View Full Version : Intriguing...
When I first started wasting massive amounts of my once-productive days here, there were occasional inactive stretches when there were no active topics in the Classical section of the bulletin board. Now, I see that there are nearly as many replies in the Classical section as the bluegrass section (nearly 1,600 and 1,900 respectively). Hmmm...
I hope that I get credit for contributing a decent portion of that. It is my way of avoiding work and practice http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
I hope that I get credit for contributing a decent portion of that.
Probably much-most of it!
"Unproductive"? I think not, my friends.
I, for example, spend my days in the MOST aggravating field of arts management, one fraught with inflated egos, attention-deficient, childish adults, staggering financial burdens, indifferent administrators, self-serving agents, and all kinds of other, assorted fools. And, I must admit the flaw inherent in my tempestuous, Mediterranean character outright: I do not suffer fools gladly.
I credit, therefore, the civilized, friendly chats on the Café with the (incredible to me) fact that, a decade into this business, I am STILL in business.
Couldn't have done it without you. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif
Cheers to you all!
What has always been ironic to me are the heated discussions regarding "traditional" bluegrass--an artform that's barely been around a century. Kind of like calling a 15-year-old microwave oven, a "vintage" appliance...
The Classical/Medieval/Renaissance connoisseur has every right to argue "traditional" (5 or 6 centuries) but what I thought was hilarious was when a couple years ago, someone from Ireland weighed in on the "Traditional Bluegrass" issue pointing out the Celtic roots that went back virtually a millenium.
Puts it in perspective.
...And keep in mind that the earliest incarnation of modern mandolin (i.e. the plectrum instruments tuned in 5ths) came into being on the tail of the baroque and dawn of the classical era.
Makes me wonder what future lies ahead...
Not only are the classical posts significant in number, they're among the most informed, enlightening, and engaging posts on the whole board. Although I do own a bowlback, I wouldn't by any stretch define myself as a classical mandolinist. But I check here regularly because it's such an educational corner of the Cafe. Thanks, guys and gals.
Kind of like calling a 15-year-old microwave oven, a "vintage" appliance...
Only the non-electrified ones can truly be called "vintage."
Not only are the classical posts significant in number, they're among the most informed, enlightening, and engaging posts on the whole board.
Those who post them are better informed, more charming, and you know it... better looking!
So... perhaps given our surging presence in the mandolin world we can address my own pet peeve... naming. No, not the historically-correct nomenclature that Alex champions (worthy though it is) but the simple psuedo-derogatory name bowl-back (and all of its warped varieties... hump-back, melon-back, beatle-back, etc.).
I would much prefer to see our rotund little instruments refered to as what they are, simply mandolins. After all, they and their ancestors clearly are the most historically-deserving of the title. Perhaps I tilt at windmills...
Have a great weekend everyone.
Eric, take your choice:
My choice is simply mandolin(o), prepended when necessary by the appropriate geographic modifier (where I do defer to Alex).
I will now henceforth refer to Gibsons and their ilk as "scoop-backs"... others as "flat-backs". It seems only fitting :-)
Together we can change the world!!!
As regards volume of posts, well, I have done my fair share of damage— and then some! Jim has always been at hand with just the right image, as Bob A has been with the appropriate bon mot.
Still, we must all tip our hats to good Eugene who, well before most others, was here, a lonely Moses crying in the desert, amidst indifference (at best) or at worst contemptuous dismissal of our beloved little chordophone.
I must agree with Eric: Up until recently, I would not have recognized any instrument other than the, err... bowlback (sic) as a mandolin at all. But I am a hopeless case, perhaps, and one "from the outside looking in", as it were.
I suppose "roundback" is as generic as it gets; "Neapolitan" is exclusive or Roman; "Italian" (as origin, not as type) leaves out the millions of instruments built in the States during the instrument's Golden Age... well, I leave this matter to the better informed.
The real point of this thread is as encouraging as it is undeniable. Times, they are a-changin'... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
i'm just glad no one has told me to go pitch my tent...
(later: just came in from out in the garden to add...)
What has always been ironic to me are the heated discussions regarding "traditional" bluegrass--an artform that's barely been around a century.
