Naples - to console themselves. To the ears of Tinctoris the music of the tambur was extravagant and rustic and the players barbarous!

David Whitwell's massive and informative work is available on-line - search for David Whitwell Essays.

Research data the Tinctoris Treatises, translations etc. can be found on-line at http://www.stoa.org/tinctoris


The Dean Castle colascione is 17th C (possibly late 16th C) built in the lute traditions of the time with staved bowl construction - perhaps copying original tanburs that were of carved bowl construction?
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[*] posted on 1-2-2008 at 03:21 PM


Seems that the images of tanburs from old Ottoman miniatures are more or less circle shaped when looking from the front as opposed to this colascione thing that is pear-shaped and way more similar in shape to ud or lute or lavta.

Really doesn't look like it has anything to do with a Turkish/Ottoman tanbur at all.

Also I've never heard of a Turkish "Tambura". "Puny" would not describe a "Tanbur" which has a very long neck nor could i imagine a tanbur being played by Turkish prisoners in Naples, that don't sound right. A Bulgarian or Macedonian "Tambura" (is that not the same spelling? And in the neighborhood of present day Turkey) could be described as puny though. However, major difference is that those are carved back instruments. Well spellings and variants of this word tanbur/tambur/tambura/tamboura/bandura/mandola/banjo is always a very interesting topic for me.

I'd say it does resemble way more the instrument that our friend Phaedon Sinis was selling...he called at a "Tambouras", made it Greece though i think that was a replica of a non-surviving instrument, looks like he took down the photo from his site.

cool thread

adam
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[*] posted on 1-2-2008 at 06:11 PM


Anthony Baines wrote an article about the instruments described by Tinctoris - " Fifteenth-century Instruments in Tinctoris's 'De Inventione et Usu Musicae'" in The Galpin Society Journal (1950) - but I do not have access to that article so cannot confirm his conclusions.
Early instrument names can be very misleading - so one can never be quite sure what exactly is being referred to in early texts as the authors themselves were often confused about how an instrument should be named.
The odd thing about the Dean Castle colascione - to my mind - is the width of the neck which seems to be far too wide for an instrument that carries only three single strings? This makes me now wonder if the instrument is a genuine original or if it possibly might be a forgery - made up from genuine 17th C instrument parts to look something like a colascione (in the imagination of the forger). There was a lot of instrument faking going on in Italy around the end of the 19th C. to supply a lucrative private collector market. Hard to say though without any other points of historical reference as well as a more detailed re-examination of the instrument.
There are supposed to be a few of these instruments in European collections (not sure where they are located) so it would be interesting to make comparisons with other surviving colascione.

The colascione should not be confused with the 17th/18th C six course, lute like, continuo instrument called a 'colachon' (or variants of that name, 'gallochon' and the like).

Thanks for your input everyone. Looks like a bit of a mystery so far.
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[*] posted on 1-2-2008 at 06:30 PM


In his manuscript, Maraqi (Maraqhei) mentions the different types of tanboor. The Turkish tanboor is mentioned as being a small instrument. Maraqi also mentions tanoor-al-kabir, or the large tanboor as well. The persians called it tanboor-eh Bozorg (big tanboor), which is probably related to the classical tanboor. Also favored by the Turks. There is also mention of a Roman kopuz (kopuz is a long necked instrument), Uzan (long necked lute), and many more, each instrument being favored by different groups. It's difficult for me to draw any conclusions because I am not a music scholar but I do have an interest in ancient music, especially instruments. I do find this instrument very interesting (specially with the ivory usage).
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[*] posted on 1-3-2008 at 12:22 AM


The tanbur I mentioned and Adam replied about is a very long-necked instrument used in urban art music traditions in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul and Bursa. It has, as far as I know, always had a staved back. It has been common for 'ud makers to also make tanburs (and vice-versa), and it was the instrument Charles Fonton (a Frenchman who lived in Istanbul in the late 1700s and wrote one of the first "ethnographies" of Turkish music) studied.

However, there are other instruments called tanbur found in Anatolia: one of the Alevi three-stringed lutes (similar to the cura-saz played today, and probably the kopuz Meragi wrote about) is called that, and the Kurdish Ah-le Haqq of Iran (who share musical traditions with Turkish Alevis) play an instrument they call tanbur (tanboor? not sure how the term is transliterated from the Gorani language). I remember Picken mentioning a bowed instrument (similar to the rebab/kebak-kemani) that was also called tanbur. No staved-back folk instruments called tanbur, though, as far as I know.




