is no shortage of psalteries in the mediaeval period: witness, for instance,
Galpin's comments on the Cantigas de Santa Maria (58), and Hellquist's
study on Church Art in Sweden. They come in all shapes and sizes - Marcuse's
classification has no discernable structure and suggests no pattern
of development, so is of limited value here (59) - and a variety of
techniques are used for playing and holding them.
most examples are quite clearly differentiated from dulcimers by being
held against the chest and by being plucked with fingers or a quill,
and having strings in a single plane, undivided by a bridge.
One main area where
there are differences of view is where the plectra are as large as dulcimer
hammers, and appear to be made of wood, (fig. 253), and certainly the
difference between artifices - a plectrum and a hammer - is a difference
of degree, not of kind. But the difference between their uses - striking
and plucking - is, on the other hand, a difference of kind: striking
implies that the tool used changes direction after it has pushed the
string away from the player, and it is the change of direction which
leaves the string free to vibrate; plucking, on the other hand, consists
of pulling the string away, and continuing in the same direction until
the tool slips off the string leaving it free to vibrate - only then
does the finger or plectrum change direction (fig.256).
The value of this analysis
is that one can make a judgement in each debatable case, as to whether
the way the tool is being held is more amenable to pulling-and-sliding
past (= plucking, = psaltery) or to pushing-and-rebounding (= striking,
= dulcimer, at this stage in history). On the basis of this consideration,
the illustrations of several instruments which have been identified as
dulcimers because of their large plectra, are in this study treated as
psalteries and not discussed here: Hubert Boone considered the illustrations
reproduced here in figs. 251-255 to show Hakkebords (60) but they
all appear to me to be without doubt psalteries.
perfectly feasible to think that these 'psalteries' with extra-large
plectra might in fact form a group or type on their own, seen to be
related to either the dulcimer or psaltery, or to both, perhaps a distinct
stage in the evolution from one to the other. Certainly these instruments
- and indeed all the psalteries - deserve a specialised study on the
scale of the present one, but with so much virgin ground to be covered
it was decided that an exploration of 'psalteries' which might or might
not turn out to be 'dulcimers' had to be given less priority than those
instruments about which there was little or no doubt, and it was in
the event not undertaken.
authors consider certain selected trapezoid psalteries to be relevant
to the history of the dulcimer, although their basis of selection is
not clear. The rationale seems to be that, since in later times instruments
called psaltérion and salterio were plucked and
trapezoid, any earlier plucked trapezoid instruments must therefore
be forerunners. On such a premise, icons such as Lucca della Robbia's
chancel carvings in Florence cathedral are included in histories of
the dulcimer (61).
as this may sound, it seems to me to be fallacious, because it takes
account only of external shape, and not of stringing and bridging. Not
sufficient data has been collected to establish with certainty how the
various forms developed one from another (if they did), and indeed it
may never be possible to do so; but the typological evidence suggests
that from plucked, one-plane psalteries developed struck one-plane psalteries,
to which bridges were then added to make the strings easier to hit;
then a second bridge and string-crossing were introduced, to provide
a bass range without increasing the size; and only then were bridged
instruments again plucked. This hypothesis is shown in diagrammatic
form in fig. 257.
the link between trapezoid or pig's head psalteries, and dulcimers,
is no greater than with any other-shaped psaltery: all are ancestors,
of course, but the bridging and stringing of 16th century (and later)
psaltérions were devised to accommodate hammering, and
the geneology must take account of this.
1973 shows an instrument on the Portico de la Gloria of the Cathedral
of Santiago de Compostela in Spain; Sachs apparently based his migration
theory on this carving, although it is hard to see, even on his own
terms and ignoring questions of stringing and bridging, why this example
is any more relevant than the many others of triangular and trapezoid
psalteries; certainly no particular dulcimer features are visible, and
indeed Sachs himself called the instrument "psalterium"