CHAPTER 3: History to 1800

3.5 The Baroque, Rococo and Classical Periods 1600-1800

3.5.1 The west

1.2. Higher cultures in the 17th & 18th centuries: Romance language-area

Documentary evidence: 14 of 14



In 2004 Rogério Budasz wrote from Brazil about the publication of his very beautiful facsimile of a manuscript collection of tablature for salterio: 104 pages of marches, dances and songs, written in ink which has faded to a delightful brown, with red and blue annotations, as well as a coloured ink-drawing of the salterio, two pages of the traditional history of the instrument referring to King David and the Hebrew nebel, Aristotle, Cassiodorus, Augustinus, etc: and four pages of index.

The manuscript dates from the early 19th century, but since it includes repertorie which is known from 18thC. Spanish and Portuguese sources, as well as some popular songs that are still heard today, it gives a facinating link both backwards and forwards in time. The name of the author has disappeared along with half the front cover, but he is identified as Antonio Vieira dos Santos, born in Opporto in 1784, emigrated to Brazil in 1797, when he was 13: his own memoires record that he learnt the salterio from one Manuel Francisco Morato in Paranaguá, Brazil, in 1805, at which time he was 21.

Rogério writes

"The Notation system used by Vieira dos Santos has no parallel among the several known dulcimer or psaltery tablature types ... [but] uses a vertical reading tablature, divided in four columns, one for each of the four groups of strings, in which the numbers correspond to the courses. This system does not represent the rhythmic aspect in a precise way ... [but] a comparison with other existing versions or pieces of similar kind can help us determining the rhythm ..."

The facsmile is published as Cifras de música para Saltério, published by Imprensa Oficial do Paraná; the commentary and manuscript text are only in Portuguese, but there is an English web-based summary here.


fig. 100: painting on wood, c.1700
Bayerisches National Museum, München
(MU85, 14288 17/18)


fig. 100b: painting on tiles
by Willem van der Koet,
Lisbon 1707

Rogério discusses whether is was more likely that hammers or fingers would have been used at this time in Brazil: on the one hand, surviving instruments have no hammers, but of course they can have simply disappeared the way loose things do. He suggests that hammering was known in 18thC. Portugal, since there is a tile illustration which shows it: but we should also note that these tiles were produced in the Amsterdam studio of Willem van der Kloet and exported to Portugal, and there is a rather similar painting in Munich from just the same time, as well as an illustration shown by Kinsky featuring the same subject: so it's a very open question who was painting what, what models they had, and whose reality they might have been representing. Apart from that, the ensemble depicted - salterio, flute and lute - isn't one which has been normal in any other context, and as depicted, the proportions of the flute don't exactly encourage the viewer to believe that the artist had a prime concern with portraying reality.

Rogério's edition also includes transcriptions of the tablatures - as creative a piece of work as trying to establish the rhythms of mediaeval organum - as well as notices of three instruments which my own study did not discover: one labelled as made by Antonio Tiago in the castle of Rio de Janeiro in 1767, currently in the museum of the School of Music of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and two more by the same maker in Portugal - Lisbon and Guimarães (in the north-west, historically the first capital of a Portugal newly-independent from the Kingdom of Leon in the 1100's). Fascinating that the only dulcimers which this study discovered in Portugual came from the New World: in the Spanish and English-speaking worlds, for example, the situation is the other way round: we still have a long way to go in piecing together the puzzle of the instrument's early use and dissemination.