Zampogna

 

 

A musical instrument in which the player blows air into one or more pipes, which are provided with reeds, to inflate the instruments sack.  Given that the flux of air to the sack cannot be interrupted, there are also no pauses in the sound produced by the instrument.  Therefore the technique in playing the instrument is to produce grace-notes and diminuitions to corrispond with continued long notes or repeated ones.  The simplist of the zampogna instrument has only one pipe but there are usually two, one to tune the melody and the other as the drone

The zampogna is an instrument which, together with many other similar instruments, such as the bagpipes, still survives in many parts of Europe but in Italy unfortunately the situation is critical.  The instrument is still present in Central and Southern Italy, including Sicily, but in Northern Italy the instrument is close to extinction.  From a morphological point of view, the instrument has many diverse characteristics.  It has between one to three knobs which produce the fixed notes and one or more pipes, also known as chantares, on which the melody is played.  There is a sack made of leather or rubber (or at times goretex) which maintains air and produces a continuous sound.  The sound is also created by the reeds which are single or double depending on the model.  The origins of the reed are not quite known but we do know that they are not as old as those of the flute.  They could date back to the euro-asiatic civilisations when the modernisation of the reed began.  Throughout history, civilisations such as the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans contributed greatly to the difusion of the instrument and it is thought that the Ciociaria region was were the zampogna thrived and this is also true today.  The Utriculum was also an instrument similar to the zampogna and as Svetonio wrote, Nero was an avid player of the instrument.  During the medieval era the instrument was frequently played in the royal courts and as quoted in Adam de Halle's 'Robin and Marion', Robin tunes his "bagpipe with the great burden".  The burden music was also very popular with the troubadours.  Medieval iconography informs us of the popularity of the instrument and also of its aesthetic variations.  We also find descriptions of the zampogna in Praetorius and Mersenne and the instrument was also a great inspiration to high class musicians and writers.  A pastorale piece from the Messiah of Handel got inspiration from the melodies of the instrument played by the local zampogna players the 'zampognari' (possibly a reference to the zampognari of the Ciociaria area where Haendel actually lodged for a period of time in the town of Alvito where many zampognari live even today.)  Hector Berlioz also had the occassion to hear the zampognari in Rome and they bacame the inspiration for "Serenade d'un montagnard".  The great writer D.H Lawrence (who lodged in the town of Picinisco for a period of time) writes in his novel 'The Lost Girl' of the sublime figure of the two zampognari who, during the Christmas period, played outside the house he was staying in.  The M.di Capella in Rome actually composed a few pieces for the instrument.  The zampogna is still very much alive in the area of Italy where towns such as Picinisco, Villa Latina and San Biagio are situated and where the instrument is frequently brought to life.

 

 
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