Morsing

Name: Morsing.
Type: Idiophones > Lamellaphones > Jaw-Harps.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 121.2
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: A morsing or murcang [also mukharshanku, mourching, morching or morchang, in Telugu: మోర్సింగ్ ; in Kannada : ಮೋರ್ಸಿಂಗ್ in Rajasthan : मोरचंग : in Tamil நாமுழவு அல்லது முகச்சங்கு : in Malayalam : മുഖർശംഖ് ]. It is found in areas ranging from Rajasthan, neighbouring Sindh, Pakistan, 

The morsing is a type of jaw-harp that is mainly found in Rajasthan. The morsing is used Carnatic music of South India, and also in Sindh Pakistan. The morsing is classified under lamellaphones and placed in the frames sub-category.

Etymology: The south asian term for the jaw harp, usually of metal and heteroglot construction [as such, an instrument such as the morsing is constructed from more then one piece].  It is usually simply called cang, this name and perhaps the instrument deriving from the chang of adjacent West and Central Asia originally meaning ‘harp’. The common names of northern India include morcang, murcang [in Gujarat and Rajasthan], muncang [in Kashmir] and so on.

The name appears to be compounded from this and the northern words muṅh [‘mouth’] and mū̃ṙ [‘head’]. Farther south for example in Tamil Nadu the form mursing or morsing is found, perhaps understood as ‘mouth-horn’. The names would thus suggest a southward diffusion of the instrument from the northwest.

The name murcang does not derive from a ‘Sanskrit mucanga’, as stated by Sachs [1914] and others, as this is not recorded in the ancient or medieval periods. In Uttarakhand the instrument is also referred to as biṇāī. In Nepal the variants murcuṅgā, machinga

Musical Context: In Carnatic / South Indian Classical Music the morsing plays a classica tala [temporal cycle] along with the mrdangam [double headed drum]. It can be played solo or in accompaniment to other instruments such as the ghatam. 

It is the only jawharp having classical status and it used in the Carnatic music tradition of South India. Carnatic music, and thus possibly the morsing, is also played by ensembles in temples, at weddings, and other ritual occasions, and to accompany classical dance.

Construction: The morsing is a heteroglot that being defined as an instrument constructed from more then one material. Consists of a circular frame, two parallel forks and lamellae [tongue] all of which are made of metal.  The metal tongue is bent at the free end in a plane perpendicular to the circular ring so that it can be struck and is made to vibrate. 

Citations: Bibliography: David B. Reck, 2000 Musical Instruments: Southern Area – In Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 5: 350-369 ed. Alison Arnold – New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. Websites: Alastair Dick, revised by Andrew Alter – Morsing / Grove Music OnlineMorsing / Grinnell College Museum ;  

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