Thursday, February 18, 2010

Joyful Noise, Again

I've had a number of homemade folk musical instruments pass through my hands - banjos, guitars, diddly bows, dulcimers, fiddles and more. Makers have incorporated gourds, license plates, sheet metal and old signs, gas cans and other surprising or incongruous materials. But this is all pine wood, and may be the crudest of them all. See how the F-holes were chopped out with a jackknife? The neck, 3 surviving tuning pegs and the body all seem to have been fashioned with the most basic tools. There's a black material like pitch on the front and back of the body. The leather strap and the single string were added long after it was made and used, if my close examination is correct. I'm convinced it was made to be played, and that the maker had made others like it before, because of some details like the grooved top nut and the way the peg ends were split to make a tight fit. Of course the bow is long gone. I can't imagine the sounds it made, but surely it was distinctive.

This one was found in rural north Georgia, not far from Appalachia to the north and not far from the cotton fields of the piedmont to the south. But you never know where, or whether, an object like this has traveled.

Imagine my surprise when I came across the 19th century photograph shown at the bottom.


  1. I can't imagine the sounds it made either, but the drive to make an instrument, even with limited resources, is what's so extraordinary.

  2. i have a reverence for the lively rectangular being of it...and i want to hear it sing!

  3. I would give anything to hear what it sounded like. Fantastic series of photos.