Kolosnaya Lira

Name: Kolosnaya lira.
Type: Friction Wheel > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 312.322.72
Country: Ukraine, Russia.
Region: Eastern Europe & Russian Federation.

Description: The Колёсная ли́ра [in Russian Kolosnaya líra meaning “wheel lyre”] is a stringed friction musical instrument. It occurs through out Eastern Europe particularly in the south of the Russian Federation, Byelorussia and Ukraine.

Etymology: At different times and in different countries the instrument was called differently: in Germany [Leier, Drehleier, Bettlerleier, Bauernleier] in England hurdy-gurdy in France [symphonie, chifonie, sambiût, sambuca, vierelète, vielle à roue also abbreviated – vielle]; in Italy [ghironda, lyra tedesca, rotata, sinfonia] in Hungary, tekerő; in Belarus [kolavaya lіra], in Ukraine [kolіsna lіra, rіlya, rilya or rolya] in Poland [lira korbowa], in the Czech Republic [niněra].

History: In Europe, it is known by various names the oldest of the names is the ‘organist’ [Latin organistrum] who has its origins in late Middle Ages; no earlier than the 13th century. The oldest images refer to the 12th century. English book miniature [c. 1175] and the bas-relief of the Cathedral of Sts. Jacob [Santiago de Compostela, 1188].

Appeared in Russia in the 17th century. It was played by vagrant musicians, kaliki perekhozhi and the blind, who sang historical songs, ballads and spiritual poems to the mournful sounds of their lyres. The arrival of the Колёсная ли́ра in Russia marked the decline of buffoon in connection with the persecutions by the authorities and clergy.

Repertoire: The lira was used as an instrument to accompany a wide range of genres from religious psalms, kants and epic ballads known as dumy. This repertoire is performed by itinerant blind musicians called lirnyky (sing. lirnyk). Occasionally lirnyky were hired to play dance music at weddings. They often organized themselves into guilds or brotherhoods with their own laws and a secret language known as Lebiy.

The traditional lira has three strings, one on which the melody is played with the aid of a special keyboard, the other two producing a drone of a fifth. The sound is produced by a wooden wheel which is rotated by a crank held in the right hand. This wheel rubs against the strings, setting them into vibration like a bow on a violin. A number of different types of chromatic liras have been produced in Ukraine. In recent times interest in the instrument has increased considerably.

Citations: Agazhanov A.P. Wheel lira // Russian folk musical instruments. – M .: MuzGiz, 1949. – P. 19-22. – 56 s. Vasiliev Yu.A. Shirokov A.S. Wheel lira // Stories about Russian folk instruments. – 2nd ed. – M .: Soviet composer, 1986. – p. 64-65. – 88 s.
Kvitka K.V. On the study of the life of lyre // Selected works in two volumes. Volume 2. – Moscow : Soviet composer, 1973. – S. 327-345. – 423 s. Banin A. А. Russian instrumental music of folk tradition . – Moscow, 1997. Bröcker, Marianne . Die Drehleier. 2. Auflage. Bonn – Bad Godesberg: Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft, 1977. Lyra // Musical Encyclopedia. – M .: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1976. – T. 3. – p. 278-279. – 1104 s. Saponov M.A. Wheel Lira // Musical Instruments: Encyclopedia. – M .: Deca-VS, 2008. – P. 282—283. -786 s. Website; Kolosnaya Lira – what is it all about? [article]. Website: Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments [in Russian / Translated to English via Google Translate]

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