CHAPTER 7: Controversies and Misunderstandings

17 of 17 - Dispersion

"The migration of the dulcimer was strange enough. The Arabs carried it through North Africa, where it is still played by Jews, and from North Africa to Spain. There, its earliest evidence is a relief from 1184 on a porch of the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela"

wrote Sachs (83).

Having decided that the Arabs appeared to have no dulcimer in the Middle Ages, and that the Santiago carving is not a dulcimer, and in the absence of further detail about Jewish dulcimers from contemporary North Africa, we have to conclude that there is simply no evidence for this migration, although it does relate to the qanun from which the psaltery probably developed.

If it were a true description of what hapened, and taken together Farmer's evidence of a Frankish dulcimer in Turkey, it would mean that between 1184 and 1850 it travelled Eastwards from Spain through the Alps and Eastern Europe into Turkey; however, the tradition in Appenzell is that it came from the East with the gipsies, as mentioned in chapter 5, and Spain and Southern France do not seem to have ever been strongholds of the dulcimer.

The other part of the journey is supposed to have been from ancient Persia, to Turkey; but Farmer finds references to the santur in Turkey from the 17th century (53), while positive indications of a Persian santur are not older than the 18th century (an instrument in the Horniman Museum, London), thus suggesting that it was from Turkey that the instrument came to Persia, not the other way round.

Farmer does not mention the Byzantine carving, nor has any other writer explained, or even referred to, the gap between that carving in C.1130 and the brief 17th-century mention of Evlíyá Chelebi (53).

The route by which the dulcimer travelled to China is given by Marcuse and others as a sea route, from Europe; Jean Jenkins gives it as an overland route through central Asia, without mentioning that there is another view (5).

None of the writers gives any source.