Sunday, July 13, 2014

Country Fair Strings

Yesterday we went to the Oregon Country Fair.  It started out nice and cool, but by 1 PM or so, the sun came out and it got up to something like 90F.  We took a bus there, which is probably the best way to get there, as parking (and driving out with half of the Eugene-Springfield metro area) can be a chore.  I want to say the fair's been running for fifty years or something.  Imagine Eugene hippies, the Ken Kesey bus, alternate energy folks, Celtic knots, tattoos, a lot of jazz/blues bands, hemp culture, fairy wings and dust, and bare breasts painted bright colors.   And crafts!

Next to the fire-makers dressed like cavemen in deerskin shorts were some folks playing a hurdy-gurdy and a Swedish keyed fiddle or nyckellharpa.  They kindly let me photograph their instruments.

 I'd seen hurdy-gurdies before, but not up close.  The woman playing this one showed me the C and G drone strings, and the interior strings which the keys manipulated.  The instrument was squeaker than she liked, and she explained how she needed to take a big of cotton and sort of pull it out so that it could get wound up around the drone strings.  She also demonstrated a buzzer, sort of a vibrating bridge the done-string went over that she could cause to loudly vibrate by spinning the hurdy-gurdy's crank (and rosin wheel) more vigorously and provide a bit of percussion.

I'd never seen or herd of a nyckellharpa before.  It was a fiddle with four main strings and about twelve or sixteen resonator strings.  It's an older instrument, so the keys are the same as the ones on a piano.   Both instruments were quiet, but I was standing close enough to hear them; they sounded like they would be nice instruments for a Nordic night in a cabin with a fire.
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