Chapter IV


Dr. Victor GHILAŞ

         In the traditional oral culture, from the past and present, musical instruments represent an important segment for transmitting messages by means of sounds, or a way to uphold, through sound and rhythm, the song, the dance, the traditional drama acting (with zoomorphic and antropomorphic masks), family ceremonies, labour, hunting etc.

         In the large sense of the word, „musical instruments” are, first of all, a way of uttering sounds by a physic person out of the organism, and, at the same time, a way of completing, by means of instruments, the resources offered by his own body. However, not all the musical instruments spread in the artistic culture of a people may be considered traditional. They must be analysed using special criteria, in order that we may qualify the musical instruments as “traditional”:

         • their longevity and their functionality. The musical instruments may be considered traditional or popular, if the popular customs and rituals persist, and if they possess certain functions in the life of the ethnic group.

         • the quality of ethnic and social diffusion. Because the area of extent for some instruments surpasses the frame of traditional music (in the Carpatho-Danubian space, such instruments are the violin, cello, double bass, trumpet etc.), the contemporary organology proposes to call such instruments „popular”, in the large sense of the word, but those used exclusively in the folkloric practice (on our territory – cobză, fluier (pipe), bucium (alphorn) etc.) – are „popular in the narrow sense of the word”.

         • the constructive and music-interpretative qualities. Some instruments, transferred from a geographic space to another, don’t suffer modifications in construction, tuning, in musical-acoustic qualities, in principles of emission of the sound etc. Others, on the contrary, while adapting to a new medium or culture, being adjusted to another stylistic musical system, borrow from the folk craftsmen or the folklore interpreters, some modifications both constructive and in tuning, or modifications in the principles of sonorous emission. The first ones can be considered as instruments with borrowed features, while the other ones – with borrowed and transformed features;

         • the techniques and the domain of producing musical instruments. The existence of local traditions of making instruments, the practice of production of musical instruments in the folk medium holds an important place. When one and the same instrument is produced both by popular craftsmen and by factory (for example, the violin), the decisive factor for the classification of instruments as “popular” is their application. We notice once more that the existence of traditions or their absence in the popular practice represents a historic phenomenon.

         Considering the above mentioned, it is possible to formulate a synthetic definition of the traditional musical instruments, which can be resumed to the following: “musical instruments are a product of human activity which functions in a constituted cultural-historic system, a modality of artistic-sonorous communication destined to complete the resources offered by the human being and to widen its possibilities of expression based on articulated language, and which are used as a means of materialization of the phenomenon that represents in this system the traditional music”.

         Musical instruments used in the traditional oral culture from the Republic of Moldova are multiple and diverse. In the researches dedicated to musical instruments, their study is based on the following principles:

         • Terminology (name / popular names of the instrument, name of the constitutive and auxiliary pieces);

         • Ergology and technology (description of the mentioned instruments, forms of the instruments and materials they are made of, including their component parts, especially those which produce sounds; the dimensions, ornament, symbols etc.);

         • Technique of interpretation and musical-acoustic possibilities (principles of uttering the sound, sonorous possibilities – musical scale, ambitus, register, timbres, sonorous varieties, tuning and eventual deviations, melodic and harmonic potential);

         • Repertory (characteristics of instruments from the point of view of repertory is the most difficult and less studied aspect, because the documents from the past periods, or the notations, don’t exist any more or they belong to the recent historical period);

         • Finality of application (dissemination of anthropological aspects or, in other words, the functional differentiation: aesthetic, of worship, daily or auxiliary in the process of work, in magic purpose, as marks etc.);

         • History and diffusion (it’s not the case to study the origin and diffusion of instruments in general, but only their development along the time and their geographical diffusion).

         The popular music instrumentarium from our space can be included in the quadruple classification, already admitted by the Indian musicians and adopted in 1878 by the Belgian acoustician and museographer V. Mahilon. Basing on the principle of vibrator material, he established four categories of musical instruments (auto-phone, membranophone, aerophone, with strings). Further this classification was improved and completed, because since 1914 has been spread the system of the German musicologists E. Hornobostel and C. Sachs. These musicologists created a hierarchy of musical instruments according to the nature of the vibratory corpus, after the emission of the sound, and according to their construction – a method accepted also by the Romanian musicologist T. Alexandru, in 1956, in the book “Musical instruments of the Romanian people”. The discussed system, although it can still be improved, may serve as a useful work instrument. This large system that was proposed contains four big instrumental families that are ordered according to the following principles:

         • Idiophones and auto-phones (with undetermined sound and with determined sound) whose sound is produced (by striking, friction, pinching or breathing) by the vibrations of our own body (whip, bell, Jew’s harp, rumble, spur, bell of a wether, bell board, little bell);

