History, Facts and interesting information about Medieval music, specifically, the Organistrum
Definition and Description of the Organistrum
Definition and description of the Organistrum: The Organistrum can be described as the earliest known form of the hurdy-gurdy. The organistrum was large enough to rest on the knees of two performers sitting side by side. One turned the crank which set the wheel in motion, whilst the other, the musician, manipulated the keys. The word organistrum is derived from organum and instrumentum. The Organistrum was a stringed instrument of the period. Medieval musical instruments such as a fiddle or vielle were used as model. The proportions were increased for the convenience of holding the instrument and of dividing the performance between two persons. Inside the body of the organistrum was the wheel, having a tire of well greased leather and working easily through an aperture in the sound-board. The three strings rested on the wheel which were supported on a bridge of the same height.
Family of Instruments: The Organistrum belongs to the family of String instruments.
Medieval Musicians playing musical instruments of the Middle Ages
The above image illustrates Musicians playing a variety of Medieval instruments, including figure 2 which shows the organistrum. The image is from the sculptured head of column, a bas relief found in the ruins of the abbey of St. George, at Boscherville, in Normandy. It dates back to the Eleventh century and is now preserved in the museum of Rouen.
(1) Three-stringed viol or rebec
(2) Two persons playing the organistrum, a stringed instrument vibrated by means of a circular bow or wheel, like the hurdy-gurdy
(3) Pandean pipes
(4) A small harp
(9) & (10) Instruments of percussion, notably bells
Medieval Music - Organistrum
The Medieval Times website provides interesting facts, history and information about the musicians and styles of music which scatter the history books including Organistrum. The Medieval Life and Times Sitemap provides full details of all of the information and facts about the fascinating subject of the lives of the people who lived during the historical period of the Middle Ages. The content of this article on Organistrum provides free educational details, facts and information for reference and research for schools, colleges and homework for history courses and history coursework.