April 21, 2014
Historical Homeland of the Fiddle Bow
Research in musical iconography has been revived in Uzbekistan.

Terracotta paintings of stringed instruments dated back to 2-6 centuries A.D. were first to draw scholars’ attention when found over the past few years. They had devices for playing in a shape of a longish plectrum.

Initial researches of Central Asian instruments were carried out in mid-to-late 20th century by the paintings made from baked clay by the Uzbek musicologists Tamara Vyzgo and Aygul Malkeeva. They studied through the archaeological material. But the holdings of museums enriched with new findings and the scholars set forth a lot new suppositions that need for further study. It was the reason to revive the researches was decided in the Institute of Art Studies of the Academy of Science of Uzbekistan.

“Yet in the past times German musicologist Werner Bachmann made a hypothesis about the fact that Central Asia is considered historical home of bowing. However the origin of this musical instrument is still unknown. This scientific issue was raised by scholars in many countries but did not elicit response from the Uzbek musical science,” says Zulfiya Muradova, Head of Department of Music Art. “New findings of Uzbek and foreign archaeologists, their study and comparison allowed, to some extent, to address the current gap.

Classic terracotta from Dalvarzin Tepa at the territory of Surkhondaryo region, found in 2003 by the archaeological expedition of our Institute, can be recognized as the most ancient picture of chordophone with the articulation device, prototype of a fiddle bow. The painting dates back 2-3 centuries A.D. in the shape of a clay figure of a sitting woman with short lute of a small pear-shaped form. Her right arm bends over the resonator, hand directs bottom up to strings. In slightly folded fingers she holds a stick with a little extended end, which reaches a wrist over a palm. Its form gives us an idea that similar stick could be used not only as usual plectrum, but also as device for back-and-forth motion on the strings.

Artifacts found at the territory of Uzbekistan give an idea that the frictional way of playing was, in all probability, formed by the settled culture and, according to dating, dates back to the late Central Asian antiquity. Using friction-sticks was conditioned with search of instrumental methods of an adequate expression of melodic nature of orient cantus monodicus without a musical accompaniment.

Similar pictures of Soghdian musicians found in China, they dated back to the 6th century A.D., e.g. the period of consolidation of a cultural and economic influence of the early Soghd. This is another proof of the fact that there was an ancient international integration that went through the Great Silk Road.

“Friction-stick is a prototype of a flat fiddle bow with loose garter made of horse hair, which was widely used until the early 20th century. It is interesting that some methods of playing of contemporary musicians on the Central Asian bow instruments are associated with the friction-stick. This may be act to prove the truthfulness of hypothesis of German scholar,” resumes Zulfiya Muradova.

(Source: “Uzbekistan Today” newspaper)


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