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[*] posted on 1-3-2008 at 10:42 AM


Marin Mersenne - "Harmonie Universelle", Paris, 1636, mentions the Colascione (he calls it a Colachon) at least a couple of times.
First of all, in book4 about instruments, Proposition XX pages 227/228 entitled 'Expliquer quelques instruments des Indes & de la Turquie', he briefly describes this Turkish instrument as follows (see attached image):
" .. the body RS shaped like half an Indian nut (?noix d'Inde) and its fingerboard TV made up from pieces of ivory and ebony outlined with silver. It has only a single string, like a monochord, and is similar to a Colachon an image of which I have put in book2. The string is attached at the end X and then it is passed through hole V "(ie at the pegbox).
The image in book2 Mersenne refers to is in Proposition XVI entitled 'Expliquer la figure & l'accord du Colachon" (see attached image) which he describes as follows:
" The colachon seems only to have two or three strings and is an instrument from four to five feet long used in Italy and the open string tuning is an octave and fifth (ie intervals apart) as one can see from the notes at the side (ie of the engraving). Again, one can tune it many other ways. It has the shape of a lute only the fingerboard is quite long to extend (the range of) the three strings. Those who only use two strings tune them a fifth apart. But I have shown the octave and fifth (tuning) here. ...... Sometimes the soundboard of a colachon is made of half of wood and parchment or can also be made of glass(? de verre!) and of many other materials but it is best made only from pine like those of other instruments"
No other detail is given by Mersenne but from both engravings it can be seen that the colachon had 16 (tied?) frets and a very narrow neck. No bridge is shown on the Turkish instrument but it must have been a floating bridge of some kind, the string being attached to the bottom of the bowl' The colachon on the other hand has a fixed bridge. The overall length given of between four and five feet can be taken as equivalent to about 1400 mm to 1750 mm (the French foot of Mersenne's time not being standardised but likely measuring around 350 mm). The construction of the bowl can not be determined from the engraving but as it was lute like it would have been built up from ribs or staves.
Checking my notes of 27 years ago, the string spacing of the Dean Castle colascione at the nut is 12 mm and at the bridge 26 and 23 mm. - very wide! Overall length of the instrument is about 1000 mm. The soundboard is edged with ivory 1.5 mm wide banding inlaid to half the soundboard thickness of 2mm (typical 17th C practice)

A picture of a Sicilian 'calascione' player (18th C?) and a bit more historical information about the instrument can be found at http://lacucinaeoliana.com/calascione.html



Mersenne Colachon comp reduced (600 x 281).jpg - 32kB
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[*] posted on 1-3-2008 at 12:44 PM


Gourds were often used to make instrument bowls. Indian nut (hindistan cevizi in Turkish, gozeh hendi in Farsi) were used too but I think the above Turkish instrument is a gourd. Maraqi also mentions this, going on to say however, that the best sound comes from wooden bowls. Also, according to the book "history of tanboor" (K. Alinejad), one distinguishing factor in Tanboors is that they always have wooden soundboards, and that there is alway 2 courses of strings (sometimes the first 2 are doubled), a fact also noted by Farabi. Anyway, I am not sure if this information is helping you Mr. Downing but I am sure enjoying these pictures and reading the historical material from the European point of view. Attached picture shows a tanboor player from the Safvaid era (1500s).
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[*] posted on 1-3-2008 at 01:37 PM


Thanks for your interesting comments and images Peyman - because so much historical information has been lost, I believe that it is important, in researching European instruments, to look for links that may be discovered in 'Eastern' instruments as well and - from the instrument construction perspective - to consider (and test) alternative early technologies, from all cultures, looking for what might be important clues as to how instruments may (or may not) have been constructed in earlier times.
This forum is a very valuable resource with so many members having first hand expertise and knowledge that they are willing to share freely - often from sources that might otherwise be inaccessible to others because of language/translation barriers.
These avenues of research may ultimately lead nowhere or they may turn out to be of some importance. We will never know unless we question and explore. There can be a lot of enjoyment to be gained (and frustration!) in making that journey

"All grist to the mill"!
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[*] posted on 1-4-2008 at 06:31 AM


On the question of instruments made from ivory - is there any evidence that this material was ever used traditionally for making the bowls of ouds or the staved bowls of other instruments of the Middle East?
Many surviving lutes and related instruments of the 17th C and earlier have ivory bowls (and likely survive partly because of the use of that valuable material).
Interesting, however, that ivory was not considered to be a particularly good material for lute bowl construction. Thomas Mace writing in 1676 tells us - after indicating that the best wood for the ribs is maple - "But there are very good lutes of several woods - as Plum tree, Pear tree, Yew,
Rosemary-air (?), Ash, Ebony and Ivory etc. The two last (though most costly and taking to a common eye) are the worst".
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