Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A little zephyr

Jean Ritchie wrote that when she and her 13 other siblings were young, her father Balis Ritchie used to play his dulcimer in a quiet way and then hang it up on the wall, and the children were forbidden to touch it. He tuned it in Ionian mode, in the key of C (CGG), and he never played in any other tuning.
Jean wrote that the lure of that dulcimer on the wall proved too much to resist, and when no one was about she would take it off the wall and sit on the floor behind the couch and try to play her favorite songs with it. She would get frustrated, because the tuning her father used wasn't suitable for all the tunes she tried. She experimented with changing the tuning until the song came out right on it.
Sometimes her father would come home and she'd have to put the dulcimer back in a hurry. Then when he'd take it down to play, he'd strum it a bit and get a puzzled look on his face and say "Looks like the wind has gotten into these strings again."

Jean wrote that her father liked to play the dulcimer at home, but he didn't much like to have an audience. If the children listened but went on about their activities he would continue playing. But if they gathered about to sit and watch him, well he didn't like that as much and would sometimes just get up and put the dulcimer back up on the wall. So the children learned to pretend they didn't notice his dulcimer playing, so they could get to hear it longer.

1 comment:

  1. Years ago I read, "If you want your child to play the cello, hang it high on the wall."
    Jean Ritchie's account seems to prove that.