Lyra Politica

Name: Lyra Politica.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Lyra > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Country: Many.
Region: Greece, Turkey.

Description: The πολίτικη λύρα [Lyra politic] or lira is a direct descendant of the byzantine Lyra. An instrument that was prevalent throughout the Byzantine Empire. These instruments were the most popular form of instruments during this time. Remains of two actual examples of Byzantine lyras from the Middle ages have been found in excavations at Novgorod; one excavation dated to 1190 AD. The first known depiction of the instrument is on a Byzantine ivory casket [900–1100 AD], it preserved in the Bargello in Florence [Museo Nazionale, Florence, Coll. Carrand, No. 26].

In Use today: Versions of the Byzantine lyra are still played throughout the former lands of the Byzantine Empire: Greece where this instrument is known in three major forms, Cretan lyra classic or politica lyra [Politiki lyra, literal translation. “lyra of the City” i.e. Constantinople], Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Republic of North Macedonia, Croatia [Dalmatian Lijerica], Italy [Calabrian lira] and Turkey.

Examples are the Politiki lyra [i.e. lyra of the Polis, or City, referring to Constantinople], [in Greek: πολίτικη λύρα Politica Lyra] also known as the Classical Kemenche [in Turkish: Klasik kemençe or Armudî kemençe] from Constantinople. Karadeniz kemençe] in the Pontic Greek communities, that existed [or still exist] around the shores of the Black Sea. The gudok, a historical Russian instrument that survived until the 19th century, is also a variant of the Byzantine lyra.

Terminology: From the organological point of view, the Byzantine lyra would be classified under the category of bowed lutes in the chordophone family. However, the designation lyra [in Greek: λύρα ~ lūrā, English: lyre] constitute of a terminological survival relating to the performing method of an ancient Greek instrument.

The use of the term lyra for a bowed instrument was first recorded in the 9th century, probably as an application of the term lyre of the stringed musical instrument of classical antiquity to the new bowed string instrument. The Byzantine lyra is sometimes informally called a medieval fiddle, or a pear-shaped rebec, or a kemence, terms that may be used today to refer to a general category of similar stringed instruments played with a horsehair bow.

Lyra Politica
Name Tunings
Cretan Lyra A / D / G
Thrace, Karpathos & Dodecanese A / A / E
Drama E / G / E
Classical Kemence A / D / A

Citations: Bibliography: Arkenberg, Rebecca October 2002 – Renaissance Violins, Metropolitan Museum of Art, retrieved 2006-09-22 Baines, Anthony November 1992 – The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments, Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-311334-1 Butler, Paul  October 2003, The rebec project, Personal website, retrieved 2009-03-10 Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 lira, Encyclopedia Britannica Online Kartomi, Margaret J. 1990, On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-42548-7 Grillet, Laurent 1901, Les ancetres du violon v.1, Paris ;

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