GLOSSARY: - PIOTR PUCYLO ::: art + music + design

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"A fresh and original way of looking at the world’s instruments."
Simon Broughton, SONGLINES

"The artworks presented here (designed initially for a special open-air exhibition during Førde Traditional & World Music Festival 2015, Norway) is an attempt to find common features between ethnic musical instruments and different kinds of things,  surrounding us everyday objects. I tried to find resemblance in shapes, usage or names. In some cases the association was quite obvious, other cases  involved deeper thinking and sometimes  abstract comparison. The result is  a kind of hybryd - "non-instrumental" instruments - the creations of my imagination. Nevertheless, each piece was inspired by a real musical instrument - often not well known to wider public. My intention was to show the instruments' diversity and the beauty of their forms. The range of instruments presented here is very wide: from very primitive to extremely sophisticated ones, from fairly modern to very old, originating from Africa, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world. The objects completing the artworks are usually unconnected with music, which makes them even more interesting as elements joining the two worlds. Apart from  purely aesthetic and artistic aspects, educational value of the artwork was very important to me. That is why each piece is accompanied by a short note explaining my inspiration - the instrument which was the source of my graphic exploration."
Piotr Pucyło

glossary: THINGS IN INSTRUMENTS - INSTRUMENTS IN THINGS it is a series of graphic artworks which may be as an exhibition a great contribution to any world music or jazz festival. Its artistic, aesthetic as well as educational values make it a potentially important and meaningful element of such an event. The way of installation and format is easily adjustable to the needs and facilities of the promoters. It currently consists of 25 works but its form is open and new graphics are being created.

All graphics are available for sale as a signed prints or exclusive album (size: 30 cm X 30 cm, hard cover, numbered & signed). Please contact for more details.


Inspired by a simple fiddle from the Far East and Central Asia. The most popular instrument of this kind is probably  the Chinese fiddle ERHU. It has just two strings with a bow passing between them as opposed to over them.

Despite its uncomplicated construction, it produces beautiful, delicate and rich sound. In China ERHU is considered a national instrument and its role in Chinese orchestras can be compared to violin in Europe.

Inspired by an arched harp from Uganda. The instrument is called ENNANGA. Similar harps can be found in other African countries, as well as in Eastern Asia. It is believed to be one of the oldest string instruments - it probably originated from a musical bow, and its first representations can be seen in Ancient Egyptian drawings.

Additional inspiration to this piece was Andy Warhol and one of his most recognisable  pop-art artworks -the record cover for The Velvet Underground and Nico from 1967.

A piece inspired by lyres. Despite their popularity in the past, lyres are now used only in some parts of Africa and in Siberia. The most interesting instruments come from Ethiopia, where two kinds of this instrument can be seen: BAGANA with a  square sound box - the lyre of Ethiopian aristocracy and priests,  and KRAR with a round sound box - a widely-spread folk lyre.

Inspired by PSALTERY - an instrument known from the Middle Ages. Most European zithers nowadays are rectangular or trapezoid, however, the earlier versions were often triangular. Zithers came to Europe from the Middle East in the 11th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries the instruments resembled  a pig's head or a wing. The present shape of psaltery was formed around year 1500. Similar instruments of this kind can be found in Scandinavia: Norwegian LANGLEIK and Swedish HUMMEL have frets under some strings and Icelandic LANGSPIL is played with a bow.

Inspired by ZAMPOÑA - a kind of panflute found in Peru, Bolivia or Equador. It consists of a row of connected reed tubes of varying lengths.  The sound is produced by blowing into the upper edge of the instrument - the tubes have no finger holes and are usually closed at the bottom end. Such instruments have been known for over 2000 years. They are made  of clay, stone, wood, metal or reed. They can be found in many parts of the world such as Romania, Japan or the Solomon Islands.

According to a myth, the ancient god Pan fell in love with one of the nymphs. When she was trying to run away from him, a protective goddes turned her into a reed, which Pan used to make the first flute and played it to find consolation in music.

Inspired by RIQ and  other frame drums with jingles. This type of drums originates from the Middle East, however, similar forms can be found all over the world.

