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Spoons as Russian Folk Music Instrument
June 26, 2007 14:49


It is quite impossible to say now who and when hit upon the idea of turning ordinary tablespoons into a percussion instrument, yet the fact remains: they became the easiest, the most colourful and the most popular national instrument of the Russians. The painted wooden spoons are beloved in this country and abroad. Thousands of them are exported as “two-in-one” souvenirs, being period pieces and music instruments at once.

What history says

From times immemorial Eastern Slavs used percussion instruments at war and hunting, in rituals, singing and dancing. The use of such instruments is akin to creating the rhythm by clapping one's hands or stamping one’s feet, which all peoples of the world have known since antiquity. The first records about spoons as music instruments date back to the late 18th century and are the evidence of their being widespread among peasants. Some researches supposed that the Russian percussion spoons imitate Spanish castanets. However, the instrument existed long before the end of the 17th century, as lubok pictures of the 18-19th centuries show.

In the 19-early 20th cc song choirs and folk instrument ensembles widely used spoons as showy stunt turns. The art of spoon playing attained perfection during that period. Spoon players performed solo, accompanied singing and dancing, or were part of various ensembles.

The use of spoons as music instruments is not unique, however. It is known that during merry-making, in the heat of dancing excitement not only spoons, but pans, wash-basins, stove shutters, samovar pipes, pots, forks, and what not would be set in motion. Among household articles the scythe and the saw acquired steady musical function.

What music spoons look like

The appearance of music spoons does not differ much from common wooden tablespoons, but they are made of harder sorts of wood. Besides, music spoons have longer handles and polished surface of the stroking parts. Sometimes jingles are attached onto the handle. The playing kit of spoons can have 2, 3 or 4 spoons of a middle size and one larger spoon. The different sizes of spoons create the impression of the sound pitch gradation.

How to play spoons

There is a wide range of spoon playing techniques and tricks. Basically one player uses three spoons. Two of them are put between fingers of the left hand, while the third one is held with the right hand. The first two spoons serve as a sort of anvil hit by the third spoon. Each strike is sliding from one spoon cup to another, followed by slamming the two spoons with fingers of the left hand. Thus delicate polyphonic rhythmical patterns are created.

Sometimes, when playing in a sitting posture, a musician is blocking up two, three or even four ladles, which are also repeatedly stroked or slid upon with a spoon.

Mastering of spoon playing requires certain work and patience. At first a student has to learn slowly this or that rhythmical pattern, attaining automatism of movements. The above mentioned technique is basic, but not single. Virtuosos craftily and variously alternate strokes of the right hand on the left one, with those of the left hand on the knee or the shoulder, combining it with slamming the ladles. One of such outstanding masters is the spoon player V. S. Morozov, a performer of the famous Pyatnitsky Orchestra, who was awarded with the title of the Honoured Artist of Russia for his inimitable playing the spoons and other folk instruments. Mastery even in this seemingly laughing matter cannot but be highly appreciated.

Read more about russian Music Instruments... 

    Sources:

     rm.hoha.ru
     folkinst.narod.ru

    Photos:

     museum.nnov.ru
    rm.hoha.ru
    unn.runnet.ru


Tags: Russian Music Instruments     

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