         • Membranophones (with undetermined sound) with one or two membranes that are stiffened through stretching, which sound is created through striking and friction (buhai, tambourine, drum, darabana, toba);

         • Aerophones (wooden or brass), in which the columns of air are made to vibrate either directly by the lips of the interpreter, or through a hole, called “mouth of whistle”, or through a reed of a bassoon (accordion, alphorn, long pipe, bagpipe, clarinet, horn, flute, pipe, mouth organ, Pan’s pipe, trumpet, taragot / bass clarinet used by folk musicians in Romania, shepherd’s pipe, trump, trumpeter);

         • String instruments whose sound is produced by the stiffened strings when stretching above a box of amplifier resonance, through striking (cembalo), pinching (guitar, kobsa, zither) or friction (double bass, pipe, violin, viola, cello).

         The proposed classification excludes the hierarchy of Romanian popular instruments called pseudo-instruments (by T. Alexandru). The simplest method of instrumental imitation is whistling (different types of whistling) – natural proceedings by which the executer strives to give them an instrumental sound. Other pseudo-instruments of whistling are the leaf, the leaves of grass, the bark of the birch tree, the scale of fish. Alike genuine musical instruments, these proceedings are often accepted in the traditional medium as a way of artistic expressions.


IV.1. Leaf.

IV.2. Leaf of grass.

IV.3. Bark of birch tree.

IV.4. Scale of fish.

(see Traditions and Expressions of the Musical Art or Practice; Celebrations, Customs and Rites; Techniques and Knowledge concerning Traditional Craftsmanship).


The metal idiophones or autophones with determined sound

IV.5. Bell.

IV.6. Jew’s harp.

The metal idiophones or autophones with undetermined sound

IV.7. Bell  (little).

IV.8. Spur.

IV.9. "Tălănci" (Covers slips of animals).

IV.10. Little bell.

The wooden (or other material) idiophones or autophones with undetermined sound

IV.11. Stick and plate to strike.

IV.12. "Duruitoare" (Fella coming during carnival).

IV.13. Whip.

IV.14. "Maracas" (a kind of dry, elipsoidal pumpkin, having inside some little stones, kernels, seeds, beans etc.).

IV.15. Handmill.

IV.16.  Bell board.

Membranophones with an indeterminate sound

IV. 17. "Buhai" ( Instrument ritual which imitate bull. Used in rite "Plugusorul").

IV.18. Tamburine

IV.19. Drum

IV. 20. "Toba de mâna" Drum.

IV.21. Kettle drum.

IV.22. Drum (little).

IV.23. Tumbelechi.

(see Traditions and Expressions of the Musical Art or Practice; Celebrations, Customs and Rites; Techniques and Knowledge concerning Traditional Craftsmanship).


Polyphonic aerophones

IV. 24. Accordion.

IV.25. Concertina (armonica)

IV. 26. Mouth organ.

IV. 27. Baian

IV. 28. Bagpipe.

Labial aerophones

IV. 29. Long pipe.

IV. 30. Flute (right or with cork)

IV. 31. Twinned pipe.

IV. 32.  Moldovan pipe (without cork).

IV.33. Panpipe.

IV.34. Ocarine.

IV.35. Shepherd’s pipe.

Aerophones with a little elastic blade

IV.36. Clarinet.

IV. 37. Saxophone.

IV.38. "Surlă” Trumper.

IV.39. Taragot (bass clarinet used by folk musicians).

Aerophones with embouchure from wood and brass

IV. 40. "Bucium" (a type of alphorn)

IV. 41. Cornet.

IV.42. Horn (for signal, for hunting, post horn, natural horn).

IV. 43. Buglehorn.

IV. 44. Bugle, clarion.

IV. 45. Trombone.

IV. 46. Trumpet, bugle.

Chordophones with pinched strings

IV.47. Guitar.

IV.48. Kobsa.

IV. 49. "Tamburiţele" (a kind of tambourine).

IV.50. Zither or fiddle.

Chordophones with striking strings

IV.51. Cembalo (a big one, for concert).

IV.52. Cembalo (little).

Chordophones with fiddlestick strings

IV.53. Braci or viola.

IV.54. Double bass.

IV.55. Gadulca or Gudulca.

IV.56. Violin.

IV.57. Cello.

Instrumental ensambless

IV.58. "Lautari" band.

IV.59. Folk music band.

IV.60. Fanfare.

Producing musical instruments

IV.61. Craftsmen of musical instruments.

IV.62. Craftsmen of toy musical instrumental.

(see Traditions and Expressions of the Musical Art or Practice; Knowledge, Practices and Symbols about Man, Nature and Cosmos; Traditions and Expressions of Choreographic Art or Practice; Celebrations, Customs and Rites; Techniques and Knowledge concerning Traditional Craftsmanship).


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