Drawing on explicit descriptions, iconographic representations, and contemporary narrative, this essay analyzes playing techniques and repertories plausible for one type of medieval fiddle and suggests that notions of historical fiddle performance may need to expand to accommodate the aesthetics and techniques implied by the off-board fiddle.
While it has been widely assumed that the left thumb was used to pluck the laterally divergent string described by Jerome of Moravia, the complete body of evidence suggests an alternative interpretation: the thumb can be used to stop this off-board string, extending the melodic range of the instrument down to a step below the tonal center and providing potential for non-diatonic ornamentation.
Ornamentation facilitated by the off-board string helps explain the emotional impact hinted at by theorists, a component underscored and clarified in visual representations of the instrument, where the off-board fiddle is associated with passion, whether sacred or profane. Similarly, this instrument is well suited to accompanying contemporary romances, which are associated with fiddle performance; the off-board string offers a singer a range of tools to heighten emotional tones and dramatic action.
Zaerr, Linda Marie
"The Off-Board String on the Medieval Fiddle,"
Performance Practice Review:
1, Article 1.
Available at: https://scholarship.claremont.edu/ppr/vol19/iss1/1
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