Ken Bloom wrote:
Hi Dr. H,
Anyone is welcome here. I do my best to help folks do what they want to do. One suggestion for a name for the instruments I make is Nouvelle Rebec but at this late date bowed dulcimer has definitely stuck. I am familiar with some of the older ways of bowing a dulcimer and did that early on in my dulcimer playing career decades ago. I am a failed fiddle player and the bowed dulcimer makes it possible for me to play in a fiddle-like manner and not empty the room. I have found that the instrument works well for jazz, blues, klezmer and my meager attempts at early Baroque. My focus is on expanding the repertoire and application of the instrument as well as making better sounding ones. I don't worry a lot about classifications etc. I have seen these types of arguments in too many other places with similarly unsatisfying results. I'm very happy to talk about any aspect of playing with a bow and to try and help where I can. Just my 2p.
Yeah I can see where "rebec" would fit, too. But like you say, what it's called is what it's called. It won't be the first instrument to have a name that puzzles musicologists 400 years later. (I think of the tromba marina
-- or "marine trumpet", which is actually a bowed string instrument.)
As a composer I've done plenty of "extended techniques" on various instruments, and even created some of my own hybrids. There is a certain element of humor in this practice, though. I know a number of people experimenting with bowing guitars, for instance. I've done this, and typically you can bow the top string, the bottom string, or all of the strings, but not individual middle strings -- because even radiused guitar bridges are pretty flat.
But one friend of mine put a high enough radius on the bridge that he can pick out any individual string. This of course required creating a highly radiused fingerboard to allow fingering those strings in tune. Then he felt that he needed more resonance for the bowed sound, so he made the body bigger. This made the instrument harder to hold, so he added a floor peg. I pointed out that what he has now is essentially a guitar-shaped viol da gamba, and that all he needs to do is add a sound post and pull out the frets, and he will have reinvented the cello. He sheepishly agreed, but carries on, undaunted.
And he makes good music, so who cares what he calls it?
I'm kind of a nerd about music, though, so I always like to know the "why" behind things, if possible.
I haven't tried bow on the mountain dulcimer much (yet), but the little I have tried has been in traditional playing position (flat on my lap), and across all strings. I've thought of trying an e-bow on it, to pick out individual strings. The e-bow does work on acoustic instruments, although not nearly as well as on electrics. But I've gotten sounds out of acoustic guitar, 12-string, mandolin, banjo, and tiple with it, so I have no reason to believe it won't work with dulcimer.