Musical Instruments

The simplest, and probably the most ancient, musical instrument, is made from REEDS, and called variously Pan-pipes, Shepherd's Pipes (though these were usually made from oat straw), or Syrinx. The reeds are of different sizes, placed side by side, each stopped at the bottom end (F G Savage). Sambucus, the generic name for the elders, is from the Greek sambyke, the name given to an ancient musical instrument, rather like a harp, played by both Greeks and Romans, and made of ELDER wood (Halliwell), and supposed to be the Biblical sackbut (N D G James), though whatever it was, a sackbut was not a harp. Pliny said that pan-pipes and flutes were shriller when made of elder wood. Young boys in the Hebrides who had aspirations to be pipers, made their chanters from the young branches (Murdoch McNeill).

There is a record from Devonshire that CHIVES were looked upon as fairy musical instruments (Whitcombe).

LABURNUM wood, a hardwood, was used for all purposes where strength and elasticity were needed, for parts of musical instruments, for example (Brimble). Flutes were once made from it (Ablett). Irish harps were usually made of WILLOW wood, for these trees have a soul in them which speaks in music (Wilde. 1890). Evelyn. 1678 described CYPRESS timber as "a very sonorous wood", enough to account for its use for organ-pipes, harps, etc. And the wood of LOCUST BEAN (Catalpa bignonioides) was prized for making musical instruments.

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