Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Idioglot.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Specimens: 3 in collection.
Region: Middle East & Mediterranean.
Description: The midjweh is an ancient folk clarinet found in the Nile region of Egypt. It has several analogue instruments that are found throughout the Mediterranean Near East and as far away as western China. The midjweh has two identical pipes bound together and parallel sound holes. The midjweh is considered to be one of the oldest instruments of the Nile region. The midjweh player is often accompanied by another midjweh player or a drummer.
The Midjweh one of the reed-pipes referred to in the Bible, and depictions of the midjweh are found on the walls of the Egyptian funeral chambers. The midjweh is also known by a number of names including midjwiz and midjwiz. Many people confuse this instrument with the arghul that is a related instrument with only one melody pipe and a drone.
Playing Technique: The pipes are played in unison by placing the fingers across both pipes. Both reeds are totally enclosed in the mouth, and circular breathing is employed to create a continuous flow of air. Circular breathing is awkward on this instrument though, due to the depth that the reeds extend into the mouth, and this has resulted in related instruments, such as the pungi or bagpipes, having wind chambers. The reeds are made by a slight cut into a small section of cane with a closed nodal point.
The performer holds the midjweh with both hands nearly horizontally in front of him with the finger-holes up. The bulk of the reeds are situated inside the mouth cavity with the player’s lips creating a tight seal around them. The first three fingers of one hand cover the top three finger-holes of both tubes, the first three fingers of the other hand the bottom three.
In order to finger both tubes simultaneously, the soft pads between the knuckles are used to cover the holes. The notes on the two pipes are purposefully tuned slightly apart from one another so as to produce an acoustic beat. The technique of circular breathing is used by performers to achieve a continuous flow of melody. Melodies are typically narrow in range. Each reed pipe is by itself not very loud, so having two of them sounding simultaneously increases the instrument’s volume.
Construction: The midjweh consists of two tubes, each made of three interlocking segments of reed fitted into one another. The longest segment is an open tube, it has s cylindrical bore. The midjweh has six equally distanced finger-holes in a row and lacks a thumb hole on the bottom side of the instrument. These two tubes are securely bound together with tarred cotton cord at three points along their length so that their lines of finger-holes run parallel to one another.
A short about 2 inches in length second section, likewise of two parallel tubes of cane, but with no finger-holes, is inserted into the top end of the finger-hole section. Separate 2-inch lengths of reed are then inserted into the top ends of the second section. These reed tubes, closed at their top end, have a deep back cut in them along much of their length to articulate a single flexible lamellae or idioglot reed, this instrument is classified as an idioglot because the reed is not a separate entity attached to the tube, but part of the tube itself.
Citations: Bibliography: Hassan, Scheherazade Qassim 2002 – “Musical Instruments in the Arab World.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 6. The Middle East. ed ; Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus, and Dwight Reynolds. New York: Routledge, pp. 401-423 ; Marcus, Scott L. 2007 ; Music in Egypt: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press ; Marcuse, Sibyl. 1975. A Survey of Musical Instruments. New York: Harper and Row ; Morris, R. Conway. 1984. “‘Çifte [çifte].” NGDMI v.1: p. 369 ; Picken, Laurence. 1975. Folk Musical Instruments of Turkey. London: Oxford University Press ; Poché, Christian. 1984 “Mijwiz [midjwiz, miğwiz, mizwidj; mizwij]” NGDMI v, 2: p. 661 ; Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch [Midjweh Article] @ asza.com ; Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection [Midjweh article] ;