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LUTE (Arabic al'ud, " the wood "; Fr....

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 133 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LUTE (Arabic al'ud, " the wood "; Fr. luth; Ital. liuto; Span. laud; Ger. Laute; Dut. luit), an ancient stringed musical instrument, derived in form as well as name from the Arabs. The complete family consisted of the pandura, tanbur or mandoline as treble, the lute as alto or tenor, the barbiton or theorbo as bass, and the chitarrone as double bass. The Arab instrument, with convex sound-body, pointing to the resonance board or membrane having been originally placed upon a gourd, was strung with silk and played with a plectrum of shell or quill. It was adopted by the Arabs from Persia. Instruments with vaulted backs are all undoubtedly of Eastern origin; the distinct type, resembling the longitudinal section of a pear, is more specially traced in ancient India, Persia and the countries influenced by their civilization. This type of instrument includes many families which became known during the middle ages of western Europe, being introduced into southern Europe and Spain by the Moors, into southern Russia by the Persians of the Sassanian period, into Greece from the confines of the Byzantine Empire. As long as the strings were plucked by fingers or plectrum the large pear-shaped instrument may be identified as the archetype of the lute. When the bow, obtained from Persia, was applied to the instrument by the Arabs, a fresh family was formed, which was afterwards known Europe as rebab and later rebec. The largest member of the ancient lute family—the bass lute or theorbo—has been identified with the barbiton. Until recently the existence of these ancient stringed instruments was presumed on the evidence of the early medieval European instruments and of the meagre writings extant, such as those of Farabi.' But a chain of plastic evidence can now be offered, beginning with the Greek post-Mycenaean age (c. moo B.c.). A statuette of a female musician playing upon a large lute with only an embryonic neck, on which nevertheless the left hand is stopping strings, was unearthed in Egypt in a tomb of the XXth Dynasty in the cemetery of Goshen by the members of th British School of Archaeology in Egypt' under the direction of Professor Flinders Petrie, to whose courtesy we owe the photo-graph (fig. I) here reproduced. It is difficult to form a conclusive opinion as to the number of strings the artist intended to represent, owing to the decorative figures following the direction of the strings, but, judging from the position of the right hand plucking a string, there may have been seven. Among a number of terra-cotta figures of musicians, brought to light during the excavations in a Tell at Suza and dating from the 8th century B.c.,3 although there is no instrument that might be identified with the alto lute, the treble lute or tanbur is represented Afghanistan presented to the British Museum by Major-General Cunningham, which formed the risers of steps leading to the tope at Jumal Garhi, dating from the 1st century A.D are represented scenes of music and dancing. Here the archetype of the lute appears several times; it had four strings, and the head was bent back at right angles to the neck. In the 6th century A.D. illustrations of this early lute are no longer rare, more especially on Persian silver-work of the Sassanian period' and in Padua. accompany their newly-devised recitative, the invention of which in Florence, from the impulse of the Renaissance, is well known. The height of a theorbo varied from 3 ft. 6 in. to 5 ft., the Paduan being always the largest, excepting the Roman 6-ft. long chitarrone. These large lutes had very deep notes, and doubtless great liberties were allowed in tuning, but the strings on the finger-board followed the lute accordance already given, or another quoted by Baron (Untersuchung des Instruments der Lauten, Nuremberg, 1727) as the old theorbo or " violway " (see Mace, Musick's Monument, London, 1676): We find again both these accordances varied and transposed a tone higher, perhaps with thinner strings, or to accommodate local differences of pitch. Praetorius recommends the chanterelles of theorbos being tuned an octave lower on account of the great strain. By such a change, another authority, the Englishman Thomas Mace, says, the life and spruceness of airy lessons were quite lost. The theorbo or archlute had at last to give way to the violoncello and double bass, which are still used to accompany the " recitativo secco " in oratorios and operas. Handel wrote a part for a theorbo in Esther (1720); after that date it appears no more in orchestral scores, but remained in private use until nearly the end of the century. The lute and the organ share the distinction of being the first instruments for which the oldest instrumental compositions we possess were written. For the lute, however, they were not written in our present notation, but in tablature, " lyrawise," a system by which as many lines were drawn horizontally as there were pairs of strings on the finger-board, the frets, distributed at intervals of a semitone, being distinguished by the letters of the alphabet, repeated from A, representing the open string, for each line. This was the English and French manner; the Italian was by numbers instead of letters. The signs of time were placed over the stave, and were not repeated unless the mensural values changed. (A. J. H.; K. S.)
End of Article: LUTE (Arabic al'ud, " the wood "; Fr. luth; Ital. liuto; Span. laud; Ger. Laute; Dut. luit)

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