Riq is a small drum consisting of a frame (traditionally made of wood) covered with a thin layer of fish skin. It has five pairs of cymbals placed in slits cut in the frame. The frame is often richly decorated with inlay  such as mother-of-pearl or decorative wood. This small instrument plays a very important role in classical Arabic ans Turkish music, and surprises with its rich sound potential.

Inspired by BIWA - a Japanese short-necked lute. The instrument in a characteristic  tear-like shape has four silk strings which are struck with a quite big wooden plectrum. Biwa is mostly used as an instrument accompanying classic songs and recitation of Buddhist verses. It is one of the most popular string instruments in Japan. It has been known for almost 2000 years - it is believed to be a decendant of  Chinese lute PIPA.

Inspired by a Persian spiked fiddle called KAMANCHEH. It is a small bowed string instrument consisting of a long neck protruding a round resonating chamber - made of gourd and covered with leather, on which the bridge supporting the strings is set. Depending on the musicians' position, the instrument rests either on their laps or on the ground. Thanks to the end-pin, the instrument can be turned while being played allowing more accurate moves of the bow.

Instruments with similar structure can be found in most countries of Central Asia and in some countries in South- East Asia.

Inspired by a Thai drum called THON. Its characteristic shape resembles a goblet - in fact, the whole family of similar drums found in Asia, Africa and Europe are known under the name goblet drums. THON is often played together with a frame drum called RAMMANA. Its sound can be heard especially in classical Thai music. It is made of wood, clay or metal. It is characterised by low, rumbling sound. A ring consisting of rubber, soot and metal filings is often put on the membrane to make the sound deeper.

Inspired  by SCOTTISH BAGPIPES, as well as other bagpipes found virtually all over the world. The instrument's main part is a bag which pumps the air into melodic and chanter reeds, and so it can be perceived as  its heart. Depending on the bagpipes' type, there are two ways of inflating the bag: by blowing air into it or by pumping air into it with a bellows under the player's arm. Bagpipes have been known since Roman times.

Inspired by a Japanese drum TSUZUMI. Similarily to goblet drums its shape instantly evokes certain connotations - tsuzumi belongs to the group of hourglass drums. Its body is usually made of cherry wood - it is often richly ornamented (carved and lacquered). Its two membranes, stretched on metal frames, are connected with cords to the body. The taut cords and the  drum's shape  enable the player to change the membranes' tension and to lower or raise the pitch of the drum while playing.

An artwork inspired by BALAFON – a traditional melodic idiophone known in most Western African countries such as Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea or Gambia. It's a kind of xylophone – an instrument consisting of wooden bars of different length, which after being stuck with a stick produce a characteristic warm and dull sound.  In Zimbabwe a little bit similar instruments are known as MARIMBA. Other versions may also be seen in Far East and South-East Asia – where they apparently originated.

Inspired by German STREICHZITHER, or a bow zither. Its current shape was formed in the 19th century. Similar zithers are known in many countries, yet only in Germany they take such shapes. A fretted fingerboard typical for this instrument is rather uncommon in other types of zithers. Zithers are characterised by a big number of strings, yet here there are only four. Introducing frets made it possible to limit the number of strings, which saved musicians a lot of problems with tuning the instrument.

Inspired by HULUSI - a  primitive mouth-organ from China. It is common among ethnic minorities from Junnan province. Its name is a composition of two Chinese words: "hulu" - a gourd and "si" - silk. This simple instrument comprises of a mouthpiece , used to blow in air, a wind chest, usually made of gourd, and pipes. Similarily to other mouth-organs, each pipe has a free reed - the player blows into the wind chest and produces sounds by covering finger holes in the pipes.

Inspired by ACCORDION - namely a button accordion, the most sophisticated kind of this instrument. Accordions, similarily to mouth organs, belong to the group of free-reed instruments - known since the 19th century. All of them have fingerboards on both sides with an expanding bellows pumping air into the reeds. Simpler versions come with a few buttons or keys, yet professional ones are very complicated.

In Poland accordions are colloquially called "radiators", hence my association seems obvious.