(Inappropriate characterizations deleted-19 Apr) You will note that the board is generally in English, notorious for having multiple meanings for words. #When you hear someone refer to "traditional bluegrass" music, they are most likely using the fourth definition of "tradition" from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary: "characteristic manner, method, or style".
(Inappropriate editorialization removed - 19 Apr)
I've gone back in time to edit my original post for making a statement that without intent, offended.
I'm sorry, gang. I love this instrument, and ALL who play it. If words were typed here that betrayed that passion, than I truly am a "boob."
<stuff deleted 19 Apr> #Apologies to all in the C/M/R section.
[Now, I see that there are nearly as many replies in the Classical section as the bluegrass section (nearly 1,600 and 1,900 respectively). Hmmm... ]
That's because some 'traditional' types come over hear regularly to set things straight. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
Now, now... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif
As we were saying, this part of the board has truly grown exponentially. It is also arguably one of the most international: I have on occasion marveled at the fact that we might have folks posting from the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, France, Bulgaria, the U.K., Australia, and a half dozen other countries more or less simultaneously!
And, as the Swiss say in the spirit of pluralism —whether they actually practice this I am not to argue— "the greatest democratic virtue is tolerance".
Moving on, then: I would like to hope that the surging interest in the roundback (or whatever-you-choose-to-call-it) mandolin will go far beyond its current cyber-abundance on the Café. To wit, I would like to see more mandolin orchestras using such instruments; after all, the vast majority of mandolin orchestra music was written with this instrument in mind.
Again, tolerance, friends, tolerance: I am certainly NOT suggesting that playing this repertoire on any other type of mandolins is wrong; just stating an obvious, undeniable historical fact.
I would also like to see the (roundback) mandolin regain its position in the humble, amateur, everyday music-making that endeared it to our forebears to begin with. The weather is lovely; the parks are open and abuzz with lightly clad, cheerful folks, some strumming guitars, some drumming, some humming. What was the last time you saw some goofy character (like myself) picking happily away at the park? That sort of "public presence" is essential to a living culture, i.e. not a musaic one.
Then, we need more, new music (I plan to add some to the pool in the near future), more publications, more printed matter in general. I do draw the line on competitions, as I have very mixed feelings about those; but that, of course, is only my bias, as one who has lived with (and against) the competitive aspect of professional music: I just see that as incompatible with the fundamentally amateur culture of the mandolin. But, naturally, professionalism is desirable, as is the continuous raising of standards.
So, much remains to be done...
Pick on, mando-brethren! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif
Did the "roundback" really come before the "flatback"? Seems the simplest design should have naturally shown up first, no?
G B Shaw is quoted saying Hell is full of amateur musicians. Perhaps so, but I daresay they are staff, rather than inmates. (Remember the cartoon of Beethoven being conducted into a roomful of accordion and banjo players?)
Still, I suppose the more interesting folks will be there.
So far as Bratsche's query is concerned, my impression is the bowlback came from the near east tradition, via Turkey and the African shores of the Med. I suspect the bowl was originally a gourd, simpler to make than a box. Refined into the oud, or lute, shrunk to accomodate the likes of you and I, and there we are.
Sadly, my memory no longer extends to those days dim with ancient dust, when I wandered a rose-red city, half as old as Time.
[QUOTE]"Did the roundback really come before the "flatback"?
Yes, bratsche. Of course, if you look at some of those outrageously ornate "presentation"-model roundbacks of yesteryear against, say, a present-day Mid-Mo, the conclusion is counterintuitive: All the rococo trappings speak of more (supposed) advancement. But Bob is right: Early lutoids were in fact built around a resonator of (plant, natural) gourd, a (whole) tortoiseshell, a hollowed-out hunk of wood, etc. Also, on semantic grounds, it was only in the States and only fairly recently #that any flatback was actually called a mandolin.
