Posted August 5, 2016 by Kerry McFall
I learned on our recent visit to Sonoma that my cousin Rob is a big fan of Hurdy Gurdys – wait, what? A hip graphic artist guy in NorCal, into yoga and not into gluten, and his true passion is a Medieval instrument that sounds like a collision between a bagpipe and an electric keyboard and a Tennessee fiddler? I am always fascinated by what inspires the passions that drive people’s lives.
The instrument itself is beautiful, smooth shiny wood decorated with a “simple” black and white border around the curved edges. Simple my foot – just those little slanted lines are really a challenge to get in the proper sequence, some big, some skinny, which I learned as I tried to include a border in my portrait… you’ll notice it was cropped out because I couldn’t get it to work! There’s also a little gnomish face carved at the top of the neck. Rob brought it out happily at our request and tuned it up, to our delight and to his dog’s slight dismay. It’s not called a “drone instrument” by accident (drone as in the sound, not as in the annoying flying robots), and it appeared that the sound of the wheel rubbing on those rosined strings was not Aku’s favorite. He much prefers, oh, say, the rattle of dog kibbles into his dish.
So you’ve got curvy wood, a wheel, strings, keys, and a gnome. Very cool. The strap functions more like a seat belt cinched at the waist, keeping the instrument from running away with the player as the player cranks the little wheel thingy at the bottom… The player gets to be guitarist, drummer, keyboardist, violinist, and dancer, all in one. Sure enough, once it reaches the right rhythm and synch, voila — Music at its Basic Best! Rob even blogs about Hurdy Gurdy music on a regular basis – it’s worth a look!
Aku was a good sport about the whole Hurdy Gurdy afternoon, enjoying his spot on the patio couch beside the instrument once the conversation turned to old family stories and reminiscing about this and that. Good times, made better by the presence of a contented animal companion.