Inspired by DUDUK - one of the best known Armenian instruments, characterised by beautiful, moving, delicate, warm and at the same time mournful sound. DUDUK is a kind of oboe - made of apricot wood  seasoned for 25-30 years. Its body has finger holes. The most important part of the instrument is a double reed made of cane. The playing technique is  extremely sophisticated - to change the tone, volume, rhythmics or sound pitch the player uses not only fingers but also throat muscles, tongue or lips together with circular breathing technique.

Some sources  say DUDUK has been known for 1500 years, other suggest it may be 3000 years old.

Inspired by CASTANETS - a commonly known simple percussion instrument associated with Spain and flamenco dancers. The instrument consists of a pair of concave shells joined on one side by a string. The shells are usually made of wood, yet sometimes in the past they could be made of ivory. A player holds them in hand and by clicking them produces a characteristic knocking sound.

Inspired by DOMBRA - a long-necked lute from Kazakhstan, together with other lutes of this kind: SAZ and BAGLAMA from Turkey, Balkan TAMBURA, Uzbek TANBUR, Greek BOUZOUK or DUTAR from Tadjikistan. All those instruments are characterised by a small body and a long neck with fixed or movable frets (often made of animals' intestines). Some lutes apart from melody strings also have sympathetic or drone strings.

Inspired by MBIRA from Zimbabwe - an instrument classified as part of lamellaphone family. It is played by plucking metal or reed tines with thumbs. The tines are attached to a wooden box, which acts as a resonator. The tines are held by a slat at one end, the other end is left vibrating loosely and can be plucked. This type of instruments is found in many African countries - also known under other names such as SANZA or KALIMBA.

Inspired by GONG - a metal disk which is hit with a mallet - widespread in South East Asia. It has been known in China since the 6th century B.C. Gongs are made of different kinds of metal: brass, bronze or iron. They have various sizes and even shapes - yet the most popular are the round ones. Gongs first appeared in shrines. Later they were incorporated by music bands. Despite the fact that it is an Asian folk instrument, it can also be heard in Western symphony orchestras.

Inspired by GUEMBRI - a small lute originating from Morocco. The name differs depending on the region - it is sometimes used to describe a bigger bass lute common among the Gnawa brotherhoods. I chose a smaller version. Its structure is rather simple - with a pear-shaped body covered with goat or camel skin.  A neck with  attached tuning pegs passes through the body. Guembri has three gut strings. It is a fretless instrument with strong percussive sound - a player while plucking the strings also strikes the skin top of the instrument.

Similar instruments called NGONI can be found in Mali.

Inspired by HURDY-GURDY - an instrument known in Europe since the Middle Ages. In short it can be described as a kind o mechanical violin. Sound is produced by a crank-turned wheel rubbing against the strings. The pitch can be changed using a keyboard, with which a musician presses a chosen place. Thus, HURDY-GURDY represents the group of mechanical instruments.

Inspired by SHEKERE - an African percussion instrument. It is a kind of rattle made of a big dried gourd with beads, often seeds or shells,  woven into a net covering it.  A player rhythmically shakes shekere or rubs the beads against the gourd. In Nigeria players also use the technique of throwing and suddenly catching the instrument. Similar instruments can be also found in Cuba or Brasil.

Inspired by Indian  EKTARA. It is a plucked instrument with only one string, used by Bauls - wandering bards from Bengal, but also found in other parts of India under names GOPICHAND, GOPIYANTRA or KHAMAK. It is made of piece of bamboo, split at one end, which is attached to a body made of wood or a halved gourd. At the bottom there is a membrane made of animal skin, through which a string is inserted, with a blocking bead at the end. The pitch is regulated by squeezing the bamboo neck and thus modulating the string's tension.

Inspired by Turkish CÜMBÜŞ. It is a modern instrument - created in the 1930s with an amazing origin. Unfortunately the story of its origin is too long to be described here. It is only worth mentioning that it is connected with Ataturk, the vision of modern Turkey, its creator's, Zeynel Abidin's love for innovation as well as popularity of BANJO in those days in Turkey. Cümbüş combines tradition with modernity, East with West. It can be freely modified - it has a removable neck, which can be replaced with other types - longer or shorter, fretted or without frets. It may be a modern version of a classic lute OUD or long-necked lutes SAZ, BAGLAMA or TANBUR - according to a player's needs.
All rights reserved. (C) Piotr Pucylo, 2016
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