As for G. B. Shaw (a crackling wit and one of my favorite playwrights, by the way), I am afraid he is a co-conspirator in the demise of the musical amateur culture in the hands of romantic hero-worship. (He was, after all, The Perfect Wagnerite #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif What he (and many others) failed to see is the simple, almost biological truth that we cannot and WILL not have High Art (or whatever you call it) until and unless Joe Amateur and Jane Amateur sit down after dinner and play some (violin, mandolin, recorder, whatever...) duets to the best of their ability. You cannot and will not have apples without the apple-tree, complete with trunk, leaves, bark, roots, etc., etc.
The 19th century did some serious, serious damage. Who remembers now (or, worse yet, who actually participates #in) the amateur culture that made Haydn, and Mozart, and Beethoven, and Schubert possible to begin with? Who remembers, or is aware of the degree to which amateur, domestic music-making permeated everyday life in Central Europe at the time? (Obviously, all present company is de facto excluded from this tirade.)
So, my answer to all the Shavian wit is: No, George, no! What hell IS full of is the rank idiocy served by the mass-media, the dumbing-down of the public, the bottom-line-at-any-cost corporate mentality, the reality shows (*shudders*), all the false gods one is presented with and expected to worship uncritically. The Great Republic is, before anything else, a state of mind; and that mind (and soul) needs to be nourished: Bring out the fiddles, and the flutes, and the mandos!
Did the "roundback" really come before the "flatback"?
I will add another "Of course" to Victor's. #Mandokin (my own contribution to the realm of musicological slang) were developed from lute-alikes (and thank you, Alex, for this bit of musicological slang), which were traditionally made with a round bowl-shaped back.
I didn't realize that posting in a specific part of the board gives you free license to make fun of the other sections. #Apologies to all in the C/M/R section.
Please, feel free to make fun of me at whim. I've earned it!
Then when, pray tell, did the flatback come into the picture? I am genuinely curious. I've heard all about big G and its huge taterbug eradication campaign, but they must have considered the flatback a rather benign pest. Perhaps it was a "guitaroid" bustardization of some sort. Anyone know for sure? I would have (up till recently) recognized both roundback and flatback types as mandos, just not the F style.
I always figured those people over there mean "traditional" in the same sense that so many people think "traditional medicine" is the stuff being peddled by the constantly bombarding drug companie$ (if you want to talk about some bigtime pests that need eradicating!)
For what it's worth, Martin began producing flatback, bent-top instruments about 1914. I suspect a move to capitalise on simpler production methods to offer a cheaper alternative to the bowlback, while mandolins were booming.
I confess to being too lazy to look any farther or deeper, but mayhap guilt will motivate me later. (In fairness, I've worked long and hard to whack my conscience over the decades. Damn thing has prevented more improvement than it has provided).
Blame Edison and greedy egocentric musicians for the collapse of amateur musicianship. Or a lack of the proper spirit of primitivism in modern life. Turns out it wasn't the picture boxes that stole one's soul, after all.
Much as I enjoy the witticisms of GBS, he is another horrible example of the mating of too much brain with too much ego. (I've always been more attracted to the sayings of Bitter Bierce; perhaps those who've read my ramblings will not be surprised).
I imagine that the mixing of the musical metaphors came due to trade routes and other cross pollination, say between the bandurrias of Spain and the guitarras of Portugal thru the citterns of Germany and England and other variants like the waldzithers...all this of course, non-scholar that i am, from the top of my fuzzy head.
I will consult my reference works for a little more accuracy.
I think I've seen an ad reproduced from a very late 19th-c. British publication to feature a line of flat mandolins. I'll do some brainstorming and digging and report. The Howe-Orme company began generating non-round mandolins (flat back, quirkily arched top) in guitar shape (aka mandolinetto) around 1897; read what Gregg Miner (http://home.earthlink.net/~minermusic/eliashowe.htm) and Bob Devellis (http://bellsouthpwp.net/r/d/rdevelli/The%20Elias%20Howe%20Co.htm) have to say about such stuff. I know Alex has unearthed a flat Cremonese-type mandolin (i.e. in single gut strings) from Vienna, I believe he had written it was of a ca. 1830 vintage and may be the earliest extant flat mandolin (please correct me if I'm wrong, Alex).
