Cretan Lyra

Name: Cretan Lyra.
Type: Bowed Lute > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Tuning: A-D-G
Country: Greece.
Region: Mediterranean.

Description: The Cretan lyra (Greek: Κρητική λύρα) is a Greek bowed musical instrument having a pair shaped body and short neck. This particular type of era is played in the Dodecanese and Aegean Archipelago in Greece. The Cretan lyra is considered to be the most popular surviving form of the medieval Byzantine lyra, it is considered an ancestor of many European bowed instruments.

Origins: The lyra has been cited as a typical instrument played in the Byzantine by the 9th century Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih [d. 911] in his lexicographical discussion of musical instruments along with others including urghun [organ], shilyani probably a type of harp or lyre and the salandj – a type of bagpipe. Margret J. Kartomi, 1990. The lyra spread westward through Europe with an uncertain evolution.

A noticeable example is the Italian Lira da Braccio. A 15th Century bowed instrument and likely candidate for the predecessor of the violin. The descendants of the Cretan lyra are played in neighbouring post Byzantine areas. This includes the Bulgarian Gadulka, Calabrian Lira and classical Kamence [Classical Kemenche (Turkish: Armudî kemençe, Greek: Πολίτικη λύρα) in Istanbul, Turkey.

Playing Techniques: The Cretan lyra is held upright while resting on the musicians knee. During the performance the musician places the fingers of his left hand to only touch the side of the strings. This allows for rotation of the instrument when bowing while retaining the comfort of playing the instrument in performance. Sometimes small bells are tied onto the bow to create a rhythmic effect during playing. One can see this technique be utilized by Ravanahatha players in India (no relations to musical instruments though.

Citations: M. Bakarezos, S. Gymnopoulos, S. Brezas, Υ. Orfanos, E. Maravelakis, C.I. Papadopoulos, M. Tatarakis, A. Antoniadis and N.A. Papadogiannis “Vibration analysis of the top plates of traditional Greek string musical instruments” 13th International Congress on Sound and Vibration 2006, ICSV 2006 Volume 6, 2006, Pages 4939-4946. Anoyanakis, Fivos: Elliniká laiká mousiká órgana. Athens: E.T.E., 1976. Anthony Baines: The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments. Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 109 Magrini, Tullia. 1997. The Cretan Lyra and the Influence of Violin. Ethnomusicology Online 3; Margaret J. Kartomi: On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology, University of Chicago Press, 1990