This cut on the right is from a 1889 Lyon & Healy catalog, American Conservatory brand. The instrument is called a bandurria, obviously an American adaptation of the Spanish instrument. The photo on the right is a mandolin version of the AmCon bandurria. It appeared on ebay some time ago and was just sold again recently.
Delving back in the time machine...
On the left are two views of what Baines calls a Mandore by Jaques Dumesnil, Paris, mid 17th century. On the right is the back view only of another Mandore by David, also Paris, 1786. Baines says that the scale length is 31cm and it does resemble the Lombard mandolino. Could it be a precursor or a parallel development? (Both photos from Anthony Baines, European and American Musical Instruments.)
Baines refers to three body constructions of the mandore: one is the carving from one piece (as in our quinterne thread and ironically as in the construction that Orville Gibson attempted in his early days); the second is the moulding from ribs as in our beloved mandolins and mandolinos; the third is the flatback.
More elucidation on these mandores, professors? Or am I barking up the wrong branch of the wrong tree for these flatback ancestors?
The earliest real flat-back based on a makers design (even with a violin scroll scrolled peghead) that I know of is a Cremonese mandolin build in Vienna in 1827. With ´real´ flat-back I mean that there was likely a line of production intended by the luthier and not an occasional hybrid mandolin made by someone. Perhaps the Vienna flat-back is also the answer to Bratsche´s question.
Jim, some years back I wrote a detailed report on the Dumesnil instrument that is in my opinion no Mandore at all. Perhaps Eugene (I did the writing initially for him) still has it somewhere in his computer. I also pointed out that there are no character traits in this instrument that are seen in the Mandore/mandolino family.
And that it belongs to the French Cister family.
The other six string instrument by David has also nothing to do with a Mandore, since that name and type was long forgotten by then.
Baines did a lot of good work writing articles and books on instruments, but should for what his nomenclatura used on early plucked instruments, not be taken to seriously.
However he correctly refers to the David´s six string instrument, as - except for it´s flat back - similar to an Italian Mandolino Lombardo. But the David mandolin should not be seen as an important item because of it´s overall design and because of it´s unclear date of manufacture: 1786. About 100 years to early.
One could call it best a French flat-back model of a Mandolino Lombardo .
And yes, there are Austian-, German-, Danish, French and even Dutch models of that type made. Both flat- and bowl-backs.
Baines did a lot of good work writing articles and books on instruments, but should for what his nomenclatura used on early plucked instruments, not be taken to seriously.
However he correctly refers to the David´s six string instrument, as - except for it´s flat back - similar to an Italian Mandolino Lombardo.
Alex, thanks for the elucidation on these instruments.
Baines refers to mandores as more of a generic term to describe gut strung instruments with fixed belly bridges. He says the ohter terms just confuse things.
BTW it was I who made the connection, not Baines... there is no mention I see in his book about any comparison of the David instrument to a mandolino Lombardo.
Indeed, Alex. We had discussed these very images from the Baines text and the origins of flat mandolins here a great long time ago. Unfortunately, I did not save the discussion. I don't know that any facet of Baines's work should not be taken seriously; however, Baines was writing to create a catalog of what has been and not trying to establish a historically informed nomenclature. In reading Baines, one should be aware that he admittedly uses the term "mandore" as a term of convenience (and often inacurately) simply to differentiate early breeds of mandolin[o] from the modern instrument family.
Yes, that is what Baines did. Unfortunately so I must say, since the Mandore is a type in itself within the (high) plucked instrument family.
all I can add is THANKS! this classical forum, has been a wealth of information for me, a real shot in the arm too! vic,james, eugene and everyone is helpful here. nowhere have I been able to ask such specific mandolin questions. (my teacher is a classical guitarists)
Its funny , my repetoire is actually pretty light on the classical right now, I do some vivaldi's and one invention13 but not much else. (would like to, just preoccupied with too many interests) still , this corner feels like home.
ok I suck,,, type "history of the lute" obviously
some old pics and carvings of roundback lutes. I am not sure I understand their opening statement... the rest makes sense, maybe I need to read it again. #I was hoping to find the cave paintings with lutes, I hear they exist...no luck on the net, for free anyway....